Will self-managed musicians and artists continue to be rarities, or is that path finally becoming a reality on a greater scale?
Are we finally entering the age of the digital cultural entrepreneur (DCE)? That is, has it now become possible for a gifted artist or writer to control the reins of his or her career from a laptop, scheduling gigs, selling books or recordings or images both digitally and physically, receiving payments, interacting with fans, and avoiding the "middleman" of the whole formal culture industry altogether? And, more to the point, is this possible for someone who doesn't hit the Fifty Shades of Grey jackpot, but merely has a sufficiently large core of faithful supporters and fans?
Savants have been predicting the emergence of the DCE for some time now, and have called attention to the pioneering efforts of writers like Cory Doctorow and musicians like Jonathan Coulton -- or rather, have called attention to Doctorow and Coulton, because there haven't been too many like them. And this is the key question: Will the self-managed DCE career continue to be a rare thing, or is it scalable?
Many smart and creative people want to know, because the life of the DCE seems immensely attractive: Be your own boss! Work when and where you want! Only pursue tasks that excite you! Of course, anyone who has tried living the DCE life will tell you that it's not quite that exciting, and a life in which all the responsibilities are yours has its own considerable stresses. But even someone like me, who has a good academic job and a rewarding relationship with the traditional publishing world, can't help drifting off sometimes into DCE-Dreamland. Wouldn't it be nice....