« Random Excellence: Giuseppe Pasquali | Main | Ctein's Big Deal »

Friday, 13 March 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I really like this idea and it's a great experiment. Harkens back to when equity markets got their start by people investing in overseas boat trips and didn't get any payback until the ships returned with eastern treasures to sell.

If it works out well and Ctein's "market value" goes up, you can see a secondary derivatives market opening up where people will want to trade in the shares in the future work, as opposed to the works themselves. If it is allowed to grow, it could eventually mushroom into a world-wide art market collapse that the governments will have to step in to bail out.

(Sorry, I'll stop now. Just having some fun. Seriously, I think it's a neat experiment.)


I can't afford to be a fan--starving artist--though I do hope you'll let us know how this is going.


Don't underestimate two aspects of this program.

1. Administration.
2. Liability to complaints and civil suits.

Good luck.

I am very, very happy to see someone (and Ctein in particular) doing this! I really believe this is the best business model for fine art photographers. Let's hope it catches on...

Sign me up (don't worry, I sent a separate e-mail as well).


Can we all offer a similar service through this site, Michael? (Irony irony.)


We'll all send you $9.50 a month if you'll send all of us $9.50 a month, and then everyone can make art!!!
; )

Best wishes, though!

This is a very cool idea. I am very interested to see how it turns out.I really do like this concept.

I like the idea of investing in an artist in this way; I´m absolutely certain (no pun intended) that there exist those who will so do. I´m not one of them, of course, because the shoe is on my other foot: I seek investment in myself, also sight unseen.


Tell you what. I'll invest $9.50/month in you, and you invest $9.50/month in me. Oh, hell, why think small? I'll invest $100 billion dollars per month in you, and you invest $100 billion dollars per month in me. With that much money coming in, I can afford to pay myself a salary of at least $50 billion dollars per year, and you can do the same. With numbers like these, we'll be too big to go bankrupt, so we can go to the government for a "loan."

And people say I don't understand finance. Hah!

Bill Rogers

Is there an upper limit on fans? Is there a point where it becomes more work to support the production that you start losing art time?

Sounds like you are setting yourself up for litigation from PayPal. I highly recommend checking out with a lawyer before making an arrangement which by your own acknowledgment breaks the contract you have with them, ie. monthly payments must be donations.


What type of prints would be offered? As someone starting to read your book, it would be interesting to acquire a print made with technology that I can readily afford and find. In my case, I think that is inkjet. On the other hand, it would also be interesting to see the dye transfer print.


Dear Ahem,

No, this WILL be a donation! The webpage where people can sign up will make that very clear, that they are giving me money to support me as an artist, but it is not a payment for future work, and that if, in fact, I decide over the next year to become a beet farmer and give up art entirely, all they are entitled to is a warm feeling in their hearts for having contributed money to me. The PayPal transaction description will also make it clear that this is a donation, not a transaction for future merchandise.

I discussed this with PayPal last fall. They are not okay at all with someone taking money for goods that they promise to deliver in the distant future, because that completely screws up their terms of use and customer sales guarantees (in particular, that you can dispute a PayPal transaction within 60 days if you're unhappy with the seller's actions).

But they are entirely fine with donations that incur no legal obligation on their part. In fact "donations" is one of the kinds of buttons they offer as boilerplate, and they specifically say that you may use subscription buttons for recurring donations.

To put it simply, people are going to give me $9.50 a month in the hopes that I will be grateful enough to reward them with a couple of prints in a year's time. Given that I have a 30 year track record of producing art, and I'm known to be a reasonably honest person who meets deadlines (magazine writer for three decades, you know) it's a pretty safe bet that I'm not going to blow all that credibility for a one-year short-term gain. But that's them putting their faith in me. They are not guaranteed anything in return for their money, contractually.

This is not some kind of run-around. There is a real legal difference between promising someone a gift in return for a $X donation and selling them that item for $X. It's why when your local PBS TV/radio station has pledge breaks, they say that if you'll donate so much money, they'll send you a nice gift as a token of their appreciation. Similarly, it's why when your local symphony as a fund-raising gala, they have you make a $50 donation at the door, and once you're inside the door they will give you "free" sushi and champagne.

