Archive for the 'marketing' Category

in a supreme irony, it took me forever to compose this

By and large, Rolling Stone may be the poster child for the obsolescence of the print magazine, but one thing they’re still good at is the in-depth, Cameron-Crowe-style artist profile.

Reading through Mark Binelli’s Lil Wayne profile in last month’s issue, we learn a few facts about the “best rapper alive”:

  1. Lil Wayne is always stoned.
  2. Lil Wayne releases tons of music for free over the internet.
  3. Lil Wayne goes to a recording studio every day.

Now, I don’t know what to make of the first one (as I understand it from the article, he literally chain-smokes weed. His assistants roll blunts and put them in packs which he carries on him at all times. Like Lyle and Ray’s Perfect Jays.). But #2 and #3 made me think:

Lil Wayne is to music as webcomics are to comics.

It was #3 that surprised me, but it’s starting to make a lot of sense. Studio time is expensive if you are a garage band, but not if you have the #1 album in the world and you own a dozen studios. It’s also pretty easy to do it yourself these days, even for garage bands. And if you are prolific and talented and like making music, why would you ever not be recording?

It’s a completely opposite model to the standard rock process (write songs privately, spend intense time in the studio perfecting the recording, then release your finished masterpiece into the canon). In music, call it the U2 or Zeppelin model. In comics, think of Craig Thompson or David Mazzucchelli.  It’s also distinct from the corporate deadline/assembly-line model, exemplified by the early pop singles industry, the syndicated comic strip, or the Big Two comic book.

Instead, it’s what people have been saying about the Internet for years: removal of middlemen, instant delivery, zero barriers between creation and distribution. Lil Wayne (or Randall Munroe) has an idea, he gets on his computer, he lays it down, he clicks a button, and 50 million people download it.

Art as blog.

Andrew Sullivan (who does more or less the same thing for political commentary) has written thoughtfully on blogging:

The blogosphere may, in fact, be the least veiled of any forum in which a writer dares to express himself. … The wise panic that can paralyze a writer—the fear that he will be exposed, undone, humiliated—is not available to a blogger. You can’t have blogger’s block. You have to express yourself now, while your emotions roil, while your temper flares, while your humor lasts

Apparently Wayne doesn’t even write his lyrics down anymore, he just records whatever comes to him during his (again, daily) recording sessions. Webcomic creators like Chris Onstad and Jeph Jacques improvise on a similar day-to-day basis.

And that’s what makes blogging as a form stand out: it is rich in personality. The faux intimacy of the Web experience, the closeness of the e-mail and the instant message, seeps through. You feel as if you know bloggers… When readers of my blog bump into me in person, they invariably address me as Andrew. Print readers don’t do that. It’s Mr. Sullivan to them.

That matches my impression of both webcomickers and Lil Wayne: the immediacy and unmediatedness of their work is intoxicating, and they blur the line between personal diary and product, between friend and fan (with sometimes frightening results).

I hasten to add that I don’t think this is the sole future of artistic or literary production. It’s just one part of the cultural ecosystem. We will always need thoughtful, well-crafted, large-scale pieces in every medium. Some creators are better suited to one type or another (God knows if we were all bombarded with Twitter updates and Myspace diss tracks from Bono or Thom Yorke we’d shoot ourselves in the face). Some can tackle both, just as Sullivan finds time apart from his blog grind to compose the occasional essay or book.

But as for the New York Times’ much-mocked anxiety about the upcoming xkcd book — if this comparison holds, Munroe doesn’t have much to worry about.

ninjas who fight zombies! on the high seas! with lasers!

Robby and I discuss marketing:

(16:42:33) robby: you’d probably like Street Angel: blinged out Aztec gods, basketball-playing ninjas, immortal Spanish conquistadors, the first Irish astronaut, a mad scientist who wants to recreate Pangea
(16:43:00) me: hmm
(16:43:22) robby: It should be in trade by now
(16:43:26) me: personally, i don’t think that i respond very well to just “concept” marketing
(16:43:44) me: i don’t usually care what’s being done so much as how
(16:44:08) me: for example, Fables is a pretty cool concept, but it could easily have been done very poorly
(16:44:20) me: but the art and characterization makes it worth reading
(16:44:36) me: Y: The Last Man is a great concept
(16:44:43) me: but again, same deal
(16:44:59) me: it’s probably been done before by a lot of shitty indie 80s creators
(16:45:24) me: what makes it work is the characterization and continuously-interesting plotting
(16:45:31) me: plus good visuals
(16:45:47) me: i admit, it’s harder to market something in that way
(16:46:20) me: it’s easier to differentiate a new series if you can describe it with a unique concept
(16:46:46) me: but that’s not going to sell me
(16:47:10) me: i’m tremendously more willing to buy something if I’ve seen preview pages for it
(16:47:22) me: so I can see how the artist works and the dialogue style
(16:47:51) me: this is why i have such a hard time with manga
(16:48:02) me: i really want to have the reed collective branch into manga
(16:48:12) me: but i’m looking at fifty one-paragraph solicits
(16:48:21) robby: right, and the concepts sound good
(16:48:28) robby: but the execution doesn’t appeal
[edit: really, it’s not that; it’s that all they give me is concept, and the execution is completely unknown until I buy the book.]
(16:48:47) me: “Fujuki moves into a new school! and she falls in love with this guy who’s actually a robot duck! follow their wacky adventures!”
(16:49:20) me: or sometimes the concept is something simple
(16:49:44) me: “Takahoshimitsusama moves to a new school and has trouble adjusting”
(16:49:56) me: but maybe the characterization in that series is brilliant
(16:50:22) me: some of the best stories, if you think about it, have really simple concepts
(16:50:54) me: so I’m really skeptical of “it’s full of ninjas who fight zombies! on the high seas! with lasers!”
(16:51:12) robby: yeah, I had a teacher this year that was always going on about how there are maybe 15 stories, 25 tops
(16:51:12) me: but give me a page with ten word balloons on it and I’m right there with you

Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).


Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.