Monday, July 14, 2008

Letter From America II

Last week we went to see Crosby Stills and Nash in Minneapolis. The Orpheum Theatre was full, even if the audience was all over 50 and the gig was good and the merchandise stall was heaving. Tonight it’s Mark Knofler that is sold out. At the Basilica Block a few blocks away, some twelve bands will be performing top a packed audience and the story goes on.

This coincides with reading in the New York Times that US concert tours from January to June grossed $1.05 billion Bon Jovi topping the list grossing $56.3 million, followed by Bruce Springsteen with $40.8 million, and Van Halen, with $36.8 million. Madonna, who signed a $120 million contract last year with Live Nation, and Coldplay both have forthcoming US tours which are almost sold out.

We have all seen the explosion of rock festivals this summer and if we couple this and the general healthy state of performing music with the increasing success and interest in literary festivals and events we start to see a continued growth in the demand for that ‘live’ experience.

So despite the credit crunch and fuel costs, tours continue to flourish. However there are signs that times might be getting tighter with a drops in overall ticket sales. Despite the tight margins within the business up to 90% of the ticket income goes to the artists.

Unfortunately, the literary model doesn’t work the same as the music one and the experience is not always as fulfilling. A good writer is not always a good performer and the personal contact on the signing ‘conveyer belt’ is often brief. The TV couch review and interview can again appear dry and un-engaging as a format. Author videos can also appear distant and some would say often rambling affairs. The ‘longpen’ signings are and aim to be remote.

So there remains two challenges – how do the trade exploit the ‘live’ event to engage new readers ? And how do authors exploit the ‘live’ event to increase earnings?
Authors are to words what music is to musicians and music is in itself a live experience. So why not focus on the author’s strength – their words? How do you make this ‘live’ engaging and a one to one experience? The answer is certainly not a ‘bobbing head’ video.

Years I remember reading Tom Peters daily words on his site Again look at Scott Adams Dibert web site These are perfect examples of an authors web site and how they can create that direct experience with their readers.

The question is whether the author, the publisher or the fan base creates the site? How often the author updates it and how effectively it communicates to their audience. There are many bad examples of what some may refer to as cut and paste formula web sites that are cold and frankly don’t do the author justice. Merely listing the books with some little extra bits is no different to Amazon!

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