This is not obvious on first glance, so your question was a very good one! It's just this point that had me hung up last fall, when I was trying to figure out how to do this. PayPal would let me sell merchandise outright, but they wouldn't let me accept money for merchandise that I promised in the future. It didn't even occur to me then that they would let me accept money in exchange for a promise of NOTHING. But that's the way it works.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Unfortunately, I am with Ahem that this is legally impossible. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me you will need a contract between seller and buyer (subscriber). This contract would include things like what happens if Ctein dies (do I still have to pay him $9.50 a month for the rest of the year when perhaps I will never receive the work?, What if I paid for the year upfront, will his children/estate recoup my loss and are they prepared for litigation?).

I think there is a reason we have never heard of this before for artists... it's impossible to manage, would require contracts and incorporation, liability, and possibility of return merchandise ("I'm sorry, I just don't think I like what you have created this year and would like my money back).

Additionally, there is a relative scale at work here. Ctein may have his followers, but for $9.50 a month I can employ 10 bombay street kids and hand them disposable cameras which will have, in my eyes, a greater impact on the "art" I receive, because not only will I get interesting pictures, but I help 10 kids eat for a couple of days. I know Ctein eats too, but...

Good luck though, it's a nice thought, if I had fans, I would love to do something like this.

On another note:

Methinks TOP would be better served by simply offering limited edition prints to its readers... Ctein's was successful, how about Ms. Winship, or any of the other photographers featured in random excellence?

Mike, you could start with me. I have a number of prints I would like to sell for $5 at letter size... how about a $5 print day from random TOP readers who just happen to be great photographers too (not myself) but who will never get the exposure through a lifetime of photography that they would get through a print sale via your site?

I would buy $5 or $10 prints from your site all day if you offered the stuff you feature in random excellence. I am pretty sure some of the people you choose would be happy to try this experiment with you, if you just asked.

To Ctein: I never enter any business partnership with a person who uses the phrase: "There is no way you can lose". I understand in principal with what you are saying, but I saw the Leonardo DiCaprio film where he was on some unsinkable ship and when the ship went down even Mr.DiCaprio with help from an oscar winning actress could not remedy the situation.

As a current member of the financial community (sorry) I am interested by the free market implications of this offer. If I buy a $114 "share" in Ctein, could it be traded on the OTC market? Could I, for example, list it on eBay for $120 if Ctein's reputation rises? Frankly, I like the idea. Anything to encourage artists.

Dear Yunfat,

Donations carry none of those legal obligations. There is not a contractual arrangement between a buyer and seller. If there were, this would present an impossible situation for PayPal and they would not even allow donations, let alone specifically arrange for them in their templates.

If you want to litigate with my heirs over $100, be my guest! I can assure you that it is not a suit you would win.

Please understand that I did not invent this concept (please read my last column and the linked references, if you have not done so). While it is not a common model, I'm not the first artist to do this. I am not even the 100th. I'm probably not even the 1000th (there are a heck of a lot of artists in the world). It's known and proven to be workable; it's just not often successful!

I have no assurances it will be in this case either. That's why it's an "experiment."

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Chris and several others,

I have anticipated you! Please read this column from last summer:

A Proposal for an Investment Strategy

Personally, I think selling me short might be wiser strategy [g,d,&r]

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

If I were you, I'd think about halving the donation. I'm paying $5 per month a couple places where I'm not using the services and don't know when I will. If the price was $10, I wouldn't.
Of course this might just be my own comfort level.

Dear Eric, Joe, Bill, et al.

Joking aside, these are serious points and they are one of the big reasons why this is a problematical business model (unless it becomes the norm and defacto way these things work). John Scalzi talked about this in his article that I linked to last column. It's easy to imagine paying one artist a handful of dollars a month. But when 1 million artists are all competing for that handful of dollars, it's not so easy to imagine.

