This post concludes with my findings on what to do about my WordPress blogs, considering all the changes in technology. To those fellow bloggers out there who feel like they are at their wits’ end, I say don’t feel bad. Every individual who publishes contents using a commercial platform has to deal with these issues, and everyone feels, at some point, that they do not have the appetite to do so. Continue reading if you want to find out more about how publishing creative work online works.
Why do people do what they do online?
I have watched some of the vloggers who interest me, like Ian McCollum of “Forgotten Weapons”, publish a new video each day, and I wonder how he keeps it up. I do not wonder at why he keeps it up, because he has built a real business around his video channel. I have watched others have their say and then run out of narrative, or get another job. Or fall out of favour with the authorities, or whatever. I have also seen book bloggers keep it up for years and then let their sites go dormant and join the ranks of deceased websites on the Wayback Machine.
The issues, it turns out, are not about the technology. The technology problems are merely symptoms. The actual problem is defining the reason for existence of the stuff you make. (Accepting the fact that one reason is that the platform on which you publish your materials is making money from your contents.)
It is definitely about the questions; 1) what type of content do you have? 2) Is it any good? and 3) do you make money out of what you are producing? Basically – why does your content exist?
People don’t often do navel-gazing of this kind. It’s only when they have to choose a strategy or approach that they have to deal with the questions. These three questions, it turns out, are key to deciding which platform or service provider to use. For some folks it’s obvious: – they write books or produce music albums about their particular theme or subject, or get formal employment based on their expertise. But many people don’t quite know what they want to do with the contents that they have made.
Is there, in this world today, still place for art for the sake or art, or creativity purely for the sake of the creative process? I suspect not, except in the case of very rare Outsider Artists who would, in the first place, not be on the Internet. I think people who do not sell their creative outputs will end up as Starving Artists.
If you are lucky enough to have an actual job which makes you enough money to live on while still leaving you enough time to create things, then bravo – you are one of a small group of people.
How it works – a cycle of “if” and “then”
It turns out that the publishing platforms are all connected, as I had forgotten, since it is, after all, the Internet.
The reasoning goes something like this, in my particular case – though I assume for every creative type the particulars will be different:
- What contents do you have? For example: the music that I have digitally composed and produced.
- Do you want to make money out of it? I do not know. I think not.
- If I want to make money out of my music, I have to protect my creations from people who download, copy and nick them.
- Then, to do that, I have to find a way to publish the files online, while preventing any access to them, other than listening to them.
- You cannot do that on a WordPress site, because the very reason for existence of a WordPress site is to share and spread the information on it. Not vice versa. WordPress’s engineers have told me that it is impossible to avoid people downloading and copying your files – they will find a way, if it is on WordPress.
- If you publish your music on a platform which does restrict access to recordings, to only listening to all or part of a recording, it is under the assumption that it is restricted until someone buys the song or the album. These platforms include: Spotify, Bandcamp, Reverbnation, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Ten Cent Music, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.
- Then, I have to consider – do I want to sell my music? Is it good enough to be sold? Or it is just good enough to get ripped off, but not good enough for someone to want to buy it?
- Case study: I spent a few years selling my paintings online and at exhibitions. I had a few successes. But I found out that to get sales, you have to paint what people want, what they like, and how they like it. And their likes and perceptions were very obscure and random. I had no appetite for that. I just wanted to paint what I wanted to paint. The marketing of my paintings got complicated and expensive. I have always been hopeless at sales. The painting exercise proved it. So I stopped. Now I’m back to square 1 with this monetization argument.
- If you want to publish on these dedicated platforms, then you automatically have to deal with the requirements for creating, publishing, producing, recording, and distributing your music, which is a legal nightmare. The reason for that is that the platform will take a percentage of whatever you make. In fact, you’ll probably need a lawyer to make sure you don’t mess up on the various royalty agreements, and that you cover all your bases. But then, publishing and selling a book on Amazon is no different.
- Once you have done that, and sorted out all the agreements and registrations required, and got the codes you need (in the same way as a book that you self-publish needs an ISBN number), you can publish your music on this “theft-proof” platform.
- Then, on your WordPress or Squarespace or Big Daddy site, you can insert links back to the separate files on the music site. Meaning that your files are not in fact hosted on the WordPress platform, but on a dedicated music publishing platform, like Bandcamp.
The crux of the matter
So, how the WordPress site looks, is way less important than what you publish on it and what your objectives are – and to match those to the functionality of your platform. And yes, I have been overcomplicating matters for myself. WordPress just reminded me that the look and feel are not the most important things.
The same sort of reasoning applies to publishing poetry online, or a novel, or photography or pictures of your paintings. You have to decide: are you going to make these things that you have made publicly available? And are you going to monetize your creative outputs?
One implication of this is that, if you just want to write or paint or take photos for your own pleasure, and you do not want to sell them, then it’s probably best to do it off-line, and not publish and distribute your work using the Internet. So how do you then share your work? Well, it’s back to mechanical means.
To go back to what my options were:
- Keep some sites on WordPress, move the specific media files, such as the sound files on the site with my music, over to a more suitable place like Soundcloud. ✓ Yes, that will happen. Like it or not, I am going to have to go commercial with my music. Music does not exist unless it is heard. So, if I am the only person who hears it, it only exists to me.
- Close down some of the five sites. ✓ Yes, one of the sites will be closed down. I will probably publish it as a book. Another will be trimmed back to merely containing hyperlinks, but I’ll keep it, only because I do not want to lose the domain name – original names are really hard to find these days.
Close down all of the sites.No – not yet.
- Stop worrying. It doesn’t matter. ✓ Yes.
Well, this is what naïveté and a lack of a money-making mentality lead to: hard lessons in the state of the world.
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