True Fan Boost 2008

Posted by Arlo on Sep 1, 2008 under Here's an Idea

The Long TailWith only a week before Labor Day, it was a long shot that my little blog post would fire up the Internet with the True Fan Boost concept. I did send out an e-mail or two, on the off chance that someone with a larger readership would push the idea. I actually got a response back from Kevin Kelly, but after rereading it a few times, I realized that I may not have been clear enough in what I was trying to accomplish.

Kevin thought that I was out of synch with the 1000 True Fans concept by using Labor Day to support any and all artists (i.e., He thought I was encouraging people to go out and buy Aerosmith albums, Stephen King books, or any other products by established artists.) Not true. I want nothing more than to “boost” the sales of independent, internet-based artists with this idea. Aerosmith is out, Jonathan Coulton is in.

Kevin also seems to be focused only on the TRUE true fans – the ones that will drop $100 a year on their favorite artists. What I’m trying to do is mobilize the Lesser Fans (as he calls them), in addition to the True Fans, into an economic force. This may be beyond my means.

I really appreciated the comment left by Patricia on my last entry; she came at the idea from a marketing angle. She’s distilled my whole post down to one sentence:

True Fan Boost: Commemorate Labor Day by actually purchasing the creative work of that wonderful artist you told yourself you’d support “someday.”

If you change “that wonderful artist” to “those wonderful artists,” then that’s what I’m going to do right now:

Penny Arcade
I’m leading off with Penny Arcade because I just spent the whole weekend at PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo. This was my second year, and while I again had plenty of work to do at the Omegathon events, I had more free time this time around. At the 2007 expo, I was so busy I didn’t even get a chance to buy any merchandise from the Penny Arcade booth. This year, I made a point to get back there and pick up a copy of the PAX 2007 DVD (which showed the epic Halo 3 reveal we worked so hard on and even used some of the footage I shot from the audio stage) and a rockin’ Guitar Hero hat.

Felicia Day
Felicia Day is currently aboard a rocket bound for internet stardom. She was at PAX this year, selling copies of her new DVD of The Guild. If she hadn’t decided to man her booth right before the doors opened on Sunday, I wouldn’t have had the time to stand in the long, long lines to her table. With TFB on my mind, I shelled out $20 for a DVD, and chatted with her for a minute or two while she signed it.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
Speaking of Felicia Day. Have you seen Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog? It’s what you’d get if a mad-scientist super-villain had a video blog… in a world where people spontaneously broke into song. That is to say, it is the awesome. When it came out in July, it was free to view, but to support the show I bought all three acts on iTunes, anyway. Today I’m going to buy it again, on a different installation of iTunes, because it’s just that good.

Update:  Screw that.  They’ve released the soundtrack!

Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton was also at PAX, but I didn’t get a chance to buy any of the books he had for sale from his signing table. I thought I might have an opportunity to talk to him when he finished his reading in the Serpent Theater – we were scheduled to set up the Omegathon’s Jenga match immediately following – but his enforcer escort descended and ushered him from the room.

At the end of the conference, during the final round of the Omegathon, Wil sits with the Penny Arcade families and other VIPs in a sea of bean bags below the stage. Although I was offered a seat in the same area this year, I opted instead to hang out with my fellow Omegatechs at the other end of the stage. However, after the show, before everyone cleared out of the exhibition hall, I made my way back over. Wil was just leaving the safety of the VIP circle. I stepped in front of him and reached out for a handshake.

“Wil, I was wondering if I could have just a second of your time.”

“Actually, I really need to go to the bathroom, so maybe if you could come back in a few mi…” His eyes slid off mine about half way through the sentence. I didn’t give him a chance to finish.

“That’s cool. Look, I’ve been working the Omegathon all weekend and haven’t had a chance to make it to any of your signings. I just wanted to give you this.” I pushed the twenty dollar bill I’d been palming into his hand.

“Oh. Oh!” He started looking around; I could tell he was trying to figure out a way he could later differentiate me from the sea of enforcer shirts and get me one of his books. “Okay, um, when I get back, I guess I could…”

I cut him off again. “That’s okay, I don’t want anything. I just want to support you and your writing.”

“Thanks. I… wow! Thanks!” I heard him say “wow” one more time as I walked away.

I think I floored him just a little.

PVP Online
Scott Kurtz is the creator of PVP Online, another online web comic. This year, he was also at PAX, and he happened to be sitting in the same VIP area with Wil Wheaton. I made sure to go up to him after the show and thank him for putting his strip into his RSS feed. As a daily visitor to his site, I appreciate that more than a little. As it turned out, later that night, I ended up sitting next to him at dinner and I grilled him on how the decision impacted his sales.

I’ve been meaning to do it for a long time. It’s time to buy a Joss Whedon Is My Master Now T-Shirt.

Jonathan Coulton
It’s amazing how many of the artists I had already decided to support with this True Fan Boost were at PAX. I almost skipped the Joco concert because it was the last set after a very long Friday, but I’m so, so glad I didn’t. Joco is always a great performer, but after the first 3 or 4 songs I was thinking, “Well, this is nice, but it’s sort of just the same set as last year…” And then he busts out the Flickr skit (“Bart the Soundman, everyone!”), Mr. Fancy Pants, and Felicia Day singing Still Alive. Not only am I so, so glad I saw the concert, but I’m also so, so glad I videotaped every second of it. Expect some Youtube videos soon.

