Distribution

Posted on April 9, 2010

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I suppose that I should talk a little bit about distribution before we get into marketing.  After all, if you have no way to get your material in front of an audience it doesn’t make much sense to market it. I created my Indie Media Show as an experiment in distribution. I was fascinated with the potential for web based video on demand and web to TV technology.  With these two technologies I saw the potential for indie media to go beyond the confines of the web and reach the traditional TV audience.

I wanted to do a video show on indie music back when I was writing on the blogcritics website. While writing on the blogcritics site I started to experiment with integrating multimedia content into the stories I was writing.  I wanted to be able to include a song by the band that I was writing about as part of the story.  My logic was that, since I was writing about indie bands, readers might be more inclined to actually listened to the music if they could do it right from the page as they read the story.

At first I just embedded mp3 files and, while that served the purpose, it wasn’t quite what I wanted.  What I really wanted to do, I realized, was to bring to my readers the actual experience of seeing these bands live.  I was living in NYC at the time and trying to translate the experience of being part of the indie rock scene there into just words never seemed to do it justice.

My next step was to embedded music videos above the story.  That was better.  But still, even music videos weren’t quite what I wanted.  Music videos are choreographed and polished and so unlike the reality of live music in the bars and clubs in the city.  It was then that I started thinking about doing some kind of video show on the web that would feature live bands.  Unfortunately the technology to do that time to show wasn’t quite ready yet. 

A few years later that technology had evolved to the level where it would be possible to stream a live show.  I watched the efforts of other people who were trying to stream live music and realized that certain parts of a live show just didn’t translate well to a web audience.  For example, there’s too much dead air while the band tunes up or whatever they need to do.  Plus, to do it right you would need mobile cameras that moved around instead of a single camera in a fixed location.

So instead of doing a live show I decided to do a pre-recorded show.  The first five episodes of the show are pre-recorded live performances in NYC.  I selected blip TV as the home of the show because it gave me the ability to upload large, higher quality files without a time limit on the show.  That way I could bring entire 30 to 40 minute music sets to the viewers. And because it was a pre-recorded show I could edit out the boring parts.

Part of the reason that I wanted to do the show was to test the limits of web based distribution.  I wanted to post the show to as many video sites as I could.  In order to do that though I realized that I would have to have available smaller files that were a maximum of 10 minutes in length to conform to the rules on sites like youtube.  For a while I did two versions of the show a longer high quality one on blip TV and a 10 minute version in M4V format to the rest of the sites.

By doing it that way I was able to put the show in front of thousands of viewers each week.  Some of the sites that the show distributes to are; youtube, Dailymotion, SPINearth, current.com, CNN iReport, Babelgum, Vimeo, VEOH, Livestream .Com and several others.  Most notable were Roku, TiVo, Boxee, iTunes and, most recently, Zune.  Those last few sites gave me the final thing that I was looking for, a way to bridge the gap between the web audience and the TV audience. I guess I shouldn’t forget mobile devices either. The show has seen viewers, from XBox, PS3 and is available on all mobile devices too.

Bands are in the habit of posting their songs everywhere they can put them in order to get them in front of as many people as they possibly can.  Filmmakers on the other hand seem to be in the habit only putting their film trailers on one site and expecting an audience to find the trailer.  I think that a much better strategy is to do what I did with the Indie Media Show and put it on every free video site you can find. All it costs is a few moments of your time and the benefit is free advertising for your film.

Each of the video sites tend to have their own unique audience and by placing your trailer on all of the sites you reach each of those unique audiences. I include Pirate Bay among the sites that I distribute my show to and I think you should upload your film trailer to it as well.  Bittorrent has a huge audience and uploading your trailer is a lot different than uploading your entire film. On each site you should include a link back to the main website of your film so that interested viewers can find you. 

While I was doing this I was obviously primarily interested in video on demand.  I see video on demand and web to TV as being the great equalizer between indie films and the big studios.  On big sites like Amazon all films large and small end up on the same virtual shelf.  Video on demand makes indie media accessible and in addition makes it affordable.

Indie music in indie film now find themselves in the same position.  They’re both accessible and affordable and therefore equally competitive with the major labels and the film studios with which they could never before compete.  But even with equal accessibility and competitive pricing indie media still doesn’t complete with the big boys in a meaningful way.  Why not?  Because nobody knows who you are.  Why don’t they?  Because indie artists routinely fail to market their products in the same way the large corporations do even though the tools to do so are readily available on the web.  That is what I’m going to try and help you learn how to do.

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