How Jonathan Coulton Made $500,000 Last Year As A D.I.Y. Musician
(UPDATED) Last year d.y.i. musician Jonathan Coulton grossed about $500,000 from his music career; and because he's a mostly solo artist with low overhead, he got to keep most of it.
Coutlon never expected to make this kind of money as a musician. "This is absurd," he told Planet Money. But is Jonathan Coulton's success a fluke or can other musicians replicate it?
First Coulton cut out the middle man – no record label. The using the web, he went direct to his fans. His "fluke" or lucky break came with a quirky semi-autobiographical song called Code Monkey, about a lovelorn computer programmer. He put it up on his own site and users of tech discussion board Slashdot started to talk about it.
"So here was this song about a sad tech geek, and it was an arrow shot directly to the heart of the tech geek community," says Coulton. "That was the equivalent of me being discovered by some impresario or getting to go on the Ed Sullivan show when nobody knew who I was. That was my breakthrough."
Coulton parlayed that first "hit" into profitable live shows, more releases and merchandise sales – always going direct to his fans wherever possible.
Music loving techies is a niche – although one large enough to support several other d.i.y. successes like Zoe Keating. But there a plenty of niches and on the internet, reminds Coulton, more are forming all the time.
UPDATE: Coulton has agreed to answer questions from Hypebot readers. What do you want to know?