Making It On Your Own After You’ve Made It

I saw a posting online about a comedian who produced his own show and distributed it himself. I guess it was supposed to be some amazing feat because he made something like a million dollars, but only invested a couple hundred thousand and only charged customers five bucks.  And I think there was something extra about the rights on the product, which were far less restrictive than normal.

So from this, people will jump to a few conclusions.  Marketing companies are greedy, middlemen are bad, and everyone should be doing this.  Some people can point to cases where this has been done before, like Radiohead.  Why aren’t there more people doing this?

The thing is, a lot of people are doing this.  Most everyone that’s trying to get started in the entertainment business is doing this.  Find a local musician and ask if they have a CD of their original music for sale.  I’ll bet they do.  Find a budding author and ask if they have any self-published digital eBooks on Amazon.

What’s the difference?  First, it’s economy of scale.  When someone famous cuts out the middleman, they are able to make more and the customer saves more because of the volume.  Actually, after you make back your production costs, you could give the product away, especially when dealing with digital products.  So this famous comedian sells 200,000 copies of his video.  Is your local musician or author going to sell 200,000 copies of their product?  Not so likely.

Secondly, it’s a perception of value.  When you have a famous person selling something for cheap, it’s viewed with high value.  When an unknown person sells something for cheap, it’s seen as having no value.  When an unknown person sells something for a high price, it gets mixed results, it may be seen as valuable or as unrealistic.  So, the local artists have an immediate hurdle to overcome.

Does that mean it’s a case of either “paying your dues” or getting your big break?  For every success, there are countless failures.  Not everyone can be a superstar.  Does it also prove out another aspect of “the rich get richer”, where they have the luxury of cutting out the middleman and can operate on their own, where lesser people have to rely on expensive assistance to accomplish the same goals.

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