Bill, what you've really described is the most basic economic transaction. The money is just a token for a good or service. In a closed economy (which I don't believe in, but some people do) this is in fact the only kind of transaction; usually it's a daisy chain of Peter delivering nine dollars worth of goods to Paul who delivers nine dollars worth of goods to Penny who delivers nine dollars worth of goods to Phyllis who delivers nine dollars worth of goods back to Peter. The money is just a token that's exchanged for stuff you need and don't have. In a barter economy, you don't even use the tokens.

And therein lies the rub. Some people reading this idea are unconsciously thinking this creates wealth for the artistic community. No, it doesn't, unless it induces people to spend more on art than they already. But if it doesn't do that, if it just changes how they spend their money on art, there is no additional money into the collective pockets. Some of it may flow into yours, whereas with a different business model it would've flown into somebody else's, but you're still all competing for a piece of the same pot.

I know I keep repeating this over and over, but it's really, really important! This is not a way to spin straw into gold; it's just a different way to go after the Gold that is out there. If it ends up working for you, great, but there is no magic reason why it should.

I can think of many reasons why it shouldn't. If this were a difficult or expensive experiment for me to run, I wouldn't even try it.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I'm wondering about the wisdom of rolling this out on Friday the 13th.

(Speeding ticket this morning. I'm just grumbling.)

Good luck. And break a lens. (That should work, right?)


Actually, with this "donation" wrinkle, you're not really buying a share of Ctein. You're actually buying a futures contract with no deliverable grade.

"They are not guaranteed anything in return for their money, contractually."

Gursky? OK. Salgado? Sure. Soth? Perhaps. Ctein? ________ .

There is a chasm of difference between selling prints of existing images (i.e. your recent successful dye sub sale) and selling kinda-not-exactly promises of prints of images that do not yet exist.

I know several people/families who have acted as patrons for artists (including at least two very renowned photographers) whose work that they really enjoyed. In nearly all such cases the patrons purchased many of the artist's early works, established a personal rapport with the artist, and made arrangements (usually through a gallery) to get first right of refusal for new works. In all cases the patrons had both their own enjoyment and potential future financial advantages in mind, either through sales or through tax-advantaged end-of-life estate donations. I know of nobody who "subscribed" to any artist in a manner similar to what you solicit.

Good luck, Ctein. But I think you're not being realistic about your stature, about peoples' willingness to blindly donate $114 (perhaps for nothing) in the worst economic climate in nearly 70 years, or the practical complexities of such a program.

Christopher Lane:

People pump and dump artists all the time, just look at michael jackson. If you are interested in trying this with Ctein, let me know, I want the action.

Let's just hope he doesn't turn into a pedophile (unless I have sold short).

The rise of the digital Maecenas!

Hmmmmm, maybe I should solicit one dollar a month donations with a promise I won't publish my art if over 1000 people decide to pony up for a year. Other wise I'll start a website and force the entire internet to examine my art!

The amount under discussion here, $10/month, has the benefit that if things foul up severely (Ctein is hit by a beer truck), I can live without the $120. I certainly can't burn $100 bills recreationally, but I can deal with a $120 loss if an artist I like dies.

I'm afraid a lot of people will balk at the lack of an actual contract (due to the Paypal requirements). Somehow a clear-cut promise is easier to rely on than the weasel-wording necessary to avoid being a Paypal rules violation. I guess there's really only one way to find out.

The other problem with this sort of pre-paid arrangement is that you could take a pretty bad reputation hit if you were unable to deliver even due to being in the hospital or something, I'm afraid. Maybe not, maybe the 100 true fans would be more reasonable than that.

Dear Eolake,

Five dollars a month doesn't fly; too much of that is eaten up by administration, printing, and shipping costs. Note that cutting the offer in half (so that people only get one print) does not cut those costs in half; it only reduces them by about one quarter.

