It’s likely that you’ve heard of Jonathan Coulton. Profiled by NPR and the New York Times, Coulton has been a full time independent musician since he quit his computer programming gig in 2005. After initiating an ambitious project of releasing a new song a week, Coulton started to gain momentum, making what he described as “a reasonable middle-class living” — between $3,000 and $5,000 a month — by selling CDs and digital downloads of his work on his own site and iTunes.
Coulton is prolific in his conversations with his fans online, spending time each day personally answering every email he receives. While his direct to fan approach to sales and marketing includes a partnership with CD Baby (who warehouse and ship his physical CD, as well as get his music to the online retailers like iTunes and Amazon), Coulton’s most lucrative source of income is selling online from his Website.
Check out an audio interview that Scott Kirsner, author of the new book, Fans, Friends & Followers, did with Jonathan Coulton. Interesting ideas on communicating with fans, how Jonathan is using Creative Commons, his primary sources of revenue, his trepidation about signing to a label, and more.
Pay particular attention to Coulton’s recipe for success:
• Solo artist = low overhead when touring
• Records in a home studio = low production costs
• Distributes most of his music digitally = no co-op fees at retail, lower distribution fee
• Fosters a direct connection to his fans = fans are more emotionally involved in what he does
• Few middlemen involved in the chain = most of his income is his alone
Check out the audio interview here: