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Real Geek Becomes Internet Rock Star



36 year old geek Jonathan Coulton got sick of coding, he wanted to sing instead. He was a typical geek – no doubt working in a dark cube decorated with action figures and empty pop cans.

His diet was full of caffeine and junk food. He didn’t shave (which hasn’t changed). Then he decided to follow his dream of being a rock star – albeit on his own terms.

Now he makes a living from his very plain blog, selling music and performing. More than he did programming. Notice his branding is true geek – it’s authentic and despite doing little actual marketing it’s working.

I’m afraid as I write this that it could start a revolt and we need programmers! The saving grace is most would never actually appear before a group of people, let alone a team meeting.

In 2005, right after the birth of his first child, Coulton told his wife he was quitting his software job. I can’t imagine what fear overtook her. He wanted his daughter to follow her dreams and he thought he’d better walk the walk. It took him just a year to do it.

His strategy? Write one song every week for a year and post it free to his web site. A true startup – he traded a furnished cube for a tiny closet in his home that he converted into a recording studio. He wrote songs there inspired by what he saw,  his former job, or whatever he could come up with. No matter how stupid or strange.

Now his fans do his marketing, and they ask him to perform (you need at least 100 people and they use the web site Eventful to coordinate concerts). They make things based on his music, in other words he brings out their creativity just by being himself. At one point, he asked for donations. His fans responded and he started selling music.

What a fairy tale! But this is true Internet marketing in my book – the Internet with its unlimited distribution is a platform for making dreams work.

  • http://israel-on-blog.com Avi

    Great story Janet. Thanks for let us know about it.

  • http://www.reputationadvisor.com Daniel Dessinger

    That’s a great story. Makes me want to do something radical and see if it works. I could totally do the free song thing if he hadn’t already done it (sigh).

  • http://www.technogumption.com Tom Beaton

    Everyone loves these inspiring stories. Truth is it takes a lot of guts and commitment to make it happen, so Jonathan deserves all the praise he can get.

  • http://www.searchengineoptimization.com Search Engine Optimization Journal

    Ok. Forget blogging! We’re going to trade in our blog for a mic!

    No but really, what a great story! Those who go out on a limb to do things like this and do it with determination deserve to be rewarded. Congrats to Mr. Coulton!

  • http://www.craigs-blog.com Craig

    This is an inspiring article. Blogging can be a rewarding professional for many people with different interests.

  • http://www.hotproductsplus.com Mike Montague

    I would love to blog all day and get paid handsomely. :-) Kudos to Mr. Coulton.

  • http://www.herbalexcel.com Steve Rosenbaum

    Has he been able to keep up with a song a week?

  • http://chasinggoogle.blogspot.com/ Mobile guy

    Blog is good way to monetize your free time.

  • http://www.greatpriceshere.com Nicole

    Unbelievable. I doubt he had himself believed his passion would work out so well for him. I for one am the kind who needs security first, passion can be for weekends.

  • http://www.whatimnot.com Piper

    1 song a week sounded crazy to me, too. Most of the artistic types I’ve known spend more time whining about inspiration than just sitting down and creating. Someone with that much drive is bound to succeed with even a moderate amount of talent. Good for him!

  • http://www.exposedseo.com SEO guy

    There is hope then… there is hope…