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A company of one
In 2019 someone DMed the artist Daniel Arsham: “You are not a real artist. You’re more like a company or brand. Lame.”
The contemporary artist merely responded with these Jay-Z lyrics: “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.”
I don’t want to discuss here how subjective art is. Instead, I want to show you why there is a new wave of artists and creators acting like companies, and what we can learn from them.
The traditional pillars of art and media are fading. The Internet and other new digital tools are bringing novel business and distribution models, both resulting in saying goodbye to the standard markets and institutes (and also gatekeepers).
New Internet = New models
One of the most successful models is “the company of one”. The concept is this: producing digital assets and IPs are getting more accessible and when you add global digital distribution to the mix, you have profitable companies that are run by individuals.
How many successful one-man-band shows do you know that are as strong and effective as mainstream shows? So many!
Writers and creatives such as Tim Ferriss, James Clear, Ryan Holiday, and Joe Rogan are creating very profitable shows, podcasts, newsletters, and agencies that are basically a company of one. Here is a tweet from James Clear, the writer of Atomic Habits that illustrates the mindset:
Hire slowly and keep your team as small as possible.
Find a way to do it without hiring another person. Use freelancers and build partnerships before creating another full-time role. Stay small even if you can afford to be big.”
Let’s see how this is made possible.
Web 2.0 VS web 3.0
In web 2.0, with growing digital platforms, big, powerful players in the entertainment and media industries started to lose control and also lose part of their revenues. It was then that creatives realized they could take more control over their careers and be more hands-on with their ad revenue, and partnerships, and also be more active in marketing their own craft.
In web 3.0 creatives and artists are realizing that they are going beyond a career and actually becoming a business themselves. This is an era in which so many individuals are leaving institutions and big brand names to turn to their own biz.
For example, in music, the main models of revenue in the industry are changing drastically. Today, musicians are trying to achieve what gaming studios did in online spaces: giving away music (how crazy that sounds!) to maximize distribution and charge for exclusive complimentary. This refers to the new models such as NFTs, live streams, membership, paid content, etc.
Now, every musician or producer can have multiple revenue streams while they are working from their bedrooms or personal studios.
It’s a shift that defines our future-- an amazing opportunity for creatives, and especially for those coming from small towns, those dealing with censorship in their countries, and minorities. Now everyone can say goodbye to gatekeepers and become a creator.
How to run a company of one in 5 mins
We have to remember that this promising new path is also full of challenges. Some of the most important ones are:
The transition: It’s beautiful to become a creator and have full control of your digital dream but it can’t happen overnight. Many successful creators build their own audience and communities for 12 to18 months before seeing even one dollar. This is a common pattern for million-dollar, one-person businesses.
Marketing and sales: These are crucial skills. You can’t stay just a creative anymore. You need to learn how to direct sales and how to create a buzz around your content. And in order to learn this, you first need to fail miserably a couple of times to figure out how sales and marketing work. There is no shortcut!
Lack of support and management: When you’re supposed to work on your own, there will be no support. You don’t have a producer, art director, or team members. It’s only YOU at the beginning. It can lead to poor quality content. You need to figure out ways to perform only in your circle of competence and also how to turn your weaknesses into a deliberate style.
Lack of status: No one wants to start from zero. It’s not sexy or trendy. If you are one of those people who love to brag about working for a Fortune 500 company, this is not your path to success. This is the right journey for creatives that want to make their own status. This is the game of starting with only one true fan.
And finally, here are some resources for you:
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A great book on leverage. (You can download the PDF for free)
Company of One: A book on why staying small is the next trend.
One Person Businesses That Make $1M+ Per Year | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)
1,000 True Fans: The article that predicted the Creator Economy movement in 2008.
We just scratched the surface. However, if you have a question or want to share your story, reply to this email. I will definitely get back to you.
Stay sane, stay yourself!
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