Consume is a strange word. Both it and consumption sound like bad things for some reason. But really, that’s what we create things for...so they will be consumed. Just like a meal is prepared to be consumed, or fuel exists to be consumed, we create art for consumers.
We worry about this more than we know. Music artists and songwriters want their music to be heard (and consumed), painters want their paintings to be seen (and consumed); almost anyone who makes art wants it to be experienced in some way.
It’s actually a great time to be alive if you create art. Thanks to the internet, we have a whole world that we can show our creations to. Now, as we all know this is easier said than done. How do you make noise in such a large market?
Beyond that, what other options are there to get your work consumed? Sure, you’d love to make some money at it, but are you more worried about getting paid...or being consumed?
It’s a choice you have to make with many artists choosing to give their art away for free. Strangely, both selling creative things and giving it away requires a lot of work!
Selling to Consumers
In this case, let’s call consumers people who enjoy music, art, dance, comedy, photography, video or whatever you do. There are several usual directions to buying consumers of art.
- Perform/Present. If you are a musician, painter, artist, dancer, comic, or other performing artist, you can still get your art in front of people and do your thing, as it has been done for centuries. It’s the oldest way for audience consumption of your art, and still is as popular. Most times, live performers are paid for their work, and also allows for product sales.
- Digital Distribution. This is likely the next most popular way to get people consuming your art. Putting music on Spotify, videos on YouTube, pictures on Instagram, or whatever digital site or app you prefer. These are available to everyone, and they are pretty much free. Unfortunately, the sales or money from online distribution can be low, especially for new artists starting out.
- Physical Distribution. This doesn’t exist as much for music as music CD distribution is almost dead. Art shows are still a staple for selling copies of art or photography. Video sales/rentals are still strong, but more so for major Hollywood productions.
Giving Away to Consumers
There’s also a growing model built around the “free” principle that says to find ways to use free as a distribution model. In other words, give away the stuff that you can and charge for things like performance, selling live etc.
It is proven that people will consume things, especially if it is given as a gift. Author Chris Anderson (“Free”, “The Long Tail”) talks about a gift economy we live in today. Many of us were raised on “buy one, get one free” that still makes us buy things at Publix we wouldn’t normally buy walking in.
I’ve given away hundreds of CDs this year, and people are consuming them because they were free. It might be a model we all need to look at, because kids growing up now are getting pretty used to free.
“... a generation raised on the free Web is coming of age, and they will find entirely new ways to embrace waste, transforming the world in the process. Because free is what you want – and free, increasingly, is what you're going to get.” - Chris Anderson
Why Consumption is So Important
While it seems a rather dire way to put it, the message is clear: No matter if we sell it, show it in a video, put a CD or book in someone’s hands either free or sold, our goal with our art must be that it is seen, heard, and ultimately consumed by someone. It’s how we know what the reaction is. It’s how we know we changed someones day with our art. It’s how people are blessed by the talents God has given us.
It’s not about promoting yourself. It’s not even necessarily about making money. It’s about letting people think about and digest the words you write, hear and be moved by the notes you sing or play, and to be captivated and inspired by the images, video, or art you put in front of them.
“My ultimate aim would be to captivate an audience, even just for a second.” - Tabrett Bethell
Have a great week!
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