Posts tagged ‘artists’
I met Lucas J.W. Johnson at Merging Media 2011 where my friend, Cinci, suggested I blog about him. Lucas is exceptionally sharp and ambitious – and he has clearly spent considerable time researching the transmedia landscape. I figured it was in my best interest to sponge off his knowledge. (I found his responses to my interview questions to be quite thought-provoking – so I’ve added a few comments after some of his responses.)
What is a valuable lesson you’ve learned about the digital space?
Look at your project from the audience’s perspective.
You come to a project with the perspective of the creator — I have this awesome story I want to tell, and this awesome way I want to tell it.
[But] if you’re going to actually succeed, then before you actually release it, in the process of creating it, you have to shift that perspective, and come at the project from the point of view of the audience.
Not only things like what will they want, but also how they access the project. Imagine coming to the project as someone who’s never heard of it, right when it launches — how do you draw them in, and convince them to stay? What about if they come to it months after it’s launched — how do you make sure there’s an easy way for them to figure out what’s going on, and where they should start?
The same goes for how you’re presenting the story — what if they’re not on Twitter? Not on Facebook? Don’t have a smartphone? Never engaged with a transmedia or digital media project before? Any time there’s any friction, and moment when it’s easier for them to close the window than it is to delve deeper, you’ve lost them.
(I love this so point so much, because I think that seeing your project through your potential audience’s eyes is so frequently overlooked – even though it’s one of the most important aspects… Think about this more broadly: how many sites have you encountered where you can’t immediately find things like donate buttons or how to purchase a product. Or one with the message “we’ll be launching in December 2011. Come back then” with no way to pre-order the product or even enter an email address for updates? Or how often have you attempted to listen to a podcast only to shut it off after hearing an initial 5 minutes that consisted of an interminable and irritating musical intro or a lengthy introduction of who all the hosts were and what they got up to that weekend…)
Was there anything at Merging Media that you were excited by?
Most mindblowing at Merging Media was hearing Henry Jenkins speak (over Skype, interviewed by my friend Simon Pulman ) — he’s an academic, so clearly he’s smart, but man does this guy know what he’s talking about. He spoke about spreadable media, that what will succeed is not that which is easily broadcasted, but that which is easily shared among friends. Entertainment becomes a gift — let me bring you into this new world, let me give you this experience by sharing it.
(This is brilliant. And an excellent reality-check for the “this will go viral” mentality. We all want to have our posts and projects spread, but there are a number of factors that make people truly want to do so. The premise that “I really want people to share this [project/message etc.] so they should” is oddly at the heart of many campaigns and pitches. The concept of the gift is fantastic. And looking at it from that perspective, and of making your content truly great so that people will be motivated to share can be very eye-opening. Because “it’s OK” or “I like it because I made it” or even “it’s good enough” does not constitute a gift.)
What have you learned from players in the Transmedia space (that you’ve interviewed, read about or had at your Transmedia Meetups)?
To be very broad:
- listen to your audience, engage with them directly, build loyalty;
- give a big chunk of your work away for free, especially if you’re working on IP that isn’t already a blockbuster success, to get people in the doors;
- don’t be afraid to pimp yourself, just don’t be an ass about it;
- experiment, try new things, know that you’re going to fail — but get back on the horse, iterate, move forward; genuinely be a good and honest and open person — people like that.
- Finally, do something with your work — be aspirational, be inspirational, be a force for good; you’re asking a lot of people for a lot of attention and potentially a lot of money — to do anything else is irresponsible.
(These are all very insightful. My favorite is the first, because I feel that the direct connection with one’s audience is how social media has truly empowered artists. And it’s a beautiful, exciting and, occasionally, humbling thing to have such an immediate and easy access to people who connect with what you do. But those artists who have something special to offer along with a real relationship with their audience (which they demonstrate that they value) are the ones who gain the most from social media.)
What projects have inspired you?
The ARG known as the Beast, for the movie AI, back in 2001, because it was so groundbreaking and inspiring for the time — now of course it doesn’t hold up and there are a host of problems with doing something like it, but the point isn’t that we should do the things the Beast did, it’s that we should find new things just like the Beast did. Lance Weiler’s Pandemic project, for the hugely innovative and experimental nature of it, and his Robot Heart Stories project for its educational and aspirational nature. Failbetter Games’ Echo Bazaar, for its twisted and entirely engrossing story and setting.
I’ve also been inspired a great deal by the old tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Like transmedia visionary Jeff Gomez, D&D did a lot for me as a kid to be able to express the stories I wanted to tell, and the things that make for a great D&D game are in many ways the same as those that make for a great transmedia experience. (I even wrote a whole six-part article about it all on my blog.)
