Aspiring to be a superstar? Trying to connect with your fans? Determined to build a core audience? Make it happen online. Create direct relationships with viewers around the world and turn them into loyal supporters of your work.

Filmmakers have a lot to learn from their musical brethren. Hoping to succeed as a singer-songwriter, Jonathan Coulton quit his day job as a computer programmer. As portrayed in Clive Thompon’s terrific New York Times Magazine piece, “Sex, Drugs, & Updating Your Blog” (5/13/07), Jonathan committed himself to writing and recording a “Thing A Week” for one year and making these songs available from his website. The most popular were downloaded half a million times, and now more than 3,000 people visit his site daily.

His loyal fans buy CDs and digital downloads, create illustrations and
inspired music videos for his songs, enthusiastically create “virtual word-of-mouth,” and support him in a variety of ways, from hosting a website to reformatting his music for karaoke. They also send him a steady barrage of email that he spends hours answering. Thanks to his comprehensive database of fans, Jonathan is able to target his touring--arranging concerts in localities where he has a critical mass of supporters and then inviting all of his fans by email.

Rather than devoting energy to pursuing agents and record deals, he spends his time writing and recording songs. Rather than relying on a music company to launch his career, he launched himself online. Rather than selling his music through retail stores, he sells it online directly and through CD Baby and iTunes. Rather than hiring a publicist, he updates his blog and his MySpace page. Rather than relying on focus groups, he hears from his fans morning, noon and night. For Clive Thompson, Jonathan Coulton is a harbinger of a new breed--“Artist 2.0.”