the impact of digital media on the relationship between creator and audience.
The world of comics is a small one and even when the industry is doing well it is something of a niche market. This is one of the reasons no one really bats an eye when a comic writer or an artist of Marvel or DC ends up replying to a post on a forum, or joining a discussion under an article in the comments section. There is no clear path to be a comic writer; most have wondered over from other disciplines.
Gail Simone’s career began on the internet with the creation of the website Women in Refrigerators in 1999. Here, she made a list of female characters who “ have been either depowered, raped, or cut up and stuck in the refrigerator” with the intention of starting discussion on gender dynamics in comics. It got her in touch with members in the comic industry and the former hairdresser later became a comic book writer.
She is now mostly found on twitter and on tumblr. Her outspokenness on minority issues in comics has not abated. She often answers questions by fans, joins discussions and is willing to talk about the problems of the industry.
Many artists have used their blogs and forums to get commissions requests or just prompts to get ideas. However, Johanna Basford has used twitter to make her audience into collaborators and producers with a series of illustrations where she asked people to tweet suggestions which she would then draw. This method was used to create a cover for Edinburgh Fringe, and to decorate a smart car.
She has taken this idea and decided to do a larger project funded by kickstarter called Wonderbeasts. People who decided to fund the project also got to choose an animal to be drawn by Basford. Her journey to complete the project could be followed on her blog.
“i’m technically a musician…and i wound up hosting a conversation between hundreds of people about a topic that has nothing to do with music. ”
Amanda Palmer first received attention as part of the duo known as The Dresden Dolls. Initially she was signed on to a label called Roadrunner Records but has since become independent Now she is mostly known for her use of social media in the music industry and the relationship she has built with her fans. From the beginning Palmer has been looking for ways to interact with her fans online in a way that would mirror face-to-face interactions.
She extensively uses twitter. The song “Ukulele Anthem” was written with lyrics suggestions she received over twitter.
some of you may remember a night last march/april, when i twittered from amsterdam looking for lyrics.i asked about an empowering three-syllable object that you weren’t allowed to take to work. things got OUT OF HAND, and as you can see…i ended up incorporating way too many of the suggestions into the song.
In a similar manner another project which she was a part of, 8in8, used twitter suggestions for song titles and lyrics.
Sometimes it is used as a jumping off point for discussion, such as when after revealing her own uninsured status, she asked fans to complete a quick poll. Some replies are visible on the linked article. This article looks more in depth at who replied, what other hashtags/ conversations it was linked to, when the tag was most busy, and how one might apply the process to marketing.
Thousands of people all over the globe opened themselves up for an honest and personal discussion, learned from one another, and had the opportunity to see the healthcare debate through someone else’s eyes. (…) Marketers won’t reach their customers if they don’t invest in understanding them. #InsurancePoll conversation is a perfect example of when it helps to have a listening and engagement tool to learn from the conversation as it happens, but also have an analysis tool that can make sense of the conversation as a whole.
Fans are also encouraged to follow her on twitter to get information on free shows called ‘ninja-gigs’ usually performed at a park or a pub. One such gig turned into a spontaneous music video. Sometimes these would be accompanied with a request for someone to provide a chair, guitar pick, or a piece of wardrobe
The following is from 2009, when Palmer was technically still at Roadrunner Records.
i had to EXPLAIN to the so-called “head of digital media” of roadrunner australia WHAT TWITTER WAS. and his brush-off that “it hasn’t caught on here yet” was ABSURD because the next day i twittered that i was doing an impromptu gathering in a public park and 12 hours later, 150 underage fans – who couldn’t attend the show – showed up to get their records signed.
no manager knew! i didn’t even warn or tell her! no agents! no security! no venue! we were in a fucking public park!
Before twitter, there was her blog, one that she still keeps today.Topics range from the predictable tour information and updates on new music to more intimate posts about friends, family or thoughts on life. Recently, the blog received attention for another reason: audience-led discussion.