Lucas J.W. Johnson is a freelance writer and transmedia storyteller from Vancouver, BC. He received his BFA with Honours in Creative Writing from UBC, and has worked in advertising, PR, television, digital media, gaming, and transmedia. He’s published short stories and stageplay, organizes the Transmedia Vancouver Meetup, and is an active member in the international transmedia storytelling community, with his business Silverstring Media. A storyteller above all else, whenever Lucas isn’t writing, he wishes he were. Find him online at silverstringmedia.com, lucasjwjohnson.com and on twitter @floerianthebard
“Azrael’s Stop is very much an experiment for me, but I think it’s a fun one, and I’ve already had people respond quite positively to the story and even the way it’s told. I’d love for you to check it out, and especially let me know what you think, at email@example.com”
Mykel Exner is the Bassist for the band “Kill Matilda”. He recently sent my friend, Bill Allman, an email in which he thanked Bill (who taught him at Trebas Institute) for emphasizing that a band must not leave their promotion to management and the importance of taking control of your own brand and management. Bill told me about the email and I asked Mykel to participate in an email interview about artist promotion. Fortunately, he agreed. Here’s what he had to say. (Note: I took my questions out here as it flowed better without them.)
About the band
Kill Matilda is a do-it-yourself band that has been touring Canada since 2009. We are a 4-piece female-fronted hard rock band that began in Vancouver and has since based itself out of Montreal and South Western Ontario. We’ve self-produced, recorded, released and promoted our self-titled EP along with 3 music videos to support the release – one of which, “She’s A Killer” has been put into rotation on MUCHLOUD, providing us with national exposure. We’ve gone from complete unknowns to playing large festivals like NXNE and opening for acts like Econoline Crush and Die Mannequin. We are blessed with an amazing front person, Dusty, with a killer voice. We have been making a reputation for ourselves for putting on high-energy, fun to watch live shows. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the most talented and dedicated artists and professionals, who’ve seen value in our project and have helped us by lending the skills and talents that have brought us to new levels that we never thought possible.
The DIY Movement
Initially, when you first dream of being in a “well-known” band, you dream about being “discovered” by someone and having them take you and your music to the heights of being a “rock-star” – or even just simply heard and appreciated by a larger audience. The reality of the music industry today is that NOBODY is willing to take the chance with their money or time to push and promote an artist that isn’t already making a name for themselves.
We’re facing a crisis in the Canadian music industry where “Music Industry Professionals” are not equipped with the skills and know-how to even make posters to promote shows they organize. Bar owners don’t see the value in investing in promotion for shows that are booked in their establishments and most bands don’t even know how to begin to promote themselves or the shows that they are a part of. From the inside of this beast, the system looks broken. If you aren’t a jack of all trades, i.e. a photoshop pro – a video editor – a photo editor – a booking agent- along with being an artist and performing musician, you’ll never have anyone take notice of your music or project.
No one is going to take you by the hand, discover you, put you on the cover of the Rolling Stone, put your song on the radio, pick out your first single or do anything for you… unless you’re willing to pay for it… and pay big for it
How Kill Matilda raised nearly $2000 in donations in a week via their merchandising sitelet
We’ve investigated fundraising options out there like pledgemusic.com and others but the thought of “All or Nothing” fundraising really scared the crap out of us. In reality we didn’t need a lot of money to help us reach our goals. One big incentive we found helped make it easier for fans to help us was to include a limited time offer to have their name in the credits of our new album “I Want Revenge”. That push really drove a lot of the action we saw. Providing those unique and one of a kind incentives to your fans really open the door to their wallets.
Building an fan-base online
Basically, we built a strong online fanbase through having a lot of good content online and following that up with a killer live show. We have Youtube videos of us bringing people along on tour, and we provide personal experiences for our fans when they come to our shows. We interact with our fans online a lot and I think that providing that personal interaction combined with kicking some ass on stage live over a long period of time really helped us achieve some of our goals and gave our fans a feeling of being a part of our growth and pride in “growing” with us.
Here is one piece of free advice to performing bands… Mention your Facebook Page on stage as a part of your banter. We urge our new fans to like us on Facebook so we can connect with them and comment on pictures of their cats..dogs…babies… all of that. Give your audience directions and where exactly they can find you. It’s amazing going home after a good gig and logging onto Facebook having fans “requesting” your friendship and “Liking”and commenting on your page.
In 2010, before we left Vancouver we asked our fans which track off the Kill Matilda EP they would like to see made into a music video and through a series of votes and comments they picked “Fault Lines”. It was a pretty fun experience to see people actually care and provide their opinions on what Kill Matilda should do next. Ask your fans questions about what they like… what they don’t like… those sort of exercises get your existing fans talking about you and thinking about you when they start thinking about a question you’ve asked, or associate you with the topic you got them thinking about.
