I can only conclude that a lot of media-producers are utterly confused. And why not? The market’s changing, and I’m not just talking the recession. Roadrunner Records seems to think that Amanda Palmer is impossible to market (see my post: Beyond Amanda Palmer’s Belly,) the TV show Firefly, which Fox so quickly canceled, has a giant internet cult following. The more that people claim that the world is becoming hands-off, the larger DIY communities like Etsy, Ravelry, and Craftster grow. Print media’s dying, but the zine scene in Portland is thriving. Feminism, according to most, doesn’t sell, but when Bitch Magazine needed $40,000 by the end of a month in order to survive, they surpassed their goal within three days, in the middle of a recession no less. I remember hearing a trend-spotter for Hallmark speak at my college back when I was a freshman. Her presentation overall was unremarkable, but one thing she said that really stuck with me was this: “For every trend there is a counter-trend.” Since you can’t much more mainstream than Hallmark, and I’m assuming this wasn’t super-secret information, I’m starting to wonder why publishers and producers don’t seem to be taking their own advice.
Indie and handmade: they’re not just for hipsters and hippies. They’re growing, and sometimes even breaking into the mainstream (I’m not always sure about making money, but it is surviving). Etsy is perhaps my favorite example. For those of you not in the know, Etsy is a website where crafters and sellers of vintage products can set up an online shop for their wares for really reasonable prices. Beyond this, Etsy fosters community through its blog, newsletter, and workshops around the world. It may be digital, but in many ways it’s the antithesis of everything the word conjures up: it’s a hands-on revolution, an online porthole for offline work; it combines both individual and community achievement; it encourages real-life communication through craft bazaars, meet-ups, and classes. In other words, it’s everything the mainstream markets tell us won’t sell anymore. And yet, Etsy’s everywhere: in Lucky Magazine, on Project Runway (last season’s winner, Leanne Marshall, had a thriving Etsy shop. Before going on the show, she was making something of a living sewing all her garments by hand, trying to keep up with the orders!).
I don’t want to sound overly optimistic. Wired magazine’s been claiming the “death of brands” and the rise of niche markets for the past five years, and the mainstream media still hasn’t quite taken the hint. I know that small presses struggle, that indie designers work hard just to pay their rent. I’m sure more people have been lost to the World of Warcraft than have gotten off their chairs and down to a printing workshop at Portland’s Independent Publisher’s Resource Center. More people read Elle than Bitch. That’s just how it goes. But don’t dismiss the handmade revolution: creative people are powerful. Creative people are flexible. And, with the internet connecting more people to more resources, creative people can find a market.