The very near future of 3D printing offers a lot of fascinating opportunities for digital artists.
While the 3D printing industry is still in it’s infancy, revenue numbers are expected to double every year for the next 5 years, (I would say much longer though) and we haven’t even begun to comprehend the new business opportunities that are still evolving.
Naturally, when I saw the announcement from Daz3D today about their move to start offering 3D printing, I was really excited.
Daz3D is one of the industry leaders in 3D figure modeling software and content. I use their software quite a bit for my pin-up art and have a huge runtime folder full of their content. The idea of being able to print my stuff in 3D, directly from their software is really awesome.
Although a logical next step for someone like Daz3D, it is still a pretty brilliant move when you think about it. Millions of artists already have their free software, know how to use it and most likely have tons of Daz3D content. Daz3D (along with Smith Micro’s Poser) have huge ecosystems of artists, fans and products, so this is really a huge thing to happen in the 3D art industry.
Here are a few thoughts about where I see the future of digital art and 3D printing going, as well as how to position yourselves to profit from it:
If you create 3D art like I do, being able to offer limited edition 3D printed figures or dioramas of your work will open some awesome new business opportunities. Check out the Munnies and other figures over at Kid Robot for some examples and ideas of how the business and culture of limited edition & collectable vinyl art toys are booming.
If you create 3D content, your future looks bright! Right now there is a huge community and ecosystem of 3D art content creators (Daz3D, Renderosity, RuntimeDNA) and when you add 3D printing into the mix, there will be tons of new customers wanting to accessorize their 3D printed models. As 3D printing becomes more mainstream and the price of printers go down, I expect a lot more printable marketplaces to appear. Creating both content and places to sell content will be goldmines.
Creating graphics and textures for 3D models is already a growing business. I can see it eventually growing for 3D printed models as well. Currently 3D printed models come in limited color and texture options based on the type of filament material they are printed out of. Anything super detailed is usually hand painted. This should evolve over time, as the quality of color and painting increases. In the mean time, custom graphics and decals, as well as hand painting services, could be an interesting option to pursue.
I would assume that companies like Zazzle and Cafe Press will jump on the 3D printing bandwagon and start to offer all kinds of customized products soon. If you are a 2D digital artist and still haven’t begun offering print on demand products, now would be a great time to get started.
3D printing is coming and it’s going to be a game changer, so jump on it!
3D Printing Links & Resources
MakerBot – Makers of some of the most successful and affordable 3D printers
Thingverse – Thingverse is an online community and marketplace (owned by Makerbot)for 3D printed models
In my writing and presentations, I reference a book quite a bit called “Who Owns the Future” by Jaron Lanier. In his book, he discusses the future, where he believes that because of the inevitable total automation by robots and artificial intelligence, the only work that will be available will be for people (much like creative entrepreneurs) who can earn an income of micro payments for sharing knowledge, offering services, and selling original content.
The biggest challenge to this theory is creating a digital infrastructure that can successfully track the usage and pays the original creators who own the rights to the content.
If what Lanier talks about is correct, here is a glimpse at what that digital art marketplace of the future could look like.
A Blockchain-centric Digital Art Market
There is a very cool video from technologist Chris Tse, where he talks about building a Blockchain-centric Digital Art Market. If you are not aware of what the blockchain is, he is basically proposing that we use the same infrastructure that verifies Bitcoin ownership, and attach it to digital art, or any other digital media for that matter, so that there is a verified owner for all digital media.
This would be a great opportunity for digital artists, musicians, writers or any other digital content creators. I think there could be a lot of potential in this and based on all that I have read about the future of technology and digital media, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see something similar in the near future.
Do You Accept Bitcoin for Your Art?
Speaking of the blockchain, do you accept Bitcoin for your art or other products & services?
Bitcoin has sort of lost it’s appeal over the past year, after peaking to outrageous valuations sometime in 2013, however there are still people who accept it in exchange for art.
Check out BitPremier where they sell rare, collectable art and luxury items like Ferraris and Rolexes for Bitcoin.
I wrote a blog post over on Digital Pinup Magazine when they were selling two original Olivia De Berardinis pin-up paintings. I would have totally bought them if I had the extra XBT laying around…
Personally, I dabbled a bit in Bitcoin and still have a few just to keep my hands on should they gain again in popularity. I traded some work for what was, at the time, $20 in Bitcoin and watched it grow in value to over $300. Pretty amazing to see. Now it’s at about $60 or something (I have to check).
If you are interested, you can learn more about Bitcoin over on Coindesk.
