Self Publishing, Podcasts and YouTube Video: How the Internet Facilitates Creative Expression
Image courtesy of derrickkwa via Flickr.
Rolling Stone recently published a list of their current top ten favorite comedy podcasts. Many of the ones listed are produced by comedians who, prior to their podcast days, were relatively obscure. Podcasts are part of a greater trend of an increasingly more democratic art distribution model. For many years, getting one’s creative work distributed to the public was difficult, risky, and expensive. Writers, musicians, and other artists had to get past the barrier of the middle man: a publisher, a record company, a talent agent. This middle man was the only viable way to public distribution, but getting one’s work to be accepted by said middle man was often extraordinarily difficult, not to mention expensive.
In many ways, these problems still exist. There are still a host of class issues surrounding the issue of publishing one’s work: Having the free time to do it, the knowledge to use the necessary tools, and so forth.
The good news is that the advent of the Internet has meant various ways to publish one’s work independently, for free or very cheap. That’s a positive development for both artists and consumers, because it means more content, faster, with less screening. Here are several areas in which independent production has thrived here in Internetland.
To start a podcast, you only need audio recording software (Audacity is free and widely used), and a blog or website to host it on. You can fancy it up with music, sound effects, and high-end recording equipment, but you can get by just fine with the basics. Here’s a breakdown of how to start your own podcast.
These days, every living human has a blog. This means there’s an endless amount of terrible writing to slog through, but it also means that anyone with Internet access can showcase their writing to anyone else with Internet access. Sites like Blogger and Tumblr let you create a blog for free, and their layouts are highly customizable. WordPress is less user-friendly, but more customizable.
With the advent of mp3s and file sharing, and the declining importance of the record industry, it’s now much easier for artists to share their music directly with the public. Many artists are choosing to sell their albums online for cheap, or even on a “pay what you can” basis. I’m not saying that all artists are guaranteed the kind of success that Radiohead or Trent Reznor enjoy, but it is heartening that artists can now thrive without the aid of record companies.
And before you feel sorry for the record industry, consider that in the late 90s, they maintained or raised the price of CDs even as their production costs dropped. I, for one, am glad to see this kind of price-gouging backfire.
Self-publishing doesn’t carry the stigma it once did, as evidenced by 26-year-old gazillionaire author Amanda Hocking. Hocking’s novels were rejected by a multitude of publishers, so she turned to self-publishing on ebook platforms such as the Kindle store. Hocking keeps 70% of every ebook sale–a much better deal that traditional publishers can offer. After selling millions of copies at $2.99 each, Hocking made over $900,000 over ten months. Her story is rare, of course, but the lesson here is that it’s possible to be a successful writer even when publishers won’t give you the time of day.
Free sites like Youtube and Vimeo have made it possible for virtually anyone to upload their content for the world to see. In some lucky cases, filmmakers and actors have landed jobs because the right person saw and liked their work. More commonly, people have become “Internet famous” because their cat or child did something vaguely amusing. As pointless as the content sometimes is, I’m glad that we have a platform on which every Joe Citizen can share his video content for free.
Do you use any of these platforms or others to share your work with others online?