Promoting the “She’s a Killer” video (viewed over 14,000 times on YouTube).
The key is constantly reposting and sharing and reposting and sharing. Encourage your fans to do the same for you. Research who promotes music videos online in your genre, show them and talk to them about your video. Create an “online street team” to post your video on relevant pages and just don’t be afraid to share and re-share! We’ve used “She’s A Killer” to promote Kill Matilda to new listeners and used the video to help us gather a lot of opportunities. (BTW!!! If you like that video share it!)
Social Media in general
Social Media has basically been responsible for Kill Matilda being able to have reached where it has today. Just being able to exist, get further, reach more people, have them listen to our music, watch our videos and enjoy it is really amazing and fun. Without it we wouldn’t be able to operate at all.
My personal favorite was tweeting at Bif Naked and having her check us out. She loved and shared my personal favorite Kill Matilda song, “Geisha With A Switchblade” with her followers. Being a big Canadian rock fan-boy that make me feel like a kid again.
Tips for musicians doing DIY promotion
- Be pro-active not RE-active. Have your own website. Facebook/Myspace/Twitter profiles are good, but a dotcom is the BEST!
- If you don’t care to share about your bands shows or videos or songs online… then why should anyone care about it? Think about your comparables… sound like Tool? then go after Tool’s fans… Sound like Radiohead? Go after Radiohead’s fans. Don’t think you sound like anyone? Then ask someone else. You have to have a comparable otherwise no one will care at all.
- Don’t just promote your music! Promote all music you think is good! Promote other bands shows! Let people know that you are a part of a scene and that you care about not just your success but the success of your favorite bands and your friends bands.
- Learn that there is a difference out there between a “booking agent” and a “promoter” ANYONE can book a show, cats and dogs can book shows. It’s a simple process of saying, “Hey you wanna play at this place at this time?” Booking agents do not promote shows. Get this through your head and you will not be disappointed when no one shows up to your show. Take control of your own promotion because quite simply, the booking agent, the bar owners, the other bands and fans that don’t know about you DONT CARE who you are if you dont give them a reason to care. Its amazing how many show posters we here at Kill Matilda have been required to make for booking agents across Canada. If you allow someone else to control your destiny… to poster for you… to promote for you… to hold your hand and tell you its going to be alright… you might wanna take up another lifestyle choice.
- It is EVERY member of a band’s job to promote. One person should take the lead of course in being pages and website admins BUT if your lead guitarist is “too-cool” to promote… stick your foot in their ass and set them on the right track. No one is too cool to promote, except for bands and musicians that no one has ever heard of or cares about.
Find Kill Matilda:
Want to learn more about Artist promotion? You might also enjoy other posts in my Artist Series.
I was reading the Utne Reader recently and I came across an pretty ad for Fluevog with an artist’s drawing.
The accompanying text read:
“Do you have the world’s best Fluevog Ad stuck in your head? Get it out at Fluevogcreative.com”.
I went to the url and read that this contest was offering $1,000 (in Fluevog gear) and exposure to the winning ad artists.
So…. is an ad worth only $1,000 and will the exposure really benefit the artist?
My initial reaction is “probably not”, because I have concerns when it comes to artists and contests. And because my antennae prick up when I hear the word “exposure”.
See, “exposure” is a woefully overused term. It is a huge “incentive” (really need the quotation marks there) offered in the indie film world – especially directed at actors:
“Work for free (and coffee!) on our production. Great opportunity for exposure!”
Now, granted, the Fluevog ads are being placed in decent magazines – so this is actual exposure, for what it’s worth, as opposed to imagined (many films don’t see the light of day as their filmmakers don’t fully grasp the challenges of getting their film into a festival). And the winners also get bios on the Fluevog creative site (e.g. the ad I saw featured Heather Mulligan’s art and her bio is on the site).
But is there a true value for the artist in said exposure? This is not a rhetorical question. I would be interested in an unbiased follow up to this type of contest. It is entirely possible that someone else would notice the ad and hire the artist for a project. But is it likely? How many of the ads/artists will there really be a success story for? I’d sincerely like to learn what happens.
The prize amount irks me a bit, though. An ad results in $1,000 of product for the artists – which , by the way, in Fluevog dollars equals… about 2 pairs of shoes (perhaps less)? Fluevog could reasonably pay more reasonably. (Of course, I can never wrap my head around purchasing shoes that are $400+, so my understanding of the value factor is clearly limited. Oh wait, the value is only $1,000 no matter how much you love the shoes! OK, I’ll proceed then.)