Definitely something to keep an eye on and let me know what you think. Do you trade in bitcoin? What do you think of the blockchain? Does it have a future?
Writers, authors and publishers have been influencing technology and culture since the written word was invented. I am constantly reminded of this every day on my commute to work, when my train crosses over the river and passes thought Mainz Germany, which is the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, the father of the movable type printing press.
This invention was one of the key catalysts for starting the Renaissance and the scientific revolution. It’s creation occurred over 500 years ago, and yet I am shocked and amazed when I think of all of the revolutionary events that have occurred because of it, just in the span of my lifetime.
In the past few years we have experienced a new renaissance of sorts, in the growth of ebooks, ebook sales, ereader devices and the self publishing industry.
It is now possible for an author to write, self publish and sell their own books online, literally from a mobile device and are able to make a decent living from it. Some are making millions from it.
The Good News
The good news is, that no longer are we restricted to having to rely entirely on a publishing company as a gatekeeper to successfully promote and sell our books.
We have reached a point where the same promotional, printing, sales and distribution capabilities, once only available to major publishing companies are becoming available to everyone. These tools are free and easily accessible online, which is also, I might add, where the readers are browsing and doing a majority of their shopping.
The Bad News
The bad news is just that. The old ways of browsing for new books in the book stores are rapidly disappearing as major brick and mortar stores are losing out to digital and going out of business. Ebooks are now outselling print books (according to Amazon) and as a result, the majority of the promotional focus is now done online.
The new prime time is no longer sitting around the TV at night with the family or reading the newspaper. It is now online, on the mobile devices, on your Facebook wall, in the blogs and in the apps. If you want to market a product successfully, these new mediums are where you now have to target.
To add to this growing pressure to adapt to all of these changes, consider this:
“…if you recorded all human communication from the dawn of time to 2003, it’d take up about 5 billion gigabytes of storage space. Now we’re creating that much data every two days.”
What this means is we are in the middle of an exponential growth curve of garbage content production. People are writing and publishing in droves and without publishers and editors to filter it, “most” of it is pretty bad. Without the help of contextual platforms such as Google, Apple’s Siri, Facebook, and other upcoming services that help to push you relevant information based on your interests, it will soon become impossible to separate the cream from the crap.
As a result, people will continue to rely on these filters to insure that they are receiving relevant content and the ability of authors and writers to stay on the good side of these filters, will require considerable focus on tech and networking.
Welcome To The World of The New Digital Author
Because of all of these changes and challenges, authors are now facing the paradox of both the incredible freedom to control their financial destinies, but also the pressure to adapt, learn and add a whole new mandatory layer of tech, marketing and promotional skills to their toolbox.
It is no longer just a matter of being a good writer these days. In order to stay competitive and earn a decent living as a writer, artist, musician, or any other type of creative profession for that matter, you have to start thinking strategically and you have to think digitally.
Unless you polish your online marketing skills and learn how to compete strategically by making your quality writing, books and products stand out from the masses and index in these new contextual search engines, you will be buried.
Selling digital content is a whole new ballgame. (Just ask the musicians and porn producers!) It requires a digital marketing strategy, an author platform, a mechanism for traffic, discovery, research, lead capture, sales, communication and networking and as a result, an overarching understanding of all the complexities involved. Now, more so than ever, because of the highly competitive ebook prices, it also requires a major focus on the backend strategy and the upsell.
The reality is, if you want to make a living as a writer, you now need a hybrid of BOTH mad writing skills AND ninja digital marketing skills. It is not just a luxury anymore. It is a necessity.
Should you be blogging, using social media, building a platform, and digitizing your work? The answer is YES to all of it. It has been for some time now. It is a moot point.
Sure this is a lot to learn, and I definitely suggest moderation, but just get started. Learn something. Take action and do it NOW!
To summarize, there are a ton of new opportunities for authors for selling and promoting their work, however the down side is that people are jumping on the bandwagon in droves. If you want to stay competitive you need digital marketing skills and you need to start developing them now.
Let me say before I close that I can’t predict the future. In many ways I feel we are reaching a critical mass. I have fears for authors, both published and self published in regards to their means of rising above the noise and growing and maintaining a large enough fan base to be able to make a decent living selling their work.
On one hand, I am full of doom and gloom for the industry. On another hand, part of me is screaming RELAX! Just write good stuff and people will follow.
I think it is a little of both. We need to put continued focus on writing great stuff, however we also need to have the skills to stay in the game or else things will be getting very difficult for authors very quickly.
What are your thoughts on the future of publishing? Do you have a digital strategy? If so, I would love to hear about it.