Amazon the disruptor

Over the last year, I’ve been following singer-songwriter Amy Correia as she worked to raise money for a self-funded album.

Correia’s first album, Carnival Love, was released in 2000 on Capitol Records’ Odeon label. She struck out on her own for her second album, Lakeville (2004). To make her new recording, You Go Your Way, Correia started a campaign to raise $35,000 – much of it through $20 deposits on the CD when it was finished.

She wrapped up her fund-raising campaign on January 15, just as the first batch of CDs arrived. Now she faces the happy and perhaps daunting task of sending out all those CDs, followed by the work required to promote her latest album.

Amy Correia is not unique in pursuing this model – Jill Sobule conducted an even more extensive fund-raising effort for California Years, and there has been a rise in the number of artists performing house concerts to both earn money and spread the word about their work. These trends make me think that self-publishing, now technologically possible, may well be increasingly possible from a marketing perspective, as well.

It’s not just that the overall image of self-published works has improved (although it has). Authors and artists now have tools that democratize the ability to market, to build awareness and sell and distribute their work. Static web sites have given way to blogs; social media sites help fans become viral advocates. Sample chapters, like sample songs, can be made available for little or no incremental cost. That once-lost radio interview can now be captured, linked and distributed anywhere.

Truly, book publishers should be able to offer an economy of scale in these efforts, but authors may increasingly look at the support they receive from publishers and ask, “Is this worth the share I give up?” As pointed out by Scott Anthony and Clayton Christensen in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Amazon is disrupting publishing. If anyone can make a book or CD, the distributor gains.

Edited January 18 to add: Laura Dawson pointed me to an article on Stephen Elliott’s do-it-yourself author tour. It provides a useful parallel to the musical examples I’ve given above.

Edited February 6 to add: Amy Correia posted a video of the work she was doing to ship pre-ordered CDs to her supporters. The pre-orders were shipped on January 22.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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