This post is in response to this post by Toby Burton which is itself a commentary about two other articles.
The premise is that a musician can create a sustainable business model if they can get 1000 "true fans" who will part with $100 a year on purchases from said artist, i.e. a turn over of $100,000 makes you a viable concern.
However there are many issues with all this that have me thinking.
Firstly 1000 people willing to part with $100 a year just on your material. Now I'm a bit nuts about Marillion but I doubt there are many years I'd get close to that and they are probably the artist I spend the most on any year. So say a new album is out I'll buy that, possibly on preorder and a special edition lets say that is £20, a gig with the Mrs say £30 a ticket and membership of the fan club that's £20. That does get to £100 but I probably only see Marillion live every other year so that's £100 on a good year. I very much doubt there are other artists I come close to... yes gig tickets are pricy but most of those I go to are not self promoted, unlike Marillion and Gordon Giltrap - there's another in this category and sadly he probably gets £30 one year for two gig tickets, £15 another for a CD and once in a blue moon something if some of his music is published like when Troubadour came out in book format.
This exemplifies the issue. firstly getting that money out of people is hard and will get harder is there are loads of musicians out there seeking more true fans from the populace.
Also pointed out in the articles is that only targetting at a very small market of the true fans can alienate the casual listener. Let me return to Marillion who were pioneers of this model with Anaraknophobia where they asked the fan club to part up front with money for an as yet un-written and un-recorded album. I paid - I'm mad like I say about this group. They did it again with Marbles and Happiness is the Road. However you can argue the albums have become almost too intimate between the band and it's select bunch of fans who fund them and possibly one reason Marillions sales and exposure have diminished. The casual listener is almost excluded from the club ... at the gigs the band often ask who bought the presale, how do those who've come along still wondering where Fish is (he left 20 years ago) feel? Excluded?
Toby talks about new music and I acknowledge his statements are true. I struggle to find new music to listen to, Jools Holland helps at times, Radio 1 does not! Recent new acts I've discovered came via either being at a festival (Paradise Lost via Sonisphere) and support acts at gigs (Fictionplane at Police gig, Phil Campbell supporting David Gray), luckily these days I have no reason to stand in the bar until the main act comes on, but I've often listened to these new acts with about 10% of the crowd.
Maybe music now will change since there is frankly little money in it really like there was, will fans continue to shell out of the live experience? That is where there is money to be made at the moment but forget releasing material illegal downloading has totally killed that.
Maybe music will go back and there will be more locally based artists with small pockets of support and everyone will be an amateur, maybe the ultimate ideal of the punk revolution (i.e. that anyone can make music that is broadcast) will be truely realised.