In the Fluevog case, it also strikes me that the exposure might benefit one party to a degree greater than the other. The ad showcases Fleuvog. The artist’s concept is secondary – although I commend Fluevog for actual including in the creative, in addition to the artist’s name, their url (something I’ve rarely seen). (The ad I saw provided the link to Heather Mulligan’s Deviant Art page: www.auroracle.deviantart.com )
Of course, on the plus side, the artist may not get magazine ad level exposure were it not for the contest (and, in this case, I’m assuming that the exposure might have some value, which of course, is still up for discussion). And the artist could very well re-purpose something they already created (although I haven’t checked the rules on that) and just plug in a shoe or the name Fluevog or what not, and Boom!, ad created. So it may not, in fact, involve a huge effort on their part.
And, of course, there is the fact that here I am, & Pete is, talking about it. So the “tactic” is working, in some respect. (Although, again, perhaps more for Fluevog?)
But back to the bad side: Fluevog gets the ad(s) created for far less than they would pay an agency to create, and the art for far less than a fair price: I think this serves to devalue at both industries.
Now, I understand that nobody can be exploited in these cases without their consent. The artists have to agree and do the work – and the transaction seems to be clear. That said, the lure of “exposure” is a strong one – especially for artists – who sometimes encounter difficulties in terms of getting paid to do what they love.
Your thoughts? You might also consider weighing in Pete’s post on One Degree.
*At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I should note that I work on and enter contests. Obviously for those I don’t see the imbalance as much – although there’s always the possibility cognitive dissonance could be at play.
I have also written about the topic of artists, contests and crowdsourcing on the following posts:
These kinds of competitions are interesting animals… While exciting, I am of two minds about the concept, alternating between feeling that they are fun and can be useful, and thinking that there are somewhat exploitative – a great way for a company to get a polished product for way less than they would if they hired someone.
In my experience, it can sometimes be a creative jolt to have some sort of theme and deadline to work with (whether my video on Twitter was creative or jolting, remains to be decided, but it got me doing something actory that day).
Of course, quality submissions require effort – along with an idea that the odds often against you (depending on the number of submissions). It is a gamble. Whether it is worth it, in my opinion, depends on level of exposure and whether you can truly learn from it, have fun and/or make valuable for your portfolio even if you don’t “win”.
A great example of someone making a contest work for them was Jaemin (aka Chris) Yi who filmed three very cool commercials for a Doritos contest. My favorite is below:
His excellent post about what he learned from the process is on his blog.
On the artists survey I ran, I asked the (admittedly unclear) question:
“What are your thoughts on spec work/contests for artists? (e.g. a design contest where you create a poster for a film, but may/may not have your submission selected in the end) Feel free to rant or praise:”
I received a variety of excellent responses – here are just a few:
“Like the idea, especially if the selectors come from the public or readership, rather than a closed secret panel of jurors” – Mitchell Teplitsky, Filmmaker
“I like it so long as the people running the contest are honest and the winner gets some real exposure and the collectors of the data share it with the participants” - Scilla Andreen, Filmmaker & CEO of Indieflix.com
“Spec is always out of bounds. Don’t do it! It’s the bane of all writers, no matter what kind of work they do. Contests, on the other hand, open doors. I signed with an agent after receiving a national award for my first book. Never would have gotten his attention without it.” – Laine Cunningham, Writer
“They’re good for exposure. They’re good for creating portfolio pieces. They’re good for expressive fun works– for those who do not get to be as creative as they’d like on client work.” – Ori Bengal, Photographer, Photoshop artist, full-time couchsurfer, web designer, marketer
“Oy -don’t get me started. Artists are too often exploited when they are trying to make a name for themselves. … I did enter and win the 2006 Applied Arts Magazine Awards Annual and it did lead to some new contacts and one job. There needs to be a prestige factor. There are enough competitions and awards handed out for even the very least talented people out there. I am the best photographer my living room -right now. I think the competition for the 2010 Olympic logo and the mascot design was unethical. Imagine if I could get thousands of people to do work for me for free and only pay one of them. It was cleverly packaged as a “feel good” inclusive kind of friendly competition but the Olympic Committee received a lot of highly skilled and valuable labour for free. They wouldn’t try that with any other profession but the creative arts.” – Dan Jackson, Photographer
“I both rant and praise. Philosophically, I think it really degrades the industry regardless of if it’s for graphic design or photography or whatever, and that at the end of the day you can get better work if you hire someone directly – most of the spec work type sites attract a mid-range level entrant. On the other side, I’ve used sites like this in the past because I love what they offer. It’s a catch 22.” – Miranda Lievers, Photographer
