Event economics in the digital age

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Yesterday, I read Simon Kuper’s piece in the FT, on “Author Economics”, where he laments how little authors earn these days on the books they sell. He draws the conclusion that you need to have rich parents or a rich spouse these days in order to survive as an author.

However, he also touches in passing on the one area where writers can still make money – speaking engagements. This is the same that we’re seeing in the music industry. With Spotify having taken over the torch from iTunes, the amount of revenue musicians earn from the sale of music is now decreasing rapidly. However, they earn more and more on live events, and related sales, such as merchandise. As mentioned in this article, it’s not just the Rolling Stones, even newer artists such as Justin Timberlake, get away with charging ticket prices up to $1,500, for special packages and VIP arrangements.

Very few authors are testing out new ways to make money, although there are many interesting opportunities. Live events is one, another is podcasting. Authors such as Bret Easton Ellis, Stephen Dubner and Tim Ferriss are all creating very interesting podcasts, which generate some advertising revenue, or at least points listeners to merchandise.

The book industry should give up its fruitless fight against Amazon in trying to keep the ebook price at $10.99 instead of $8.99, which won’t create a living wage for authors any time soon, and instead embrace these kinds of new revenue models.

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