Your Indie Media Business Plan

Posted on April 8, 2010

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When you set out to get funding for a film how much money do you build into that funding for marketing and promotion? Probably not very much. Possibly none.

Why? Because most people start their entertainment business with the idea of being into product development only. It is like a company that makes goods for distribution through a retailer like Wal-Mart. But what if such a company doesn’t find a retailer? What if they spend the money to set up a factory, design a product line, go to trade shows all over the country to display their products and they don’t end up finding a retailer who will sell their products, then what? That is exactly what you are doing if you produce an album or film in the hope of being picked up by a label or studio for distribution without having a “plan B” for DIY distribution.

The easier that it becomes to create a film or piece of music thanks to digital technology the more people that are able to compete for the finite number of theater or radio placement slots that exist. The more people that are able to compete the smaller your chances of securing one of those distribution contracts with a major retailer (label/studio) gets. Taking that fact into consideration right from the beginning of your project and planning accordingly can make all the difference in the eventual success or failure of your work. The realistic odds against you getting a major distribution deal are probably at least 90%.  So, it seems ridiculous not to have a fully fledged DIY  distribution plan in place when you seek funding for your project.

Imagine trying to get funding to start a shirt manufacturing company without including any information in your business plan regarding the marketing of your product.  You ask for money to design your line, set up your factory, hire employees, etc. but when the banker asks you about your marketing plan you have nothing to say. Or worse, you have all your hopes pinned on selling your shirts to Wal-Mart if you have no contract with Wal-Mart. In fact you never even discussed your product or your plans with Wal-Mart.  They have no idea that you exist.

“Oh yes”, you say, “but we are so confident in our abilities that we know Wal-Mart will want to sell our shirts once they see us at the trade shows”. 

But what if they don’t?

“I dunno, I guess we can open a store or something at the factory.”

OK, so you want us to finance a factory that can make 100,000 shirts a week and, if you don’t get a retail contract, your plan B is to open a retail outlet in the town in which you factory is located (population 10,000)?

“well, I guess we could sell them online too.”

How will you make people aware of your online store?

“I dunno, we could maybe get our friends on twitter to buy our shirts and then they will tell their friends and stuff.”

That is exactly what happens when you fail to plan.  You end up with what may be a great product that could easily sell a million units or more but without any plan in place to make potential customers (outside of your comparatively small circle of friends) aware of your product.  So what do you do?  Just dump your product for what ever you can get out of it and (hopefully) break even on the costs associated with producing it, or (more likely) take the loss and move on to the next project with the same lack of planning in regard to distributing your product and with the same 90% odds against you getting distribution from the major labels which is what you have all your hopes pinned on?

How many banks or venture capital firms would agree to provide funding for a startup with no business plan in any industry that routinely has a 90% failure rate? Answer: none. Hopefully you see that creating a film or an album is not that much different from starting any other kind of business and failing to plan for the marketing and distribution of your product right from the beginning is not the way to go.

In the next blog in this series I am going to outline the tools that are available to independent artists on the web and off which will allow you to promote and market your entertainment products like a pro. I realize that each project is unique in the audience it appeals to but I think there are certain key components to a marketing plan which are common to marketing any product which can be utilized as a foundation on which to build a personalized plan for your own unique product.

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