The experiment begins, giving the economy the stink-eye and what that means for the hobby artisan.

Many years ago in the days of Blogger and Livejournal I was a near daily poster who reflected on life and experiences albeit semi-anonymously. (For those who knew me, they knew the real me — but otherwise I operated on a fairly thin pseudonym to mask my online presence.)

These days I really don’t blog as most people have long abandoned these types of platforms for self-expression (except in the case of journalists who still post using that architecture or by people who largely are tuned towards being influencers or experts). That said, I find twitter to both be annoying as it stopped being a place for genuine dialogue and posting useful things in lieu of memes and fighting. Facebook itself is full of privacy issues and more about maintaining your circles than reaching out broadly.

This may not be a very successful venture to come back to blogging some 10-15 years later, but I think I’ve done my best to post resourceful (if focused) posts and content on this site. I may experiment with posts that just talk about in greater depth the things I’m worrying about.

I should probably talk about why I want to refocus on the blog first. Part of it is that the people who are huge now as the “know hows and intellectuals” of the social-media verse actually are from a longer history as bloggers/columnists. Their reputation isn’t built on how they engaged on short form social media but on their thoughtful expertise across written and multimedia platforms. The reality is what I see of people in the five seconds they flash across IG or Twitter is not enough to hint at them being good influencers. In that sense while most of the impatient consumers might not care to go look deeper into the people behind a highly viewed/cited post, there are still some. (I have watched stats on some of my most appreciated tweets and while some resulted in no profile views, some that were a bit more mysterious or funny apparently did. It made me think about the problem therein on these platforms and how people engage. But it also gave me some mild hope that huzzah, people might actually still be curious and seek to engage random stranger on the internet.)

I think just watching one of my favorite streamers/youtubers the past week or so begin his vlogs and the comments he received illustrated to me there’s different engagement by platform and content. I really do think people need to understand that every medium differs and that some are better suited to the kinds of engagement people want. It is true, however, that art is one of the most poorly rewarded mediums overall — but this is not a new problem. I can think of no platform that did by art very well. Even Deviantart had all its issues — insofar that many people tried to go other ways to find audiences without being subject to the whims of moderators whose influence could be swayed to benefit their favorites.

In any case in a time of social media discontent and upheaval (which we expect with Twitter’s takeover), it’s time to do a bit of line drawing in the sand and make sure there is something else I own that represents my voice. This blog on this site (now perhaps the 4th or 5th personally coded site vs reference site) is one. And my youtube is still another, although very focused on weird things that I find interesting.

As I expect to be on the road a lot more over the next year, I also think I need a place to focus my thoughts and concerns. Which leads me to

The economy is making me uncomfortable and so are fellow merchandisers

I want to say that if you have been watching CSPAN and financial news lately this is nothing new. We are constantly hearing that the probability of recession is 100%. But other than people bickering about whether we meet the definition of a recession, what is it that makes me worry?

First, the rumors of decreasing retail projections. I’ll try to loop back later and add the cites I have quietly tweeted, but Amazon, Macy’s, Target, and Walmart all told the public they were cutting down ordering this past fall (due to a glut of inventory) and to expect lower projected sales this year (even with the inclusion of the Christmas holidays). Yes it makes stock markets uneasy, but consider these are big entities who know the retail ins and outs of consumer behavior. They are warning us to not expect sales to be continuing at pandemic levels. Whether this is simply because peoples money habits have changed or because there’s a problem, we don’t fully understand because other economic indicators like consumer spending are not down. Yet.

However, a few of my twitter circle were kind enough to put up with my polling here and there about their own spending. The majority of a very small sample said they are being mindful and spending less, working on paying down debt, or saving.

Meanwhile a blockbuster summer for the Artist Alley crowd at reopened cons, has resulted in a lot of product being made and advertised for sale. This is great for them — but most of them only stock for a small time frame for cons. Their unsold product (if they have any) returns to the market online (if they have a shop).

Many new artists came on board over the last year and a half with shops because of the pandemic taking away their other sources of income or interfering with in person retail opportunities such as conventions.

Then many artists I follow continue to push out fairly big product lines every 2-3 months.

What concerns me is this vigorous investment in fandom market appears to be continuing along but I have not seen any dialogue in various discords and facebooks about “what my plan B is if economic crap storm comes to fruition in late 2022/early 2023.”

For me, the hobbyist, I’m not too worried. I treat all my product adventures as possibly lost money. (My adviser knows they can call me out if it gets too out of hand. It is otherwise a small business write off. )

But this year’s sales has really sucked. It’s back to my early pandemic/pre-pandemic levels. I know there’s interest but I know the added VAT , taxes, shipping, and economics is hurting the bottom line. (And quietly I am dealing with that, looking to add sales, discounts, and coupons when I can. Hint, I will do something soon in the final push before year’s end.)

What scares me is the group of folks who need merch and art for livelihood money. Merchandise is an outlay of upfront money. And with more of it showing up every day with many new artists throwing their hat into the ring, and peoples’ pockets dwindling as inflation continues, and the outlook for winter getting worse… yes, I’m extremely concerned and hope folks have weighed their risks and not invested beyond their means.

Look, these are the things you should be minding as you make decisions on what to invest in while making merchandise

* Cost of energy this winter. We have a war going on that is going to hurt the EU greatly if it’s cold. More cost to stay warm. More money to energy. Less to other essentials and non-essentials.

* Tech sector positioned to do first round of layoffs already with many big ones coming in tech/media sectors (CNN, Meta, Twitter).

* Rising interest rates impacting loans — student, personal (credit cards), and mortgages.

* Amnesty from payments (loans and housing) lifting with folks being responsible to pay back what they may have not.

*How busy food banks are, how often they’re short on things to give out.

If you go explore the news on all these issues, the answer is no one knows how deep that iceberg goes for personal debt liability. No one wants to talk openly on a lot of social media about what they’re facing even now. (Exception, Reddit whereby people love to exposit on their misery.)

And here I am, someone who well remembers the mess of 2007-2010 and watched people exit creative fields and well, a lot of things, because money was so tight. And before that, the economic toughness of the mid 1990s in trying to find a job with a degree.

Yeah, I am scared for a lot of people.

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