It started with her making a post on cyber bullying, ending by asking readers to contribute with their thoughts. The response was so huge it got two other blog posts to continue the conversation and attention from the outside.
Lately, her name is often bought up when discussing crowd-funding To fund her latest album with the Grand Theft Orchestra she turned to Kickstarter. While the goal was $100 000, the project received $1, 192, 793.
In her TedTalk, she stresses the importance of asking and trusting the audience. It is equally important to note, however, that she initially was on a label, which most likely helped her build her current fanbase.
She received criticism, even from the New Yorker, for after the success of her crowdfunding she asked for professional musicians to play with her, unpaid, thus devaluing their work.
this time you’re coming across as the 1% looking to exploit us. I’m guessing this is not the impression you were going for. If this is the case, please respect the musicians who are giving you their time and specialized skills.
Amanda Palmer replied to the criticism, and ended up deciding to pay the guest musicians.
for better or for worse, this whole kerfuffle has meant i’ve spent the past week thinking hard about this, listening to what everyone was saying and discussing. i hear you. i see your points. me and my band have discussed it at length.
This is not the first time she had backlash from her fanbase. Another scenario was the release of her side project, Evelyn Evelyn, with fellow musician Jason Webley. On the album and live shows Palmer and Webley preformed as conjoined twins with a stereotypical back story including a circus and a tragic home life.
Representing Evelyn Evelyn as variously inspiring, freakish, weird and a “wonder” just reinforces existing stereotypes about PWDs, while ignoring the cultural context in which the project was conceived.
Whether one finds her response satisfying or one looking for excuses is not the topic of this blog, rather the fact that she made a response at all, thus at least, giving the appearance of listening.
How did Amanda Palmer get to where she is now?
By working all the time.
By putting her fans first.
By maintaining her fan relationship 24/7.
Relevant to the last post.
Actor George Takei is primarily known as Ltd. Sulu from Star Trek. Non-trekkies are most likely to know him from his internet presence. Takei has had a Facebook page for little over two years and has become an accepted presence. As of the time of writing his page has 3, 848, 011 likes, which is no small feat, but what is more interesting is the number of people talking about this which is 4, 046, 348. This shows a high level of engagement with fans sharing his posts which are then in turn shared by others who might not ‘like’ his page. While he is also found on other platforms like twitter and a blog, when if comes to fan engagement he prefers Facebook, as stated in this interview.
Facebook allowed me to review and “like” comments in one place, post my own thoughts to a group of fans discussing a particular topic, and go back later and see who else had weighed in and what others thought of it. It seemed a much more open and interactive forum, a natural fit for the kind of community I wanted to build.
His posts are usually humorous in nature, consisting of a picture and an accompanying pun. His original target audience were sci-fi and general science fans which expanded to the LGBTQ and Japanese-American communities and gradually grew more as his subject matter varied. The high level of engagement easily allows for this growth. Though part is targeting his sci-fi fans he has been a civil-rights activist since the 60s and this bleeds over onto his online content. He is quick to respond to criticism or worries about any of his posts in a a more serious matter.
The internet allows him to pick topics of conversation, not relying on mass media. This form of autonomy and break from mass media is the reason many people turn to alternate sources on the internet.
I was entirely dependent on whether the news media wanted to pick up a story. But now (…)I get to decide when a message or cause matters.
He has advocated, in his Tedtalk, for Broadway to embrace the new media as a means of promotion, something he, himself had to do. Allegiance, originally being an off-Broadway musical about the often neglected topic of the internment of Japanese- Americans needed to find its audience.
“Broadway is at its best when it embraces all the technological advances of the time and starts making a lot of friends on social media. Then, as we say on Star Trek, Broadway will live long and prosper.”
In this video Edward Burns discusses how he uses twitter to reach his audience to ask for opinions, advice, ideas- providing that they are small in scale, and the role of fans in marketing.