“Opportunities are always great. But preparing for contests, design work, writing pitches all take time and it is disappointing not to be selected. I’ve had the best luck with entering photo contests. Just won an honorable mention in American Photo – Images of the Year.” – Kim Campbell, Photographer
“This is one of the worst things to ever come about, and it disgusts me. No one would think of doing this to a plumber, but artists are constantly expected to give it away for free. No artist should participate. It weakens the entire profession, and more often than not the “contest” portion is just a scam, or is less money than a freelancer would charge for the work anyway. There are a lot of good rants out there about this subject!” – Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, Visual Artist
“I think the internet has created many opportunities for artists to give away their product in the hopes of being recognized. So we have created a nation of “amateurs” in the best sense of the word (the root of amateur is amare, past participle of “to love” in French). Unfortunately, all those people are no longer buying art; instead, they’re creating their own, which is wreaking havoc in the artistic marketplace. I don’t know if it’s good or bad; I just know that it’s what is.” – Marc Acito, Writer
37.They have value, depending on what the outcome is. Using the example, if it’s something that’s going to give an artist a great deal of exposure, it’s a valid time investment (as long as the selection remains in your control if it doesn’t win). At the same time, a documentary or independent film that has a great moral or societal aim would also merit the investment. I just don’t like situations where the outcome doesn’t match the value of the work and time, and/or implies a monetary devaluation by treating professional artists as hobbyists. – Dana Detrick, Musician, Voice Artist and Audio Producer
“I don’t mind spec work/contests but I absolutely detest any contests that require entry fees. They are asking us to pay them for the opportunity to create work for them? Give me a break.” – Bob Johnson, Photographer
Want more articles about artists? I have a whole series here.
I have been lax about posting items of particular interest to artists. Mea culpa.
Here are a few enlightening articles I’ve come across:
David Spark‘s Mashable post, “12 Inspiring Stories of Successful Social Networkers“, has an amazing example of the value of twittering for your character:
“Having blown all their budget on production, “My Two Fans” had no money for advertising, so off a friend’s recommendation, Swatek decided to start Twittering as her character, Kate Maxwell (@KateMaxwell). To get some fodder for Twittering and to find her audience, Swatek began following businesses and people that could relate to her show, such as dating sites, single women, girl power groups, fan clubs, etc.”
Beth Kanter offers the amazingly comprehensive post “Arts Organizations and Artists 2.0: Social Media for Arts People” which also mentions the value of using a blog as a showcase:
“For individual artists, a blog can also help sell or promote their work. Here’s some artists personal blogs that support their gallery sites where they sell their work — A Planet Named Janet, Self VS Self, PaMdora’s Box and Jen Lemen.”
“…upload any documents you want to share. Views, downloads, likes, comments, and favorites stats are plainly displayed on the page so you can see how popular the document has been. This can be used for anything from posting up a teaser to your next book to providing a free downloadable short story as a fan bonus. The settings for the documents (like if they can be downloaded or not) are easily set and Scribd serves as a great way to get your writing out to other people.”
Any other cool stuff you’ve come across lately? Please share!
I’m on YouTube, Now what?
There’s certainly a resistance for some filmmakers to get on YouTube. After all, there is no barrier to entry – which means that everyone who has a kid, pet, or the ability to rant while drunk can, and does, post videos. There is certainly plenty of, er, coal – but there are also plenty of gems. And the cream can certainly rise to the top, with some promotion.
75% of the total U.S. Internet audience watches online video. YouTube is the most of the video sites and since it hosts videos, allows you embed them from there into your blog (website etc.) and broadcast them to the world, you’d certainly be missing a key opportunity by not using it. Oh & it’s free. (Did’ja hear what I said? FREE!)
So once you get on it what can you do?
Well, aside from posting your complete (short) film, you could post
- your trailer
- outtakes (if they’re funny or interesting)
- interviews (if they are intriguing, not self-indulgent. I can’t stress this enough).
- Videos specifically made to supplement advertise your film. (Make it clever. It doesn’t have to be high-tech. high budget at all – but it does have to be intriguing.)
- a “video response” to a video that relates to your film (e.g. your film is about an embarrassing date, so record a quick video response with a funny date story to another video that discusses embarrassing moments or dates.) If it’s only subtly self-promotional this could work (Attach to a fairly popular video for maximum effect and remember that it has to be super-relevant to the original video, or it just looks tacky.)
- A short video showcasing one of the actor’s talents (no, nudity doesn’t count. Wait, actually, it does…)
- Don’t innundate your “channel” with every video you’ve ever made about everything. Keep in mind that too much choice is sometimes a deterrent to making any choice! (Behavioral Economists like Barry Schwartz note that people will sometimes not make any choice at all, rather than risk a poor decision).
