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What are some infinite goods that a maker of physical objects could give away?

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A lot of the discussions revolve around makers of mass-producible content (movies/music/text) giving away free infinite goods, and selling limited extras like merch, or charging for the use of convenient/authentic delivery platforms.
I've got a question that comes from another direction:  
As a visual artist, I make original one-of-a-kind things that can't be easily copied. That part is not a problem for me.  
But unlike musicians, I don't have an infinite good to hand out and share freely to expand the number of people who know about my work.  What could I do?  What are some copyable digital things that someone would want from an artist?  What free stuff do you want from a painter?
So far, all I've been able to think of is putting a creative-commons licence on my images, but that feels more like an empty gesture; I'm still not putting something really cool out there for people to take and share.  I've been thinking about this for quite a while now, and nothing has come to mind.  
I'm hoping someone from the insight community might be able to look at this from a different angle than I have.
initiated Oct 17, 2011 in Connecting with Fans by Kyle Clements (2,460 points)   3 9 17

17 Responses

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How about reversing the content creation process. Organize a contest. I imagine that many of your fans are artists themselves. Ask them to make a piece of art that imitates your style and put up a website where they can upload pictures of their pieces and get votes. Then, offer to spend some time with the person who gets the most votes. Maybe give them a lesson. The idea behind this is the following: Your fans want to win. To win they must get votes. The best way for them to get votes is to drive traffic to your page. The best way for them to do that is to tell friends and family about you.
response added Oct 21, 2011 by Promethee Feu (480 points)   1 2 5
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This is a really good question -- and definitely a reverse situation for many artists/content creators.

I agree, you can do something simple, such as freeing up the images of the work, but that's unlikely to have much of an impact.

One thing I'm reminded of is the "Significant Objects" project that we wrote about a few times:

That involved people taking random objects, trying to sell them on eBay, but creating detailed fictional stories around the items -- but the stories themselves were so interesting that the items themselves started to sell for much more.

That doesn't mean you need to become a storyteller yourself (though, perhaps...), but maybe you can team up with a good story teller to build interesting stories around your artwork?

Alternatively, is there more you can do in terms of sharing the creation process of the work?  I don't know what kind of art you create, but could you share the process via a daily blog or webcam or something?  And are there ways that you might let people contribute to the process in some manner (without taking away any of the artistic integrity in the project)?  Just tossing out some ideas for brainstorming...

response added Oct 17, 2011 by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160
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A few ideas for you:

  • Promethee feu has already said this: record your creation process. Maybe a time-lapse video where people can see you at work and how your piece evolves with time. You can give that away. A sort of tutorial if you wish.
  • Organize a contest: collect ideas from your fans. Then organize what they say into a coherent mass then create something out of that. People will want to buy what they contributed to, but make sure it's a special price, not something too high.
  • I am assuming you're a painter. So try to get in contact with special interest groups. For example, the fan club of a book for example. Paint a special piece for them, digitally or traditional media, then either give it away, or price it appropriately.
response added Oct 22, 2011 by I B (700 points)   1 1 5

 1 on idea 3 with a caveat. Pick a book you are excited about. It will be more authentic.
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Having just quickly scanned through a very small number of your paintings in your online gallery these suggestions may be answering a slightly different question than you were asking, but they might lead somewhere:

  • Could you invite suggestions on locations to use for future works?  This could lead to particular commissions ("I'd pay $x for a painting that incorporates location y") or just to suggestions of interesting places that might work with your style.
  • I couldn't tell whether your paintings are inspired by a single location or whether they're a  mix of more than one place.  If the latter, how about running a competition to name all of the locations that went into a particular painting.  That could get some buzz...
response added Oct 25, 2011 by Andrew J (200 points)   1 1 2
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One idea that springs to mind relates to branding.  Many artists use a watermark of some sort in their work for a variety of reasons, though the most common is to identify to others that they were the ones to create the work.  Instead, however, one could create a watermark that is subtle, distinct, and neutral, so it can be incorporated into all your work.  Incorporate it into each of your works, then reveal it to your fans.  Use it as an Easter Egg, hidden in all of your work, so others actively seek it out.  If it catches on, merchandise can be created with the mark.  In essence, brand the work with your hidden sigil.

