In a previous post, Funding Independent Media…Independently, I talk about funding independent media projects through consulting, sharing your knowledge with others. Last night, I had a long talk with a good friend of mine, an independent filmmaker in Northern California, and we ended up talking about distribution. That conversation led me to think about the next step of funding independent media: distribution and marketing, specifically distributing quality media that generates and feeds community, the independent method of marketing.
In order to keep my thoughts simplified, I’m going to be talking about independent media under the label of filmmaking and the distribution and marketing of the film. As independent media producers and consumers of mass media, we have a good idea of how films are made. An idea is generated, a script is written, a director decides that they want to make the film, a film studio gives money for production if they think it will be a worthwhile investment, a crew is hired, the cast picked, locations found. The film is then shot, edited, licensed, marketed, distributed, put on DVD, sold at Wal-Mart and Target, and found on the shelves of our movie collection. An arduous process. The money invested in the film is primarily regained through the sale of movie theater tickets and DVD sales. If the filmmaker is renowned, the movie is an adaptation of a popular book, or a spectacle of breakthrough special effects, then the film will typically generate a significant amount of buzz, and we flock to the theaters.
Looking at the traditional system, it definitely has its benefits, as long as you play the game and follow the rules. But what about the independent filmmaker and media producer that want to develop their own system of distribution and marketing?
It can be done. And here is the beginning of how I think it could be done.
Internet Distribution = Getting Your Content to Your Audience
With YouTube, Hulu, iTunes, Vimeo, and a host of other video websites, the ability to upload and watch videos has increased exponentially in this decade. But how do you use that technology as a spring board to make money with your product? There are a few ways to approach this:
1. Allow a low-resolution “YouTube” version for free and then effectively lead them to higher quality paid content.
2. Sell digital copies for iPods, as well as HD files for high-resolution computer viewing.
3. Sell DVD/Blu-Ray versions of your content.
4. Sell merchandise (t-shirts, posters, soundtracks).
5. Allow people to share, reuse or remix your content through Creative Commons licensing.
Marketing = Generating and Feeding Community
In his book, “How to Speak How to Listen,” Mortimer J. Adler says, “without communication, there can be no community.” What this means for independent media producers is that if we hope to get the word out to our audience, we need to develop and sustain community. There are many ways to go about this. Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, websites, printed materials, networking groups, clubs, and colleges. Regardless of the method of communication, you want to create a community that will tell others about your content. As I have read on several blogs online, you essentially want to create a community of evangelists that take your message and content to the masses, bringing followers into the fold. That is the result of social networking done well.
Does Your Content Stink?
Finally, it doesn’t matter what you do, if your content stinks, then distribution and marketing will not save you. Community will not be developed. People will not be interested in what you have to say. But if your content is unique, fresh, and created with a sense of aesthetics and technique, you will have an opportunity to engage others effectively.