- Take ownership of your “channel”.
- It’s about more than just deciding what color to make it. (Please no pink, unless your brand is super-girly. In fact, even then, please no. It hurts me where I am soft like woman.)
- Make sure you control the “feature” clip. The default is that YouTube features your most recent clip, which might be fine in some cases. But you should try to feature a strong clip (you can select your favorite). recent, depending on your promotion tactic) and (“Go to “My Account ▼” And “Channel Design”)
- Pick your own “favorite 9″ of your videos so your channel showcases the best, right off the bat. (Go to “My Account ▼” And “Organize Videos”)
- Always tag (keywords) your video with appropriate keywords & title it in a interesting but clear way
- As per my previous post, remember to simultaneously post (try TubeMogel) and be active on other video sites as well.
- Don’t just broadcast – communicate. Use the network like any other social tool – be part of the community. Watch and comment on other films and make friends and connections. Be genuine, and go low on the tacky. Respect others (I can’t stress this enough).
Want more articles about artists? I have a whole series here.
I should mention (because I’m not certain if I ever have) that any of my posts assume you are promoting something worthwhile.
My job search post assumes you are an excellent candidate and simply need tools to showcase yourself online. The artist series makes the same assumption – that you have an interesting project to promote.
After all, if what you are putting forth is lame (and yes, of course, that’s subjective), you might get some initial hits on your video simply by using tricks (or tips), but it won’t last. Just like film trailers that trick you into seeing a horror film when it’s a comedy – you might get people in seats for opening weekend, but then you’re toast. Online not only might people stop viewing your video – it is very easy for the “swarm” to also turn on you.
It’s also worthwhile to assess your network in terms of strength, rather than by number. For instance, on Twitter I often see people talking about wanting to get thousands of followers (“I want to get 22,000 followers STAT!”). Simply put: lame and counterproductive.
First of all, you could have 2 million people following you, but if they are not active, interested followers there’s no point. You are best off cultivating strong, worthwhile connections – people interested in similar things - and developing good relationships. The more people paying attention the better – but you should aim at people who want to pay attention to you. And keep in mind that more people does not translate into more attention. It frequently amounts to more noise.
Similarly, if you have nothing interesting to say, it doesn’t matter that you have a huge number of followers. I am always baffled that the people who seem to be trying to get more followers usually tweet things like “Making PB&J sandwich.”, “At computer now”, “Time to sleep, lol!”
As with cat blogs, the only people paying attention to these kind of things are your close friends (and maybe not even them).
It’s not about numbers, it’s about engagement.
While the internet has not yet established itself as an ideal way for filmmakers to make money for film, there is certainly the possibility (and the hope) that it will move in that direction. There are, of course, filmmakers – like MdotStrange – who have used their skilled online marketing to sell their work. As it stands, it has mostly become an excellent platform for filmmakers to establish themselves, showcase their projects, build their audience and fan base – and publicize their films.
This is the first in a number of posts on this topic – and basically a way to get some of the material I’ve been looking at into a more “talkable” format so that I can sound knowledgeable at the panel discussion on Wednesday.
There are advantages to using online channels:
“I’m very confident about digital media’s ability to support individual creators, doing the kind of work they want to do, often on tightly-constrained budgets. (Constraints = inventiveness, right?) I’m less confident that it will support the same gargantuan, diversified companies that raked in the big bucks in the days when there were only four TV networks, six movies released every weekend, a dozen important records issued on Tuesday.” Scott Kirsner – “Big vs. Small: Who’s Better Positioned Right Now? “
“‘Filmmakers need to get past the romance of a theatrical release’, says Cinetic Media’s John Sloss. ‘People are so disproportionately preoccupied with getting their movies released in theaters that they’re not interested in alternatives. You make more money and get more exposure and promotion on HBO.’ Sloss says Verizon and AT&T are starting to offer $100,000 for 60-day mobile phone exclusives on indie films. ‘Netflix, Withoutabox and everybody else are trying to build a community. In the future, it will be about loyalty and community.’ – Variety “Frustrated indies seek web distrib’n “
“The majority of traditional filmmakers generally can’t wrap their heads around “cross platform” storytelling, just getting a film made is hard enough. But, there are early-adopter filmmakers who understand that grabbing eyeballs and generating Users and Social Users online is going to set them apart from those who have to ‘buy’ advertising.