Even $9.50 a month is pushing it. But marketing expertise (I talked to some friends who really know this business) says that $10 is still a serious breakpoint in the world, inflation notwithstanding. That is, a heckuva lot more people will pay $9 for something than will pay $11 for it. In the US, anyway.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Ken,

No, let's be realistic about my stature. I have approximately 100,000 readers in all my venues, and about 10,000 of those have viewed my photographs. Several thousand of those seriously like them. 1000 of them have bought prints (average price several hundred dollars).

I have a 30 year track record in the field. My website has been up for more than a dozen years and was one of the first profit-making fine art photography websites online. People can see half my portfolio, spanning a good 30+ years, and see that what I do hasn't radically changed in that time ( my work has definitely evolved, but it hasn't mutated). I also have a good reputation for being honest, and delivering what I promise.

Does that mean this will work? Absolutely not. Am I a lousy candidate for trying the experiment? Absolutely not!

Not so incidentally, either, I already have 60 willing "blind" fans.

The economic climate is only relevant if you have a choice in whether or not to engage in business. Sure, if I could sit back and clip coupons, this would be a terrible time to launch new ventures. But since that is not an option for me, trying to wait out the recession without launching new initiatives is much, much more likely to produce economic failure than trying new initiatives.

Six months ago I would've agreed that I didn't understand the practical complexities of this program. Since last fall's print offering, I now understand it very, very well. If it weren't for some questions I have to settle about what size prints to provide, I could tell you almost to the minute and the dime exactly how much time and what it will cost me to handle each subscriber from the initial responses to people's e-mail to delivery of the finished prints.

As I said, I'm a great experimental candidate. Doesn't mean the experiment will be a success.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Plus, I'm not sure it follows that because these are bad economic times that it's also a bad time for this experiment. 10% of people are out of work and lots of people have lost their houses, but 90% of people still have jobs and the majority of homeowners are still in their homes. In hard times, certain things do better because people are economizing on more expensive things; for instance, Amazon's business was actually *up* 5% this past Christmas, and movie ticket sales are up despite relatively lame movie offerings lately. Impossible to tell the reasons with certainty, but it may be that books and records are cheaper than vacation trips and big electronics purchases, and a night at the movies is still less expensive than a dress-up date at a fancy restaurant or a weekend at the waterpark with the kids. So it's possible that Ctein's offer could do *better* in these times than it might do in easier times, because it offers a relatively painless way to pay for a couple of nice prints and it's a lot cheaper than most any purchase from a big-city gallery or art auction. I don't know for sure, of course, I'm just saying it's possible.


I would argue that a $10 a month donation is a reasonable way to keep money flowing to art in this economic climate. If I'm not sure I'm going to have a job I'm probably not going to spend a few hundred on a piece of art. So my art budget goes to $0. But $10 a month is two lattes with tip. That I can do.

A case in point is that I'm perfectly willing to do this but I've been balking at buying another lenswork folio at about the same price.

I think that some of what's confusing people about Ctein's proposal is that they're thinking that this is akin to an agricultural CSA where subscribers are paying to receive a specific package of goods as well as to support the farmer indirectly. The assumption people are making is that the goal of the subscriber is to get high quality prints for a bargain price.

But that's not actually what Ctein's offering. He's offering the chance to make a difference in an artist's life by funding him (or her, if someone else adopts this model). The public radio's not a bad analogy - you make the donation to support the programs, not to get the tote bag - but even that's not quite right, since there's still the sense that you're paying for something you enjoy and consume (radio programs).

This is more like donating to a scholarship fund or one of those "save the children" funds - you hope that the kid who gets the money will go on to do something great with his or her education, and it's nice if you get a letter of appreciation from him or her, but the letter's not the point. Making a difference in another person's life is the point.

Ctein's prints are the equivalent of that letter - a gesture of thanks for one's support. As such they can neither be "bought" nor held to contract.

In other words, if a person thinks that they are paying money in order to "earn" a print, or buy a print, they are not understanding what it is that Ctein is proposing. That money is for Ctein to use as he wishes - a gift in a very literal sense.

That he has decided to thank those who give him that gift with a gift of his own at the end of the year is beside the point; under the terms he is proposing, he is under no legal obligation to offer even that much.

