If you scroll back through my blog, you can read all you want about my thoughts on the True Fan Boost – an idea I had after reading Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans article. In a nutshell, every Labor Day I make sure to give some of my money to the independent artists, programmers, and content creators whose work I enjoy and, further, to highlight their work on my blog so that others may find them, too.
Back when I was a starving college student, I thought nothing of pirating the occasional song, but over the last few years, I’ve watched the business model for digital content change. You can get anything for free now… if you’re willing to set your morals aside. Music, books, movies, TV shows, comics, software… the list goes on and on. Content creators coming onto the scene today recognize this reality and build their business models around free content.
Jonathan Coulton lets you listen to all his music for free.
Penny Arcade and PVP Online post their web comics online for free.
Lee Goldberg is converting his out-of-print books to Kindle versions.
And many, many programmers are offering free versions of their software online.
In each of these cases, the creators have alternative revenue sources. Coulton sells merchandise at his concerts as well as full albums on iTunes; PA and PVP sell posters and T-shirts online; Goldberg receives royalties direct from Amazon for his eBook sales; and programmers often sell more capable versions of their software or have PayPal “donate” buttons on their web pages.
Here’s the thing: Their content is free for the taking. We can enjoy their work without paying a cent. But if that’s the way we want go about it (and we can — unlike out-and-out piracy, there’s no moral obligation to buy anything when artists give it away for free!), without any financial support, our favorite artists will eventually stop making things for us.
If I can help keep them going by spending some money and creating some links, I’m happy to do it. If you’ve been enjoying someone’s “free” content, even if it’s just a blog, Youtube series, or some small piece of shareware, I hope you’ll consider doing the same.
This year, as I embark on a year-long backpacking trip, I won’t have any extra room for material possessions. Most of the support you see below will necessarily be for digital items.
After the jump, the artists and creators I’m supporting in 2010…
I first learned of Instapaper from a new blog I’m following called Long Form. Because the articles they post there are, well, long, they put in a little “Read Later” button next to them. To use this button, you need to create a free Instapaper account. Here’s the cool part: Once you create an account, anything you mark to read later will show up on your Instapaper iPhone or iPad app. The best part is, you can do the same thing with any web page by simply dragging their “Read Later” button to your browser’s bookmark bar!
The free version of the Instapaper iPhone app works just fine, but it has some limitations. I’m happy to support the author today by purchasing the full version.
Flash Video Player
I’ve been using Joshua Eldridge’s Flash Video Player plug-in for WordPress ever since I converted my videos to H.264. It makes the process of wrapping up my video files with a poster frame and embedding everything in a customizable video player super simple. A single line of pseudo code is all it takes.
I have no complaints, except that it doesn’t work at all on Apple products (only because Apple doesn’t support Flash players.) It’s time to click the donate button.
Actually, I do have one complaint with the Flash Video Player plug-in above! A couple versions ago, a JWPLAYER watermark appeared in the bottom corner of all my videos. I doubt it bothers anyone but me, but I think it’s time to purchase the full version of Long Tail Video’s JW Player. Besides making the watermark my own, €59 will give me the option of annoy all my viewers with advertisements, too! (I doubt I’ll ever use ads – I’d rather make money in a way that doesn’t bother me when I encounter them on other sites!)
I’ve supported Watt-Evans in the past on Labor Day, and this is almost the exact same thing. He’s working outside the normal publishing schema by getting his “advance” direct from his readers. Here’s how he explains it:
- I post a chapter.
- If readers like it, they send me money.
- If I receive enough money, I post the next chapter.
- Repeat until the novel is finished.
Chapters are running $250 and he’s writing two books right now: Realms of Light and The Final Calling. I put up some money last year for Realms of Light. This time, I’m going to drop $25 (which should net me a signed print edition when it comes out!) on The Final Calling.
Alex King writes more than a few of the WordPress plug-ins I’ve been using for years. If you’re reading this entry on a mobile device, his WordPress Mobile Edition plug-in is displaying it for you. If you decide to Share This post with one of the Facebook, Twitter, or StumbleUpon buttons at the bottom of this post, he made that, too. If you came to this blog from over on my Twitter account, his Twitter Tools plug-in auto-posted that for me. Donate button, here I come.
Subscribe 2 is another WordPress plug-in, by Matthew Robinson, that sends out a mass-email whenever I post a new entry. Now, I don’t have a ton of subscribers, but that’s hardly Matthew’s fault! His plug-in simplified my life, it does something I couldn’t have done myself, and he gave it to me for free. I can give him money for that.
Filezilla may not be the best FTP program out there, but for so many reasons, I’ll never use a different one. It’s got everything you’d expect from a good cross-platform FTP client (a site manager, drag-and-drop file transfers, resume-after-disconnects, etc.) and one thing that simply puts it over the top: The absolute easiest automatic download-and-update software patches you’ll find in a freeware package (at least on the Windows side.) Seriously, it’s a crime that all our software updates aren’t handled like Filezilla’s.
And in the spirit of true freeware, there is no “professional” version you can unlock after parting with some cash. Nope, you get it all for free and the only way to give them some money is with their Donate button.
This American Life
Okay, so This American Life isn’t exactly an “independent” podcast, but then again, it is public radio. And public radio sort of spearheaded the whole “donate to keep us going” idea before the internet was even around. I hate pledge drives – nothing gets me to turn off the radio faster – but for some reason I don’t find the 60-second openers on This American Life all that offensive.
I’ve been a subscriber to the podcast for a few years now. I have no problems finally helping them cover bandwidth costs.
If you have iTunes installed, do yourself a favor. Open it up, Click on Advanced, then Subscribe to Podcast, and then copy/paste the following link:
Voilà! You’re subscribed!
And then there’s RadioLab. RadioLab is a lot like This American Life in that it’s a radio show that focuses on Story, with a capital S. But whereas This American Life can be about almost anything, RadioLab always has a strong science focus. Plus one is from NPR, the other PRI. Whatever that means.
Anyway, the first time I listened to RaidoLab, I wasn’t sure I liked it. They heavily edit their shows, which gives them a distinctly non-radio feel. Listen to a couple before you decide. You may end up like me, happy to pay for more.
If you have iTunes, you can subscribe for free just by clicking the following link:
Oh, I almost forgot Lee Goldberg! He’s a writer, probably best known now for his Monk TV show novelizations. I was attracted to his blog, A Writer’s Life, a few years back when I followed a link to one of his many entries of him verbally eviscerating some idiotic wannabe/fan/writer who asks him to write their books. Very entertaining.
Recently, Goldberg has been experimenting with publishing his back-catalog on the Amazon Kindle. He’s shared his successes (and failures) on the blog, illustrated with monthly earning statements. It’s very informative for anyone thinking about going the all-digital publishing route. Be careful, though. He’s still a strong advocate (and make a convincing argument for) the traditional publishing route.
I think I’ll pick up one of his Kindle books, probably The Walk, and read it on my iPhone’s Kindle App.
That’s my list this year. Where’s yours?