“Online dollars is not the current model, but, just like a Domestic Theatrical Release that increases value in overseas markets, those who can point to “webisodes” that receive high traffic etc. will garner more “traditional distribution” dollars in their sales cycles (particularly, if they have Geographic IP data on those eyeballs and can show how there’s already an existing fanbase in certain countries). A few of us have been at this for nearly 10 years, using the web as a vehicle to support our traditional projects – it works. And, it does expand our “story telling” options, which is what really makes it satisfying.” – a comment from “MikeD” on “Independent Filmmakers – Web Doesn’t Cut It“
“[Eric] Wilkinson and “The Man From Earth ” stirred up a buzz on the Internet last year when, a few days before its release, a bootleg copy was posted, and then shared, online. The bootlegged film found an enthusiastic audience who posted hundreds of comments and reviews about it. Within two weeks, the film went from number 11,235 on the IMDb “MOVIEmeter”, to number 6. Additionally, the film’s website had gotten over a million hits, and tens of thousands of unique page views. Wilkinson’s response was unexpected, but turned out to be a strategic home run. He embraced the fans of the film and thanked them for their support. Ultimately Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, Virgin Megastore, FYE, J & R, and Amazon began either stocking the DVD or renting it as a download.” – Filmmakers and Animators At FilmColumbia
- Link in your email signature to a particular promotional or blog post (you can change these frequently if you like). I have a reminder set to update my email signature weekly with a link for to my new blog post, video or whatever else I’d like to promote. This is not new school – but it’s pretty effective. Most of my friends, if they received an email blast would see something like “Watch my new video on Youtube” and have the best intentions, but wouldn’t likely get around to watching it. A link at the bottom of an email with an intriguing title is less pressure. Plus, while it requires very little effort on your part, it’s a great, subtle way to promote yourself with every email you send (think of all the people you email in a month!).
- Is there a hook? Do you have a “famous” celebrity, webrity, singer, etc. in your film. Whatever, you know how to put the spin. (I once saw Pits in a local screening series (Celluloid Social Club ). It was cute film billed as “starring Alan Cummings”. Alan Cummings appeared for probably a minute of this 8 minute film. I’m certain this film was buoyed by this selling point, but do wish they hadn’t used the word “starring” (perhaps “featuring?”)
- Keep people posted. A blog is essential for longer form, but the day-to-day or minuae to minuta can be communicated via Twitter. Add yourself to what you write, but be sure to include things like: “Meeting with Editor for final cut, hoping to have film live next week!!!”
- Make it interesting, intriguing (and of course, honest). If you tweet about your film (and you should), “Hey, check out the preview of our film” might be interesting to your friends, but something like “A sneak preview of our trailer” is more exciting to others. Also, the community is good at providing feedback, so you can say “Let me know what you think” – if you really mean it.
Fans want to be part of the process and there are great ways to have them be a part of your project. Not only can fans help boost your film, but connecting with them online and maintaining that contact can be very educational and supportive – and a great way to establish relationships with people like you and/or who like your work. It’s also immensely satisfying to see a response to your work online, a direct contact that traditional media doesn’t allow.
- Think about the ways in which your film or elements of your film can be interactive.
- You can gage elements. What works, what doesn’t. People online can be very vocal and opinionated – which, can sometimes be a bonus.
- Consider allowing people to submit posters for your film, or music – or remix something create a music video . Contests can be fine as long as they are about incorporating your fans in the project.
- Having a blog and a dialogue with fans through social networks also allows you to identify who your fans and supporters are – which can be invaluable.
- Beyond that – make sure to be very responsive to your audience. Respond as much as possible to email messages, blog comments, twitter messages. While this can all be time consuming, you are creating a connection with people who are interested in your work that can be invaluable.
- Read: Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 True Fans“
A very enlightening podcast: “Get your fans involved From The Workbook Project“: “TCIBR podcast: A discussion about Fandom with Sharon Ross suggests many, many more ways in to work with fans.
Consider – Crowdfunding. Getting people to find your film? Sounds crazy? Well, sure if you’re looking to make a $10 million film, but do you really need that kind of money to tell your story? If not there are plenty of microfunding options available.
The key here, I think, is to establish a network of people who are interested in what you produce, and make them feel like they are part of the equation (because, especially in a situation like this – they certainly are). (And of course, ask for help, don’t harass.)
I work with DreamBank (through Capulet ) where people post their dreams and ask their friends for contributions. I’ve always thought it would be a great way for filmmakers to raise money for a short film – especially if they have a large/strong online network/fans.
Another option is to place a widget like Chipin on your blog which allows you to collect funds directly on your site.