Ctein - I would word your website front page very carefully to ensure that your patrons understand that this is what you're proposing. Good luck - I hope it works!

Dear DDB,

Ah yes, performance anxiety. Having to deliver art by a deadline and not being sure one can pull it off. I hear tell that happens to authors sometimes, too. Just rumors, thirdhand [ smile ].

Truth is I sat down and did some serious thinking about the unprinted photographs in my files before I decided to commit to this.

The problem of artists making promises they can't keep has some history. In the fine art printmaking world, a common mode of business is for printmakers to get advance subscribers for a new print they're going to produce. As you might imagine, sometimes the creative springs dry up. Even famous artists have been known to welsh on the deal. Of course, the more famous you are, the more likely you are to be forgiven for doing so. Minor talents rarely get a second chance.

I'd be VERY nervous about committing to this if I didn't have my own long history of producing new work to look at.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I have mixed feelings about the idea. What I think it boils down to is that I would rather buy a finished product from an artist who has a proven track record of being able to survive on the free market. I can think of more charitable causes than to indulge in someone's hobby. Of course, my own hobbies are expensive enough.

That said, I hope you can make it work.


I've never heard such doom and gloom! How did we get so afraid of some obscure legal liability that might happen to arise? Is there no personal trust left? And what is it we're actually risking anyway? Some of the replies make it sound like a lot more than just $9.50 a month is on the line here. Are you guys reluctant to leave the house in the morning because of the bad things just waiting to happen to you?

Sign me up. For $114 spread out over the coming year, I'm delighted to be a part of this experiment. I just want to see some NEW art from you, not a rehash of your "old" stuff (not that there's anything wrong at all with it). It's a brave new world out there: go for it!

Rod Graham


I read all your articles previously, and the comments, and I couldn't recognize any of the "so called" successes names. The artists mentioned were completely off the radar, at least for me.

Your photos ARE marvelous, so I hope and pray for your success. Your sellout of the dye transfer prints and subsequent articles are literally joyous reading to people such as myself, who still believe in the power of a single image, and its ability to generate income.

Dang, so this is all not gonna be free? Oh well. Thanks for the info anyway. Good luck!

Unfortunately, I am with Ahem that this is legally impossible. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me you will need a contract between seller and buyer (subscriber).

Contracts are only of any use when things go wrong!

I think that this type of commercialization is unrealistic. In this our age of instant gratification, it goes against the grain to pay for something and then, after paying, to decide what it is you would like. It is kind of like buying shares in an artist's creative production and then "cashing in" your shares at a later date. It might have worked with Picasso where investors actually can perceive of a possible future profit, otherwise, it seems just like a "game". Then again, Picasso didn't need this sort of gimmick. I'm sorry if I seem to be a "sticky wicket".

I'll just sum up all I've read here and my own opinion in a short sentence. It's worth a try. A worthwhile experiment in which one can participate for a hundred bucks. We really don't have to worry about the fine print endlessly. We're not buying a house or investing with Bernie Madoff.

Peggy Guggenheim did much the same thing in a way. She would give a set amount of money each month to specific artists (i.e. Jackson Pollock) and would then get paintings or other artwork in return. This isn't new really - just a variation on a theme and quite a fresh idea in the modern art market.

The whole issue of monthly payments for unspecified and not promised but potential future delivery of goods in order for this offer to qualify as a "donation" seems like a slippery slope of semantics to me. Ctein, I think you had the right idea with the recent dye transfer print offer. Basically, you creatively used the internet (with a little help from T.O.P!) to propose to us, "I will take one or two specific images, make a big batch of prints all at once so that I can give you all very competitive pricing on some beautiful prints... if enough people sign up in advance for this special sale". Or something like that. I think it worked. So, now rinse and repeat... then apply the proceeds to next year's art. And as others have noted, perhaps Mike can turn this idea into a more regular T.O.P. feature with other artists being helped as well.

best regards,


The thing that keeps this kind of marketing scheme out of the courts is that the amounts of money are so low, and the claims would be so dispersed. As a practical matter, most courts (other than small claims) wouldn't even hear a case for $114, and the variety of costs involved means that somebody suing would be risking thousands of dollars to get back $114 under circumstances that would be murky to say the least. Who is to say whether a print is good or bad, and how much it's really worth?

