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My good friend Colin at the horror movie website (warning: horror, obvs) pointed me towards a new thinking some film companies are adopting, that is to release their films on DVD, or even better, stream them, at the same time as releasing them in the cinema. As an attempt to curb piracy, it's an admirable one of course, and very long overdue. More than long overdue, blindingly obvious. Those who want to see a film legally, but can't get to a cinema (incidentally, film companies, 3D is a great way to stop people going to cinemas), have to wait nearly half a year to get the DVD, usually dodging internet spoilers like smug little pot-holes all along the road. It's no wonder so many people torrent. It's easy, and immediate. And while it perhaps takes the uniqueness out of a film when it's stacked up in a queue to watch, I do genuinely believe most people, having watched a film they enjoy, would recompense those responsible were there an effective, and sensible, way of doing it. Which there isn't.

To reiterate, I believe people like to reward the artists who entertain them.

This has been the biggest ignorance of record companies ever since they were forced to look into digital by the runaway success of the (then illegal) Napster. It was beyond absurd they were complaining that people were downloading albums for free, when for decades they had charged ridiculous amounts, sloughed the profits away from the artists, and then treated fans like hardened criminals in their punishment. Lets be sure about this, I'm not condoning acts like illegal downloading. But to be so grossly indignant about the world embracing A New Way Of Doing Things just because it didn't line the record company pockets was laughable, and worse, backwards. If something is obviously happening, far better to incorporate it and evolve.

Now we're at a place where everyone is finding their feet, and testing the boundaries. Movies are perhaps beginning to learn the lessons of musicians, some of whom release albums for free, or using a pay-what-you-want system, embracing this beautiful internet and the obvious demand for their products to create a more natural symbiosis. Kickstarters, Indiegogos and all the crowdfunders are pushing this idea further along, where the audience is actively helping create the product. When crowdfunding fatigue kicks in, which may not be far away, I hope it'll evolve into a more flowing business practice, enabling artists to directly connect and be supported by their audience on an ongoing basis.

And so, to comics. All the aforementioned is a fascinating path to watch unfold, but realistically, we all have to earn money somewhere. And it's hard doing that online. It's practically impossible. If you want to give away your comics for free to the internet, the old way of recouping it was to put a 'donate' button on your site, and every now and then blog about how your wall had fallen down and could everyone spare just two dollars. And 9 times out of 10, no one would click that 'donate' button. It became a stigma, a piece of stinky cheese you kept walking past but never dared touch. While I said before that people want to reward the artists they like, i think perhaps the Donate button has run out of steam. Now artists are trying crowdfunding, with varying levels of success, but I wonder if we need to go full rogue. I wonder if we need to go completely free.

Now, I know, if you're a comic artist or even a reader, your hair probably stood on end at that idea. So let me say, I'm throwing it out there as a notion. I'm asking a question. Since we're all treading water waiting for the internet to throw us a speedboat and answer the 'how DO we make money anymore?' question, why not entertain other ideas.

The thinking is this. When I posted up about my ideas for A New Comic a few weeks back, I was stunned by the response. The goodwill. But since then I've thought about it a lot more, worked through the idea in my head, the practicalities and pitfalls. And I keep coming back to one part of it I liked the very most – making a comic, a real comic, not just on the internet, and giving it away. To schools. To hospitals. Leaving it on a train for the next person to read. Including it in a daily newspaper. Leaving it on the front desk of a toy shop (excellent suggestion by a commenter on the previous post). Encouraging people to read our comic, enjoy it, and then pass it on, or leave it around.

Just to get people reading comics again. To remember why they loved them. To make them smile.

The annual event Free Comic Book Day is a fine example of sharing the form, publishers producing free samples/anthologies of their titles. And the fact it has been going so long must imply some level of success, a recouping of costs. Perhaps though, it could go further. Free Comic Book Day appeals largely to existing comic fans, as it exists mainly in comic shops. What about the same idea, but everywhere? Make your free comic available wherever possible, ignite an interest, and bring people BACK into comic shops.

I was talking to an editor I know today who said he'd been thinking along similar lines, that comics could be best used being given to those who need them. Those for whom life dealt a crap hand and even just cracking a smile could be the most powerful thing. To me, it seems like the most beautiful idea. Every comic artists loves the thought that what they've created could affect someone's life, even in the slightest way. The idea that something you've drawn can affect a complete stranger's emotion, that's such a powerful notion. So why not take it further, and try to reach everybody?

If you're wondering how such a system is financially sustainable, it is this – we make comics become a part of life. They become a resource, a comfort, a friend and a dream. They begin to seep through into the undercurrent of society, to regain the respect they deserve. In different countries you can already see this happening. Everyone will cite the Japanese or French, who consume comics at a ferocious pace, as they are part of the fabric of their lives. Other countries, like here in the UK, they've slipped out of people's sight. We all work hard towards the slow rise of comics back into the limelight, but in terms of mainstream, we're lagging way behind other countries.

Maybe we're being too insular by trying to address the existing comic scene. Instead of rearranging the furniture indoors, maybe we should be changing the landscape outside.

This way, we're doing some actual direct good. And we're reaching people who might never have otherwise picked up a comic, we're influencing society, we're slowly, very slowly, raising our beloved comics up, back into people's view. And in the long-term, that creates a demand. And a demand builds an industry. And an industry creates not only work, but brings forth new talent.