I kept an eye out for Señor Coulton all weekend – especially after having the distinct privilege of butchering the expert guitar track (85%) of Skullcrusher Mountain atop Harmonix’s Rock Band 2 stage (Kara Krahulik on vocals, everyone!) – but he was nowhere to be found.

Jonathan Coulton pretty much gives us a direct download link to everything the creative portion of his brain spews out – and for free, no less. I could buy something from his online store, but I’d rather just “give him some candy.” Robot candy – the concert alone was worth that.

John Scalzi
Our PAX connection grows tenuous. Let’s see, Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik once created the cover art for one of John’s books. Oh, oh! And John also gifted Wil Wheaton with a horrible (read: wonderful) velvet Wesley painting!

Scalzi is the incredibly prolific blogger of the Whatever. Somehow, he only keeps the blog in his spare time between other writing gigs. I’ve been reading (or at least skimming) his site for about a year now, but I haven’t bought anything with his name on it yet.

While still in Seattle, I made sure to visit a Borders. Now that the three books of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War trilogy (Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, and The Last Colony) are out in paperback, I figured it was time to pick them up. Yes, I realize this sort of falls into the trap Kevin Kelly warned me about – buying from a published author doesn’t exactly fit the True Fan theme. But Scalzi embraces the independent artist model, too, by posting some of his work online for free. I think he deserves some recognition (and whatever the kickback is for 3 mass market paperbacks) for that.

XKCD is another web comic that is equally well known for its science-branded humor and its stick-figure drawings. I think I’m going to buy a No Raptors T-shirt.

Mark Aaron James
I can’t remember how I discovered the song Aquaman’s Lament, but I have since listened to it many, many times. Love the take on a secondary superhero’s sex life (though I had to edit the goofy intro out of the mp3 I downloaded.) I listened to a few other songs on Mark Aaron James’ Myspace page – they’re pretty good, too. I’m not so big on CDs anymore; guess I’ll buy his Just a Satellite album off iTunes.

Dan’s Data
I’ve been reading Dan’s Data for a few years now, as well as his How to Spot a Psychopath blog. It’s sort of hard to describe his focus. Batteries; he knows a lot about batteries. And robots. Chemicals and magnets, panorama stitching software, LED flashlights, and the debunking of audiophile scams. I think I found him following a link for the sparkler bomb.  It’s a potpourri of technical information coming from Australia (and boy have I been kicking myself for not trying to meet him when we were passing through Katoomba!)

Dan doesn’t have anything for sale, but he’s pretty good about letting you know when he’ll get a cut from one of his affiliate links. I’m just going to drop $20 on his PayPal donate button.

TikiBar TV
TikiBar is one of the first video podcasts I ever subscribed to. The premise is thin, but the humor is thick. Basically, each episode has the three stars (Johnny Johnny, Dr. Tiki, and Lala) in a paper-thin plot created solely as a vessel to carry a bartender’s recipe to the audience. The fact that the whole crew is drinking while they shoot the video and that often their outtakes are left in place, makes the show laugh-out-loud funny.
If you decide to check out the TikiBar TV podcast, it’s worth pointing out that the first few episodes are pretty painful, but by episode six or so, the crew hits their stride. Stick with it.

I’m going to buy a Lala Pinup Calender. It’s for someone else. Swear.

Pure Pwnage
A little while ago, a couple guys started putting some scripted videos online. The high concept is a documentary about a hardcore video game player who doesn’t fit very well in the real world. The episodes looked to me like a thinly veiled excuses for them to practice using a new camcorder, but soon gained quite the fan following. Now they’re premiering new episodes in movie theaters around Canada and Australia and only then releasing them in a podcast-like, yet strangely not-podcast format.

I really dig how they’re using each episode to better their film work, editing, and storytelling. I love the characters, too, even if I don’t really get the “reality” of the world they’ve created. Like TikiBar TV, try to get through the first few episodes before passing judgment.

I’ve supported them in the past by buying a GTFO T-shirt, but it came in medium and I was never sure if I clicked wrong or if they fulfilled the wrong order. No matter, I’ll get another. (Anyone want a size medium GTFO shirt?)

Lucid Reverie / Alaska Robotics
Okay, so, they used to be a small creative design business called Lucid Reverie, but now they’re a group of artists rebranded as Alaska Robotics. But now I think their internet store is called Lucid Reverie again, so I don’t know. Something’s up.

They’ve got some great stuff. I met these fine folks because they’re the instigators and curators of the Juneau Underground Motion Picture Society. Their videos are always the ones to beat for the coveted Post-Show Audience Chatter Non-Award. If you’re interested in seeing any of their films, you can pick up the first Alaska Robotics DVD. Me? I already got one. I’m in need of a T-Shirt with a squid on it.

And that’s my True Fan Boost for 2008. At the very least, it’s a link farm for people to check out, maybe stumble upon a new artist. If I’m the only one that does a True Fan Boost this year, then maybe we can double the number of TFB posts next year. We’d need only 4 to keep the trend going in 2010. Pretty soon India will be hip-deep in grain.

(If you’re reading this after September 1st and decide you want to do your own TFB in 2008, don’t let the fact that you missed Labor Day stop you.  Better late than never!)