So, as a practical matter, I don't think Ctein is taking any monetary risk, and the risk to the buyer is limited by the very small amounts involved.

The biggest risk Ctein is taking is that he is producing an art work, which means that almost anybody can criticize the work without fear of reprisal. And that means that if he produces marginal prints, and there is wide agreement among the buyers about that, his reputation could take a serious hit, especially since criticism seems to live forever on the net.

So, overall, it appears to me that there's not much risk here, to anybody. Little legal risk to Ctein, little possibility of serious loss by the buyers, and Ctein will be putting his reputation out in public, so he most likely will strive for the best possible product.

I'm in.


I think it's completely worth a shot. It is, after all, an experiment. Debating it now won't do as much good as reviewing it after a year.

Somewhat related to Ctein's offer, I would like to say something about TOP. I am painfully cheap, and would never pay up front to read any website.

I know of a camera review site that works on the subscription model, and that doesn't jive with my feeling that reading things on the internet should be free. I won't pay a newspaper to read older articles on their site.

And yet, I made a small donation to TOP around Xmas. I never considered it payment for reading the site, it felt more like a thank you gift for all the enjoyment and insight I received throughout the year.

If I wanted one of Ctein's prints, buying it would seem like a transaction. Donating monthly to support him as an artist seems more like a gift, and he would give me the gift of two prints at the end of the year.

I get a lot more personal satisfaction from giving and receiving gifts than I do making a purchase. Also, I don't worry about the gifts being comparable value, whereas I am very concerned about getting my money's worth on a purchase.

If supporting Ctein makes him seem more like a friend, and sending him money is more of an encouragement and a vote of confidence than a transaction, won't you feel happier about doing it that way?

Best of luck Ctein. Go for it!

Dear Paul,

I'm in agreement with you! In the very first question in the FAQs, I'm saying much the same thing.

I'm going to make a a lot less money off of each gift print from people's donations than I would make if they were buying existing art work outright. This provides me with a more predictable and steady income stream for my art, but it greatly decreases my profit margin. Please, just buy my art!

Calling this a hobby indicates that you're not really familiar with my work; this has been an important part of my livelihood for three decades. That means that you're not actually the audience for this. 1KTF is not a way to solicit strangers to support an artist; it's a way to leverage off of an artist's existing fan base.


Dear Yunfat,

That's exactly right! You haven't heard of these people. They're minor talents. I'm familiar with two of the musicians, and it surprises me that I know that many; I don't track the indie music scene at all well.

This is for minor talents. Major talents have a huge enough audience that they don't need to indulge in this (unless digital piracy ends up forcing them into it).

Remember that I am a minor talent! Yes, I have 100,000 readers (give or take a factor of 2). And what are there, more than 10 million serious photographers in the world? There's got to be. And at least a comparable number of people who collect photographic art. That means I am known by less than 1% of the serious photographic world (which puts you in a very elite circle [ egotistical grin ]).

Toss my proposal out into the random world and most people will react like you -- "never heard of that artist."

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear JC,

Nicely summarized and all true!

My legal risk is even lower than that, because I have PayPal looking over my shoulder. If they think I am in any way creating a contractual obligation, they will shut me down. I know of at least one case of them cutting off someone's donation button.

I could risk a disgruntled patron or two. I can't risk a disgruntled "bank."

In addition, I'm looking at this as an ongoing part of my business, not as a one-year wonder. If I blow my credibility, that puts an end to that.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear Mark,

You've hit upon a really important issue, and that is market saturation. I've saturated markets more than once in my career and had to go scrambling for a new revenue stream. My dye transfer print sales to my "local" market, for example, saturated about a half dozen years ago. Pretty much everyone who had been buying my work that I knew firsthand had as many "Cteins" as they wanted. That ranged from customers who'd only bought one or two over my career and been satisfied with that, all the way up to my biggest patron, who owned 47 of my prints!

