Clive Thompson writes a longish article for the New York Times Magazine about artists connecting with fans through the internet. He devotes a lot of space to describing Jonathan Coulton, a “geek troubador” (in the words of the Boing Boing link that alerted me to this).
Having been to his web site (via a link from Penny Arcade, downloaded some songs, and seen him live with John Hodgman, I knew Jonathan Coulton was all about the geeky music: not only does he give away dozens of songs for free on his blog, a good number of them are about things like shy programmers and zombies. The above-linked article really drives home just how linked in he is to fan cultures, though:
His fans need him; he needs them. Which is why, every day, Coulton wakes up, gets coffee, cracks open his PowerBook and hunkers down for up to six hours of nonstop and frequently exhausting communion with his virtual crowd. The day I met him, he was examining a music video that a woman who identified herself as a â€œblithering fanâ€ had made for his song â€œSomeone Is Crazy.â€ It was a collection of scenes from anime cartoons, expertly spliced together and offered on YouTube.
â€œShe spent hours working on this,â€ Coulton marveled. â€œAnd now her friends are watching that video, and fans of that anime cartoon are watching this video. And thatâ€™s how people are finding me. Itâ€™s a crucial part of the picture. And so I have to watch this video; I have to respond to her.â€ He bashed out a hasty thank-you note and then forwarded the link to another supporter â€” this one in Britain â€” who runs â€œThe Jonathan Coulton Project,â€ a Web site that exists specifically to archive his fan-made music videos.
Clive Thompson casts this as the changing face of music and film, but I wonder how much the geek image has to do with this. Sure, the Hold Steady has an “appointed geek” to handle fan relations online, but does he spend as much time on that as the fellow who’s writing songs about the Mandlebrot Set?