It's a clumsy word, but a lovely thing to do
I'm not sure how possible it is to build and audience from scratch anymore. Platforms start out very egalitarian. Then, they get bought out by Zuckerberg or whomever and the algorithm starts to fuck with authors and audience alike. Instagram used to be a great place for visual artists to build an audience and sell their work. It used to be possible to steadily build an audience, knowing that everything you posted would be shown to your followers. Since Zuckerberg bought IG and decided that the algorithm should no longer show all your posts to all your followers many artists have seen their income tank. Similarly, youtube used to send an email to all subscribers when someone you followed posted a video. That stopped a couple of years ago, and now I have to scroll through my subscriptions to find if there are new videos from those I have followed for years because they sure as hell aren't showing up in my feed. If they are not showing you posts from people with 100K + subscribers, what hope does the person starting out have? It's just a game of roulette. If you're lucky, you may have a video go viral and they may push your content for a little while, but I know of a lot of previously very successful art youtubers who have seen their income halve in a short space of time. I hope substack is different. I hope for the best, but I fear the worse, because, you know, capitalism.
We are the media now. One thousand true fans can give you personal sovereignty. Hat tip to Substack for helping us build communities while supporting our families.
PS: What do you think of this late 90s / early 2000s playlist? https://yuribezmenov.substack.com/p/yuri-summer-mixtape-90s-2000s-millennial
I like that you pointed out you’ve making this your strategy for 12 years, Ted. It took a lot of focus and determination. It didn’t just happen. That’s important for me to keep in mind.
"The legacy publishing business and New York gatekeepers paid zero attention to any of this. They live in such a tightly-controlled echo chamber, that the notion of writers flourishing outside their fiefdoms is hard for them to grok."
Writers flourishing outside of their fiefdoms is a threat to their existence.
Middlemen never want the middleman to be cut out.
Very encouraging piece, Ted. Your Twitter buildup is impressive, and everyone who reads you on Substack knows you've got the goods as a critic and thinker. Down to the ground.
But I've known about you as a master on the subject of jazz for decades. Everyone I knew who knew anything about jazz knew of you. With good reason: you've written soundly and eloquently on the subject for, as I say, decades.
But what of the person like me with something to say who isn't an expert? I review movies on Substack with all the passion and insight I've got, but I'm no authority with a publishing history as a movie historian or critic.
Couldn't my voice still be legitimate and worth hearing? What's the path forward for the person with ideas and commitment who's trying to build a following? With what seems like the diminution of Twitter, where else do we turn to get ourselves and our work out there?
This makes my heart sing. Thank you Ted --- you are the best.
Yes! I've been trying to put into words what Substack has to offer writers, and your essay on disintermediation does it well. Get to your readers directly, drop the middlemen, write about what you want to write about, and go on and on without word count limits if that's what the subject requires. It also seems that Substack offers a dignified way for writers to get paid by people who enjoy what the writers write. I'm getting my proverbial feet metaphorically wet, and your Substack is one of my models. Now I've got to go back to composing my Substack Welcome letter. Thanks.
II'd like to know more about how you increased your Twitter readership.
Perhaps it is precisely the fact that you write about such different topics that makes each of your articles a surprise. If you only wrote about jazz it would be fine but I often read things that had nothing to do with music and they were divinely written (as is your style) and very deep and reasoned.
So I think it's perhaps a matter of luck but also quality of writing that is rightly rewarded. And the most important thing you did - maybe unplanned - is that you inspired so many to do it by just following what they felt they wanted to write and not thinking first of all to please anyone. If you can write, you really only write well when you have passion for what you write and you do it to understand something more, certainly not to please an audience. And finally: the relationship with intermediaries has something perverse about it. As a writer you need their power to increase your own but they are the limit to the development of your power because, if you became more powerful than them, you would no longer need their services. Which is what you did, if you think about it.
After 15 years of free blogging at jazzprofiles.blogspot.com, you've certainly convinced me to give Substack a try at cerra.substack.com. I'm learning, with many measured or first steps, but I want to collect the writings I've posted on my blog and develop them into Readers or Companions and some of these require paid fees for copyright permissions. Hopefully, this online publishing platform will help to generate the necessary revenue. Once the compilations are complete, I can take the next step and self-publish! Thanks for the inspiration, Ted.
You are too modest to list another factor -- which is the consistent high quality of your output.
For some unknown reason, I am listed as a Substack author. I don't how it happened. I don't intend to write anything and can't figure out how to exit. Even if I wanted to, I can't even figure out how to publish anything on Substack. I'm an analogue person, stuck in a digital world.
Loved this one! Many of us have been on the path for a while now, but are not known as writers (if you catch my meaning.) The legacy institutions cannot know they are in a death spiral because they cannot think it. I left them long ago. I am shocked, I say. Just Shocked that you, Ted, are an introvert with all the attributes I've come to know about myself over the past few years. WELCOME to Introvert Coming Out! Love you and your "disintermediated" new career.
Ted, in the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism you have ended your suffering - and now, as the path continues and redoubles, you’ve turned around to help us to relieve ours.
This is the way. A direct relationship between writer and audience, free of gatekeeping and not subject to the whims of an algorithm.
Thank you! I have had a hard time understanding substack and its purpose but I have been enjoying reading your and others’ articles so I thought I’d simply go along to get along but was still wondering. I now have a better appreciation for what writers here are attempting to accomplish. Maybe one day, I’ll contribute my own.
I love the writing coming from disintermediated writers. The quality of insights shared by people writing on the margins is rich. Certainly seems like a paradigm shift for the better.
I loved your article about Jimmy Guiffre. And I ended up reflecting upon how certain friendships I've witnessed resulted in the creation of something beautiful. I wrote about how your article even made me rethink the virtues I prioritize. Among friendship, disintermediation will likely be another I remember and prioritize.