Special print sales saturate pretty quickly. Quite a few of the folks who bought last fall did so because they figured it was their only opportunity to own a dye transfer print or to be able to afford a Ctein print. Most of those folks wouldn't be back for a second round. Also, one-time sales on an ongoing basis would have to be priced considerably higher than that offer, and that further diminishes the market. I just know from experience that it's not a good way to develop an ongoing source of revenue. Plus, it doesn't really address the problem of unpredictable future income. In fact, it puts even more one's eggs into one basket.

This also brings up a serious weakness in the 1KTF model for photographers. Remember that that model was devised for digital content providers, basically musicians and authors. Market saturation isn't a big issue there. If you've heard a dozen albums you like from a musician or read a dozen books you like from an author, you're going to eagerly look forward to the 13th. You might even consider subscribing to that musician or author to ensure new work.

The same isn't true for photography, unless you're really an avid collector of one photographer's work. That makes "subscription rot" a very big issue for photographers trying the 1KTF approach. Whether this is a viable business is not going to be determined by how many subscribers I have this May; it will be determined by how many subscribers I have NEXT May. (Sort of the same way that in evolutionary biology, fitness is not determined by how many children you have but by how many grandchildren.) I have to minimize subscriber loss and get new subscribers to replace the ones I do lose.

I'm working hard thinking up perks and incentives to keep people involved and convince them to renew their donations a year from now. Maybe a nice hand-printed chapbook that will only be given to (re-)subscribers...

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

What if this was made more analogous to the PBS concept? What if we were making the donations so that Ctein could print several large prints to donate to local public high/middle/elementary/primary schools for their walls? As a gift for your donation, you can select a print or two from Ctein's "gift collection".

Since we're talking donations, I think I'll donate to people who don't have food, housing or medical care.

Ctein, I think this is a great experiment. Just do it, and review it after a year to see what can be learned from the experience. Hope you will share the experience with us.

I'm in. Not only to see how the experiment works out, but also because I believe that you will make some good art.

Dear Bill,

I think that's great! I wish more people thought like you did. Well, not *everybody*, because then I'd end up being one of those indigent [ impoverished smile ]. But if a modest number of people decided to give some money to the really needy as a side effect of my pleadings, I would consider my time spent writing this column very well spent!

Scalzi, by the way, talks about this difficulty with the 1KTF model. It's not hard to imagine it working when you have very few "beggers" and a very large number of "beggees." It's an entirely different matter when there are lots and lots of people clamoring for your dollars (as there are in the real world).

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I think this is a great idea. Indeed, I have participated in something similar before. An artist I know applied for and was accepted for a residency at the Banff Center in Canada. But it costs money to take the time off and go there... So he invited people to spend $100 (if I remember correctly) to defray costs, and he promised us each an original print made in Banff. When it arrived it was a beautiful and unique work of art, filled with Banff.

Revolution Money say they charge significantly less than does Paypal. I don't know how well they're doing or whether it would be worthwhile for you to arrange for them to be an alternative payment processor, but I thought there's a chance you might be interested.

I think all the chatter is great. I just want to inform you about two things. First, this is not a new idea. It could be new to cstien and it seems new to many of the above contributors, but it is not to me. The second thing is that I have been doing this "sponsor" program for 37 years, every year with tremendous success. I have had only one person have difficulty in choosing a print which meant I had to return to their home for a second dinner and second showing, in all those years. Nobody has been dissatisfied and all have shared in not only receiving fine prints from a fine art photographer, but the chance to live vicariously through the artist in their very busy lives.

The prices I am getting up front practically dwarf what cstien is getting and there is no contract, guarantees, or any other "instruments" except word of mouth, good faith and honesty. You would be surprised at how many people there are on this planet that still believe in these things when you give them a chance.

cstein is approaching this from the wrong point of view.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007