At noon ET yesterday, Shia LeBeouf once again turned the Internet into a den of howling werewolves by embarking on a durational performance piece. But whatever you may think of its creative merits, one of its executional details sets up an interesting possibility for monetizing artwork online.
Created with the two other members of his collective, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner, "#ALLMYMOVIES" continues LaBeouf's ongoing series of hashtag-titled performance pieces. The concept is simple: Over the course of 72 hours at Manhattan's Angelika Film Center, he's committed to watching the entirety of every film in which he's ever appeared, back to back, in reverse chronological order, with no breaks. And that's it.
Well, almost. Anyone so inclined can join LaBeouf in the theater free of charge (presumably as long as there are seats available). But if you can't make it to NYC, the experience is also live-streaming on NewHive, a platform for new media artwork. A camera is set up directly in front of LaBeouf's face so that viewers can watch him watch himself on screen for as much (or as little) of the performance's span as desired. Given the number of times the stream crashed while I left it open during the writing of this post, it seems that plenty of spectators are taking advantage.
As you may have guessed by now, the live stream aspect is what interests me about "#ALLMYMOVIES." LaBeouf obviously doesn't need to generate revenue from this performance––or any of his others, for that matter. Not in the same way that someone entirely devoted to performance art would. But I have no doubt that, if he and his collaborators wanted to, they could have turned the live stream into a pay-per-view event.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting the piece could support Mayweather vs. Pacquiao prices. But if you bet me that a slew of people around the Internet wouldn't be willing to shell out, say, $5 or less for the opportunity to snark away at LaBeouf (let alone research thinkpieces like this one) while the performance continues, I'd take the other side of that wager in one flutter of a hummingbird's wing. Especially if the price of admission also gave subscribers the ability to post real-time comments directly to the official video feed for their fellow viewers. (After all, social media has turned every one of us into performers, hasn't it?)
A pay-per-view model isn't the only way to monetize a project like "#ALLMYMOVIES," either. The other option might be even more compelling: selling ad space on the feed. This possibility is already in the ether thanks to gameplay-streaming giant Twitch's launch of Twitch Creative, where fine artists, graphic designers, and more can now broadcast their process to the viewing public at large. This same concept has already made playing videogames a paying proposition for a set of popular figures on Twitch's mother ship. Why couldn't its more erudite counterpart do the same for its own set of grassroots stars?
Of course, audience numbers––and thus, financial returns––would inevitably vary depending on the person and the project. Twitch is mostly a superstar economy. In that sense, I expect it's indicative of what any fine art equivalent would become, whether hosted on Twitch Creative, a separate platform like NewHive, or a totally independent stream. And LaBeouf's draw would be stronger than most thanks to his mainstream celebrity status. (Pre-existing fame is still one of the best marketing plans in the arts, as James Franco and now Miley Cyrus join him in demonstrating.)
Nevertheless, there's potential in this model, especially for historically hard-to-monetize media like performance works. So bag on LaBeouf's movie marathon if you want. Just keep in mind that actual marathons have become an advertiser's paradise. Maybe instead of taking shots from the crowd, it's a smarter idea to join the race––especially while most of the rest of the field hasn't realized the starting gun already fired.