For it to work for a publisher, it would require them to invest in extra printing (or to reuse the sale-or-return copies, what DOES happen to them?), to slip sampler comic books into other comics (like they used to do when I was a kid), new distribution methods and to crank the wheels of the promotional machine into overdrive. And that's a big deal to ask, I realise that. But a passion for bringing comics to the masses, despite the cost, is excellent promotion in itself, and were at least some of the mainstream children's comics available for free, the advertising prices that publisher could command would be through the roof.

It is all a little too much to ask, of course, but small steps. As I said, it's an idea, conveniently skirting around the practicalities.

On the other side, for those of us not involved in publishing, there are perhaps more viable options. Setting up a crowdfunder to cover the costs of a comic you intend to release free, to those who perhaps comics would otherwise not reach, would be such a brilliant start. I've been entertaining the idea myself. It's a system where everyone wins – the funders get exclusive content, you get to produce a comic filled with different artists and strips, without initial costs, and people get to enjoy it. Wrap that up with a supporting website and digital option, with a pay-what-you-want system to fund issue two, and you could have a whole new player in the comics scene. One which is literally funded by goodwill and passion. Imagine if some big name creators waded in and started doing the same. The fanzine ethic of 'make it yourself' returns, enabled by technology, and the comic industry as a whole can only benefit.

The creation of a comic, where artists get paid, and the finished product is free. What a phenomenally idealistic business model. But with crowdfunding, fanbases, the internet, and the sheer goodwill of people, what a realistic one.

So that's the question, would it in any way be viable? Would big business ever help fund free comics JUST to make people happy? And crucially, would free comics undermine the medium, and ultimately be more damaging? Any thoughts welcome.

Ps. One new such comic already trying this model for a slightly older audience is Off Life. Why not check out their funding page, and encourage this simple, but wonderful, idea?
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AngelCrusher Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2012  Professional Filmographer
I dont see how people make money out of free why would they do it? Crowdfunding isn't a free comic, you are raising money to pay you to make the comic. And how much does it even cost to publish comics? Surely to price is too much to just give away for free. They will only be 10 pages and most of them riddled with adverts for the publishers to make some cash.

It will probably resort to artists losing work. Publishers wont be able to pay regular fees and would look for hungry (literally) students who would work for next to nothing just to get the credit on their C.V. While its a nice idea to give free things to schools etc, giving away unsold comics isn't the same thing as how to tackle new comics and how to build exposure for them surely?

I think our society is sadly different. We live in a world where everyone feels like they are entitled to everything. Music. They want for free or next to nothing. Ridiculous. I never had a problem growing up paying for music that I liked. People downloading films illegally because they dont have patience for it to be released on dvd? Poor guys. I forgot the times when you were able to see every film in the cinema...Its crazy. And simultaneously releasing dvds with cinema releases will kill cinema. DVDs are cheaper, nearly everyone has a big screen tv, with better picture quality, a comfortable seat, and no disruption from everyone else.

Maybe comics need to be integrated with some other new media, maybe the prices need to come down, maybe they just need to be 'better'. As an adult I wouldn't spend 2.50 on a comic. I used to pay less than 50p. Comics were able about spending your pocket money, your change. If newspapers can continue being sold cheaply why can't comics?
TypicalWatson Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2012  Student General Artist
Oh that would wonderful!
vanilla-vanilla Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2012
When I see free comics serialized on-line, if I really like them I usually want to just buy them in PDF or whatever, so I can read the whole story at leisure. People may like to reward artists who entertain them. Technology is finally starting to allow that directly. Unfortunately, at the same time, freebie-give-aways have also cheapened all forms of art to the point where nobody really wants to pay for it. People think it should be free, instead of being thankful that some of it is.

At the same time, we're seeing the rise of the amateur in all artistic fields. I think we're in a downward cultural spiral and we'll really see the end of all "professional" artists of all types (music, painting, books, etc). And when corporate interests get involved we'll all either pay exorbitantly to "license" the stuff from artists/companies that are already super-elite, or we'll scavenge the net for amateur freebie stuff from the "indies" who work day jobs.

And give-aways? Sheesh. I can't even give away books. Nobody wants to take 'em. ;-) Maybe comics are different...
ll Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2012  Professional General Artist
I wonder if the evening standad could be persuaded to put some comics strips in its editions, (a la 'em' from back in the london paper days), or the metro to have a comic insert/cover wrap?

We can dream. :)

Good to hear you thinking throguh the problem though dude, its all interesting notions, even if it is a logistically tricky thing to coalece :)
WizzJet Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ooh! It would be so awesome if there was a big box at the front of every bus or train where you could just pick up a free comic to read for the journey! We need to install these boxes everywhere!
IamKooi Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012   General Artist
You're talking about the concept or Freemium where you give away something and make more by doing it. The key is to weight the cause and effect of what your trying to accomplish.

Music artist make there money on concerts not on the music CDs, Digital, etc. Prince a couple years ago gave away an entire album prior to the launch of his international tour. They estimated the loss of revenue on the sounds being free and then balanced that with the increase in tour tickets and if I remember correctly he maybe well over $20 million more than he would have selling the music.

Freemium is a cause and effect model which you need to clearly define your end goal.

Is the goal to expand your exposure? Is your goal to have people support you in other ways such as pay for you to put together an art book, sell secondary merch, donate?

I see designers give away free PSD, AI and other resources to drive traffic to their for sale items. I've seen painters put paintings around a city and do a treasure hut.

Sometime the goal isn't monetary.

I beleive your thinking it through well.
newera14 Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
this reminded me of the tipping point, if you havent read it it's by Malcolm Gladwell you should check it out it talks about this stuff! cool stuff i didn't really know about this :O
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September 7, 2012


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