Another option, instead of giving the art away directly, modify it in some way first.  Maybe a negative image or an infrared or ultraviolet picture.  Get creative.  These can be provided for free and while with some of these the original could be reproduced through effort (which would probably only be done by a fan anyway), the end goal of increasing fans and increasing sales can be furthered.
response added Oct 25, 2011 by anony mouse (260 points)   1 1 3
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How about creating images of your works to create a slideshow/screensaver?
response added Oct 25, 2011 by Randy Wieck (460 points)   1 1 4
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Hmmm. I don't know what you make, (my initial idea was statues & sculpture, but in re-reading, I have no idea where that came from), so I can't offer any particulars. If we're looking at infinite goods, that gives us, amoung others, music/stories/games/files. If you are a sculptor, it might be interesting to 3d scan or 3d model your sculptures & release the files for free, as in free culture (ie: mods allowed, commercial use allowed), to a 3d printing site, like thingiverse. I'm not sure if that would have a very big impact, but it'd be interesting. For stuff like sculptures, humans are naturally essentialists, so that wouldn't be competition for your actual product, (And if people start modding your statues to create statues they like better, there's a market opportunity there as well). I can't really imagine how you would tie in music effectively for either painting/sculpture, (I'mma assume it's one of those two for now). If an artist happened to create a song inspired by your work(s), releasing that song and noting the origin might work a bit, but I don't think it'd be worth it to hire a musician to write a song about it. Stories, I think Mike's already brought that up. Games. I'm not sure how a small artist could seek to use a game to advertise his work. If you are a painter, it might be possible to supply the art for a game, (like a flash game), in the style of, or using, your paintings where appropriate. I'm thinking particularly of Dark Seed, which probably didn't sell too many Giger paintings, but it did interest me in his work because of how it used the atmospheres. In this case, there probably is already a game team somewhere making a game you could use like that, and they'd probably be happy to have the talent. Hopefully those ideas are of some use to you.
response added Oct 25, 2011 by freak (190 points)   1 1 3

Good guess. I am a painter and new media artist (new media often gets lumped in with sculpture)

The 3D printer idea is a good one, (a very good one)  I don't think it would apply to my own work, but I do know some people who could benefit from the idea, and I will be relaying it to them.

For free-culture stuff, I'm hesitant to give up the non-commercial clause on videos/photos/images.  I like to think of the freer culture as a courtesy to fans, and something that does not extend to companies.  But for models, I don't see how it can hurt to allow commercial use.

The game idea is actually something I have been thinking about.  I just haven't come up with an idea where my art seems like a necessary component, so far, all my ideas feel like the art is just thrown-in.  I don't want it to be a gimmic.
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Can you link to an image or other example of your work? Sometimes it's easier to make suggestions based on the specific piece of work than in general.
response added Oct 25, 2011 by Andrew Fong (360 points)   1 1 1
Great suggestion.  I'm always looking for an excuse to do some shameless self-promotion!

My paintings:
(this is the stuff where I have trouble getting online attention, this is where I want to focus)

My new-media work:
(this stuff spreads more easily - but I'm always open to suggestions)
Take a Picture:
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I really like Randy Wieck's idea: a screensaver of images from your work. Maybe you could even take it one step further....

You could team up with some like minded artist colleagues and produce a collection of desktop backgrounds, screensavers, and ready to print poster images. I have seen screen savers (and desktop images) that auto-pull from an online repository; I'd love to have one that kept me abreast of new artists and their work. Ideally it should have a way to find out more into on the artist and ways to capitalize on interest (like pandora does for musicians).

response added Oct 25, 2011 by Jim (270 points)   1 1 1

I didn't know that it was possible for a screen saver to pull images from an online source.  That would be fantastic.

To be honest, at first the screensaver idea didn't do it for me, but knowing that this is possible definitely perks my interest.  I'm going to have to bug some of my programmer friends.
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OK, I absolutely agree with Andrew J on inviting suggestions on location. I go to Berkeley Law and would absolutely pay $200 for a painting of Berkeley. More importantly, I'd also share the image with all of my friends, a few of whom happen to be well-paid lawyers.
Also, Take a Picture is awesome. That's a great candidate for an instructional how-to video.   Instructional videos (or just instruction in general) are great becaues you get two sources of virality. The first comes just from people sharing the video. The second comes from people trying to reproduce what you made in the video.
Remember that "infinite goods" aren't actually infinite. They're just really easy to reproduce. With an instructional video, the video itself is "infinite" because reproduction is simply a matter of creating a digital copy. But whatever you make in the video is also "infinite" because the whole point of the video is to enable reproduction of that object.
"Take a Picture" has a really cool technique that I, and presumably others, would really like to imitate. I'm more of a hobbyist than an artist, but I have projects that I'd like to incorporate the "Take a Picture" technique into. If anyone asks how I pulled off that technique, I can just point them back to your original video.
response added Oct 25, 2011 by Andrew Fong (360 points)   1 1 1

If you are interested, here are some of the videos we shot while building the project:

And here is a rough how-to guide that I submitted to Make a while ago and never bothered to finish:

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