I managed my first run since the half marathon today, running 3 miles very easily, but deciding to cut it short as the wind was picking up as the first very, very stong breezes of St Jude's storm (or the Me2 storm as it might become known) began hitting the Thames. Trees creaked ominously and a sign in front of a pub had fallen over. Such portents were enough for me. I enjoyed the run though.
After writing yesterday's blog I searched through my box of old photos (from the days of film when we bothered printing them up) to see if I could find any illustrative pics. But I couldn't. I enjoyed the random jaunt through the 80s, 90s and early 2000s though. And then I recalled that at the same London Youth Hostel where I'd had an awkward grope with a German girl I had had my camera stolen after foolishly leaving it in my bag in the bag store-room. So that's why there are no photos because I had no camera. What I learned on that trip was that Vienna and London are full of thieves and German girls are easy. Ah Sabine, where are you now? And Konica Pop where are you now? I wish Konica Pop was the girl and not the camera. This is the camera I had - maybe the very one that got nicked. Who knows? The camera is very familiar to me, but I don't think I'd recognise Sabine. Such is life.
I wrote my Metro article and started doing some research for tomorrow's podcasts with Simon Pegg and another guest who I am keeping as a surprise! Check with the theatre for returns. The storm might mean a few people can't make it. I've also been considering ways to finance my more ambitious podcasts. For nearly six years I have been giving out hours and hours of free audio podcasts, some of which have been downloaded over 100,000 times (not the latter frames of Me1 Vs Me2 Snooker for some reason). Although these took time and effort and in AIOTM's case some near nervous breakdowns I was happy to do them for nothing (or for the occasional door split from the live gigs) because it got my work out there when few broadcasters were interested in commissioning me. It also led to more people coming to see my live shows, more DVD sales at www.gofasterstripe.com and some paid TV and radio work.
In an ideal world I would like to keep that up with the video projects I am working on and it would be cool if as many people as possible could see them. But I can't expect the cameramen and editors or producers to work for nothing and there are various other expenses, not least the cost of putting the video somewhere where it can be downloaded without crashing. If 100,000 people downloaded a free video that would cost me something like £50,000 an episode just for download fees. I am sure there would be cheaper alternatives, but I want to produce a quality product. I don't think I can afford to do this for nothing and RHLSTP is the simplest thing to do in terms of prep and execution. Meaning of Life is going to require me to write and learn a script and we're going to edit it down. I can't give it away for free.
I am not really bothered about making money from it, but I don't want to lose money from it. And if I can make money then it frees me up to create other more adventurous projects.
And yet I have to balance that up against the fact that people aren't falling over themselves to pay for online content. The first series of RHLSTP did reasonably well with over 3000 people downloading at least one episode. But that's still only 3% of those who listen for free. We made a modest profit which was split between me, the guests, gofasterstripe and the crew (who get a wage regardless). The uptake for the second series is noticeably less, at least so far, but only four episodes are up. The Miles Jupp one has just gone live. We're going to break even, so that's fine and I massively appreciate the support of those people who have paid for even one episode. I find it quite weird that usually 400 people a week are happy to pay £15 to see one or two podcasts recorded, but only about the same number will pay the same amount to see eight of them on film. There's well over ten hours of stuff in a series. But I think it's just down to what people are used to paying for. £15 is cheap for a night out, but when so much is free online they resent paying.
As long as I am not losing loads of money I am still relatively happy, but then again it seems a pity that so few people get to see this stuff and it would be amazing if I could make the kind of profit that would allow me to make more stand up stuff or even sitcoms. One option is to get sponsorship. There have been a few minor offers over the years, but none that have been worth risking the accusations of selling out, especially when the financial rewards have been so low that they would not actually constitute selling out. I don't know how much the listeners/viewers would care about sponsorship messages - I suspect not much- but it leaves me feeling a bit dirty. If there was a guarantee that the sponsor would not affect the content of the actual shows then it would be worth considering. Recently I got a fairly decent offer from a website to sponsor the last four episodes of the audio RHLSTP. In the end they offered me enough money to pay for filming most of the Meaning of Life series, but in return they wanted an ad at the top of the show and more worryingly a live one in the middle of the podcast. I felt that this would compromise the work too much, breaking the flow and causing a distraction, but also that it would be nigh on impossible for me to do it straight. I think the audience would laugh and the sponsor would withhold payment anyway. It was interesting that they valued my podcast highly enough to offer a reasonable sum, but after careful consideration I rejected it. It would be great to make all this stuff a success without advertising and I love the idea of the consumers acting as the commissioning editors. But then again something along the lines of the Fosters sponsorship of the Alan Partridge internet stuff seemed unobstrusive and presumably lucrative.I think if an amount of money that I felt I couldn't earn relatively easily was offered then I would definitely have to think about it. But have also considered taking on a few corporate gigs or other bits and pieces that I might not usually do in order to fund this stuff. And there are options like seeing if Netflix (or similar) would buy any of it.
I know that Citizen Radio in America is run on people making monthly donations by direct debit and have been toying with this idea. Today I was thinking that if I could persuade those 100,000 RHLSTP listeners to donate one pound a year then I would have the funds to do everything I wanted and could put it all out for free. One pound doesn't seem much for 365 blogs, 20 or so RHLSTP videos, 6 Meaning of Life videos (or similar) and all the hours of podcasting. But evenso I don't think I could bank on even 10% of people doing it. And the idea was put into sharp focus as about an hour after contemplating it I saw that someone had posted this on Twitter. I had essentially had exactly the same idea as David Icke. Look at his crazy, unfocused eyes. Is that how I look? Might there be better things to give the money to even if it is an insignificant amount for most individuals.
Even when I am providing so much content it seems somehow rude to ask for a pound a year. And it would open me up to people shouting, "Where's this week's snooker podcast? I paid a pound!"
I think I will have to carry on going it alone, with the help of the few thousand generous fans who appreciate that the video offer is a good one. It's my favourite of all the options overall. Even if you could just pay for one of the videos it would be an enormous help. I still haven't worked out the best way to go with Meaning of Life. Even a pay what you like option is risky if it doesn't even cover the cost of downloads. But then it'd be a shame to create something good and have no one see it. Then again, as it stands I have no material and 20 days to sort out the first one, so maybe it will be good if it remains a terrible secret.
I am not sure I have the ruthless ambition to turn myself into a financially successful production company, but I am enjoying experimenting with what is possible. Ultimately my goal is to produce interesting and funny new stuff. If that makes me money then I won't be upset about that, but money is not my motivation and I will just put the money back into producing more stuff. But as David Icke has also spotted you don't need all that bit a proportion of the world's population to give you a small amount of money before you have the power to do something amazing (greedily he's after a pound a MONTH! He is aiming to raise six million pounds a year this way). They probably won't though, because why should they? If you have twelve spare pounds a year do you want to give them to a comedian or a madman or to charity?
I might well be all three.