|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2011-07-04 17:01:00
Fandom vs Money-makers: Round the latest.
Oh dear. The latest episode in "Why Making Money From Fandom Doesn't Work For Non-Fans" is starting up. Grab your seats early, and tune in to the fun, as Keith Mander attempts to monetize LOTR fandom.
Mr Manders starts from a bit of a handicap. For a start, he isn't actually a member of fandom. So he doesn't know the first thing about the history, the background, or the little nuances of the place. He doesn't know the politics, and he doesn't know who to believe when they tell him "yeah, you can do this". For seconds, he apparently doesn't know the first thing about the IP holders either. This means he is blindfolded in the ring with the archetypical sabre-toothed-tiger with a toothache, and he thinks he's dealing with a cute, fuzzy kitten.
This guy is, to use a Discworldism, going to be cheesed (like being creamed, but it goes on for much longer, and the results are rotten).
Elf has the beginnings of a linkspam. The affected archive is LOTRfanfiction.com. The main comparison being made is to FanLib.
The idea of monetarizing fandom isn't new. It isn't even novel. However, it seems that lately, there's a lot of people wandering around looking at the size and scope of fandom (now that it's a bit more visible than it was previously) and thinking "there's got to be gold in them thar hills".
They're right. There is money in fandom. However, they're making the mistake of thinking the money is up for claim by anyone who walks by. It isn't. What money there is in fandom (and I think a large majority of fans would agree with me here) should mostly be up for claim by the original creator or creators of the content which inspired the fanworks. A lot of fans are insistent about being in this for the fun and games, the shits and giggles, or just the love of the original work. I'm one of them. The wider culture of fandom is a gift culture, where we make our works for the fun of it, rather than to make money.
The popular vision of an online group which "makes money from fanfiction" is The Pit of Voles. However, one of the things which people forget about this is that it too has its origins in the gift culture - Xing, the original creator of FF.net, started it as an archive for fanfic because he saw a need and decided to fill it. The history is there on wikipedia, if you want to read it. Basically, like so many of the older services on the internet, ff.net started off as someone's side project, hosted by their employer, and then shifted to paid hosting (and ad content) as a result of growing too large to handle just as a side project. But the beginnings were as a small service created and provided by a guy in California for shits and giggles, because he could, for the love of it (in Xing's case, it was for the love of the programming rather than the fic, but the core principle is the same). By the bye, I doubt ff.net actually makes much more money than is required to cover hosting costs, and maybe one or two wages. I sincerely doubt it's coining huge profits.
Mr Manders isn't starting from this perspective. Mr Manders, according to his own blog posts, is out to "dominate" fandoms, and "create [...] returns". He's in it for the money, not the love of it. He wants to make money (preferably lots of money) from other people's labours of love. He's tried it already, and succeeded, to a small degree. But he isn't interested in enriching the gift culture; he doesn't seem to be interested in giving something back; he doesn't appear to have any aim other than making money. He wants to get rich quick, and he thinks the unpaid labour of fanfiction writers is a good way of creating content to attract eyeballs for advertisers in order to do so. The last time this came around (the FanLib nonsense) I made the point that what was being expected of fanwriters in such a context was an agreement to intellectual slavery - we were to labour and work for nothing so that someone else could make money.
That wasn't a good bargain the first time I heard it. It isn't any better now.
In the long run, it is possible to make money from fandom. However, I'd speculate this requires the following very important qualities:
1) A strong knowledge of the history of things fannish and the fandom culture;
2) A strong knowledge of the history of the particular fandom you're working within (and preferably connections inside it);
3) The willing co-operation of the owners of the original IP on which the fanworks are based; and
4) An understanding or obligation to continue providing the service/creating the product even if you don't make money.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/17816.htm