A nice business model

firefly by FlyingSinger

Photographer Makes One-Third Of His Living Expenses Off Only 94 Fans
[Via Techdirt]

Jim Hein writes a very well known Fine Art photographer is using the CwF+RtB model. He breaks things down into actual dollars and cents. He has figured out how many “True Fans” he needs to make a living.”

Photographer Ctein’s “Contributor Program” gives his fans the opportunity to collect his prints and allow him to focus on creating. He shared the latest results:

Make no mistake, I didn’t get anywhere close to 1000 True Fans (didn’t expect to), I got 94. But those Contributors provided me with approximately $15,500 gross revenues, $12,500 net. That’s about one third of what I need to live on, not a life-altering level of support but certainly a life-enhancing one that provides me with considerably more time to work on my art — the point of this.

Even though the tiers start at only $9.50 a month, his average sale was around $165 — demonstrating that he has given his customers a real reason to buy. Additionally, Ctein recognizes that his subscribers are his most passionate fans, so he takes this as an opportunity to further solidify his connection to them:


I’ve written about this model before. Creating fans and then servicing them with different approaches can provide money in very important ways. Particularly for creative talent.

I expect Joss Whedon to do something similar soon. He has already demonstrated the technical ability to create works that really get fan attention (i.e. Buffy) at very low costs (Dr. Horrible). Without a lot of direct fan servicing, Dr. Horrible made back twice what it cost. And he did this by first providing the film for free and then charging for the fans that wanted their own digital copy through iTunes and then those who wanted their own CD.

Could he leverage those fans into permitting new productions along very different models? There were say 2 million views of Dr. Horrible online. If 1% of those people could be converted into putting up an average of $100, he would have $2 million to work with. Not too shabby.

How about a movie? How many would put up money to fund a new Firefly movie? Or a new speculative Whedon project?

Or what about fans that just will not wait?The ability to create very high quality work for low cost means that providing more of what fans want will be achievable.

And artists such as Felicia Day have leveraged her creative online series, The Guild, into a whole slew of appearances on genre shows fueled by fans. The intersection of creative talent with innovative producers who understand ways to service fans has created an entire group of actors who keep making guest appearances on shows that appeal to similar fan demographics.

So, Wil Wheaton, from Star Trek, appears on Big Bang Theory and Leverage. Morena Baccarin moves into V. Felicia Day moves onto roles in Whedon’s Dollhouse, which also stars Eliza Dushku from Buffy and Tahmoh Penikett from Battlestar Galactica. (Watch for Fran Kranz, Enver Gjokaj and Dichen Lachman to start making appearances on genre shows, because of their breakout roles in this gener series). Alan Tudyk, from Firefly, has appeared in both Dollhouse and V.So actors as well as producers can leverage their creativity in ways that provide real interest to genre fans and perhaps larger audience

Perhaps this manifestation of the Long Tail will provide work for a large group of people, as well as providing works for fans to watch. Maybe not blockbuster numbers. That requires transition to a mass audience, something studios are very good at.

BUt the fan audience seems to be quite large enough that, with modern technology, creative talent can make a decent living.

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