Monday, January 12, 2009

Eyeballs Into Dollars

Above: a sketch I drew of a guy at his table at the Small Press Expo.

I was reading a collection of columns by H. Allen Smith and this little story popped out:
"The only Broadway personality I knew before I got to Broadway was a singer named Gene Austin, an amiable, robust, hard-drinking balladier from Louisiana. In the 1920s, when phonograph records were sold at seventy-five-cents apiece, he was Mr. Big of the recording business and he made a fortune singing such tender roundelays as 'My Blue Heaven,' 'Girl of My Dreams' and 'Melancholy Baby.'

"Radio smothered the recording business, and Gene Austin with it, and for approximately ten years a phonograph record was a rare commodity. The new generation knew it only as a black disc used by movie comedians to smash over the heads of fat ladies or by college boys to eat. Then records came back.

"Juke boxes in saloons were in large measure responsible for the renaissance, and one of the first smash hits in these nickel-gobblers was 'Bei Mir Bist Der Schön' as sung by the Andrews Sisters."

- LOW MAN ON A TOTEM POLE by H. Allen Smith, Chapter XIV, Coming Up in Frisco (copyright 1941 by H. Allen Smith)

What I don't know --

  • as print newspapers collapse (with the Seattle PI either set to sell or shut down, and a predicted 6 months worth of life left in the NY Times),

  • as syndicates go from making money from selling comic strips to giving them away on the Web (and making their dough not from content, but from Web advertising),

  • as book sales decline (over 5% this past December at major bookstores) and publishing houses like Houghton Mifflin are no longer looking at new projects (and other smaller imprints like Minx or First Second either being shut down or absorbed into the larger corporate structure)

-- what I don't know is what will happen next in the field of cartooning.

I do know that people love cartoons. Nothing will change that.

The then-new media of radio may have "smothered the recording business," but the audience was still there for crooner Gene Austin, even though radio wasn't putting money into his pocket like records did.

All we cartoonists have to do, to quote of all people Rupert Murdoch, is turn a certain percentage of those eyeballs looking at that Web page into dollar signs. I'm do not like who Murdoch is, but disregarding the messenger, the message is spot on.

And, hey, everyone loves cartoons. I know I said that, but it gives me hope, so I say it again.

More anon.


Anonymous said...

Well, if there's no money left in it, we can still do it for the glory (if any).

And, off the point a bit, please know that I am extremely pleased to have found this blog. Thanks for putting it up.

Nelson said...

My thanks, also, for creating this blog. You may have taken a few more minutes out of my day to read it, but that's more than offset by the inspiration (and entertainment) you provide!

Bob Buethe said...

Back when vaudeville was in vogue, a comedian could make a career out of one comedy sketch. When radio came along, comedians played to the entire country, and so needed to come up with new material each week; which put a lot of vaudevillians out of work, but opened up new opportunities for writers and voice actors. Television cut into the market for voice actors, except as announcers or cartoon voices, but opened the doors for other performers and writers.

Media change, but there will always be a place for creative people. The trick is to find it, and figure out how to make a living from it.

Benita said...

Mike, your characters always have so much angst!
Anyway, why can't we do stand up comedy with cartoons?

Mark Anderson said...

It's like we've said, cartooning ain't for the weak of heart. Or to paraphrase Bart Simpson - "...cartooning is a hideous bitch goddess."

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it just makes me want to smash an LP over my own head.