Consider this example:
“To raise the $75,000 she needed for an album, she [Jill Sobule] set up a Web site — jillsnextrecord.com — in which her fans would serve as patrons for her next record in return for various rewards. Ten bucks earned them a digital download of the record, $50 an advance copy and a thank you in the liner notes, while $1,000 got them a personalized theme song written by the artist. Three people who paid $5,000 had Ms. Sobule play at their house. The person who gave $10,000 sang on the record.” – David Carr “Big Music vs. Fans and Artists “, New York Times (Hat tip to Scott Kirsner of Cinematech – I found this article on a post of his)
This is a similar module to Sellaband.com – except the artists controls it all. There is no real difference between financing an album and financing a film (or some aspect therein). For instance, instead of staging a music performance at a house, a comedy film can likewise arrange for their cast to do live-improve at a party or a short live performance.
Other tips: “Filmmaker Conference – Turning Your Viewers “On” – September 17, 2007″
As fans become more a part of projects, some innovative filmmakers‘ are taking into to the next level by incorporating Crowdsourcing into their plans. This panel from “the Workbook Project” and From Here to Awesome addresses this topic. Discussion Leader: Lance Weiler – Panelists: Slava Rubin (indieGoGo), Skot Leach (Lost Zombie), Jason Harris (Mekanism), Bryan Kennedy (Mobmov.org), Blair Erickson (Millions of Us)
Again, you don’t need to distribute your entire film – consider putting up short clips or things that the audience can play with, remix, annotated etc.
While YouTube is the most popular site for viewing videos, other sites (Such as Blip.tv and Viddler) are appealing to different audiences. However, it’s time-consuming to upload individually to all these sites. Apparently, TubeMogel solves that problem: “TubeMogul is a free service that provides a single point for deploying uploads to the top video sharing sites, and powerful analytics on who, what, and how videos are being viewed.” So you’re able to distrube your videos easily – and get numbers [for...].
“IFP – Alternative Models of Distribution – March 14, 2008“
Further Information and Resources
Awesome Internet and Film Sites & Blogs
The Workbook Project
“What filmmakers really think of the web” (EPIC-FU for 2/28/2008 – special)
Scott Kirsner is interviewed on technology and film – and how the film industry often resists new innovation.
Want more articles about artists? I have a whole series here.
Please feel free to contribute other resources, projects etc. below
This is part of my “Artists Using Social Media” series. (For more information, see the intro post).
For the question & answer posts (of which there are quite a few), I have narrowed the responses down quite a bit. While most responses were excellent, I filtered down to the (objectively) best ones, to avoid a long, repetitive post.
What kind of tips do you have for using social media to promote yourself/projects?
On How to Be & Behave:
Allison Hagendorf, media personality, writer, producer, foodie, fitness enthusiast : “I view social media as an extension of who I am and what I am trying to achieve. It is a way of life.”
Amber Jean, artist, writer, performer: “Mix the personal and the promotional. Social media is first about relationships. I like to think of it as “scooby snacks”…just enough bits from personal and professional life to keep an audience intrigued.”
Adrian Ellis, Musician, Composer/Producer: “Be yourself, be interesting, be honest. Don’t sell, offer things – information, ideas, product. Think about the feeling you want people to have about you and write to that. Imagine everyone is a potential friend you’ve met at a party – think about first impressions.”(2)
Jeremy Lim, Musician : “Be active in your community. Help lift others up. Reciprocity is king. Be honest about how you label yourself. There are people looking for what you have to offer, but if you portray yourself incorrectly, you’ll only create resentment.”
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In the next bit, I’ll be writing some posts on How (and Why) Artists are Using Social Media - based on my research and the (over 100!) wonderful responses I received to my Artists Using Social Media Survey.
My own experiences (as an actor etc.) as well as my research into Crowdsourcing got me thinking. As the tools become more accessible and far-reaching, more and more artists are “doing for it for themselves”, finding a place to showcase and promote themselves using social media.
This gets me excited. To a large extent, the traditional model and system excludes those whose talent doesn’t fit the general mold. (I wrote a bit of a diatribe against the traditional system last year in The System is Flawed (In brief: “…it is impossible to ignore the fact that rather than being a potential vehicle to bring in exciting new content and performers into the arena, the system often becomes an obstacle course – stacked strongly against originality in every form. It is less about “what you can do” than weeding people out based on assumptions about what they can’t do and what they are not.”)
But this series is not about the “can not” – it’s about how one CAN. Innovative and ambitious artists are choosing to carve out their niche, realizing that although there are many artists out there, someone with true talent, drive, determination, and the will to learn can find their place, find their fans, and hopefully a way to make their work successful (in whatever way that is measurable to them).
As I look through these fantastic responses, I want to give a huge thank you (and virtual hug, if I may be so sappy) to all the fabulous people who took the time to share their work and tactics with me:
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