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Nina Paley Shares Some Sita $tats

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We’ve followed the travails of Nina Paley, whose beautiful, animated film, Sita Sings the Blues, was hamstrung by sticky copyright restrictions (more here). But Paley persevered and during a recent talk at the Workbook Project’s DIY DAYS in Philadelphia, she did what so many other web creators won’t — share actual dollar figures for what she’s earned from Sita so far.

Long story short, Paley believes in freely distributing her content — the movie itself — but making money of what she calls the “containers” that hold that content: DVDs, merchandise, T-shirts, etc. Sita is a promotional vehicle to sell merchandise (a view she thinks is crass but true).

Because of her free-form distribution, she has no idea how many times her movie has been watched, but she’s got a good handle on what she’s made. Paley’s still in debt and won’t be retiring off of Sita anytime soon, but it’s refreshing that Paley is as open with her finances as she is with her movie (though when you’re in debt and seeking donations, it doesn’t hurt to let people know). TechDirt provides a nice bulleted recap:

[S]he details all the different areas of where the money came from, and it comes out as follows:

  • $21,000 in donations (most at the very beginning)
  • $25,100 from the store for merchandise (which cost $8,500). So, net: $16,600
  • $3,000 from Channel 13 for broadcasting it (even though they didn’t have to pay)

And that’s not all. She also talks about a theater that downloaded her film online to show it and then sent her a check for $1,900 (as she said “the dream scenario”), and the fact that her success with the model has created all sorts of paid speaking gigs as well.

There are other income avenues that Paley goes into during her talk. It’s 20 minutes long but well worth watching, especially for indie web creators.

3 Responses to “Nina Paley Shares Some Sita $tats”

  1. Experience jazz and blues like never before through a dazzling new film! “Sita Sings the Blues” is a spunky animated retelling of the ancient Hindu epic the Ramayana. Told from the virtuous Sita’s point of view, the film features the vocals of jazz legend Annette Hanshaw, whose plaintive lyrics and sensual, bluesy voice perfectly capture Sita’s steadfast devotion to her husband Rama. This gorgeously animated film is now available to rent or own on DVD through Netflix and Amazon

  2. timekeeper

    Cheers to Nina!

    Trailblazing an alternative business model and having the guts to publish her numbers – brilliant.

    While she’s not getting rich off of it – yet – she is proving that this approach can make money. A bit of tweaking and she’ll have a good source of income off this model.

    All the other “big guys” in the digital space, take a page out of Nina’s book and start publishing your numbers to see how your business model stands up. Nina’s the first person in this space that I can take seriously.


    PS: Great post Chris!