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Monday, May 14, 2007

When blogger and musician meet

Here's an interesting story of the impact of Web 2.0 on music, featuring Jonathan Coulton, who gave up his computer programming job almost two years ago to become a singer and songwriter full time. He built an audience by posting free songs to his blog, including a year-long song-a-week effort. The story compares Coulton's success with OK Go's release of their famous treadmill video.

The first thing that struck me about Coulton is how the blog portal to his music created a tight relationship with his fans:
His fans do not want merely to buy his music. They want to be his friend. And that means they want to interact with him all day long online. They pore over his blog entries...They send e-mail messages, dozens a day...including one by a man who described singing one of Coulton’s love songs to his 6-month-old infant during her heart surgery. Coulton responds to every letter, though as the e-mail volume has grown...his replies have grown more and more terse, to the point where he’s now feeling guilty about being rude. (emphasis mine)
His fans don't just want to connect to him, they want to help:
When he couldn’t perform a guitar solo for “Shop Vac,”...Coulton asked listeners to record their own attempts, then held an online vote and pasted the winning riff into his tune...a professional graphic artist in Cleveland has drawn an illustration for each of the weekly songs, free. Another fan recently reformatted Coulton’s tunes so they’d be usable on karaoke machines. (emphasis mine)
The relationship with fans means touring isn't such a random event, nor does he have to restrict himself to large towns:
Normally, a new Brooklyn-based artist like him would trek around the Northeast in grim circles, visiting and revisiting cities like Boston and New York and Chicago in order to slowly build an audience — playing for 3 people the first time, then 10, then (if he got lucky) 50. But Coulton realized he could simply poll his existing online audience members, find out where they lived and stage a tactical strike on any town with more than 100 fans, the point at which he’d be likely to make $1,000 for a concert. It is a flash-mob approach to touring: he parachutes into out-of-the-way towns like Ardmore, Pa., where he recently played to a sold-out club of 140. (emphasis mine)
For a taste of Coulton's music, and his fan-created music videos, check out this YouTube mashup of Coulton's song Code Monkey and scenes from World of Warcraft:

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