Video Could Save the Radio Star
Music videos aren’t an endpoint, they’re just the beginning
A few years ago, Fugazi delighted punk rock nerds like myself by announcing that they were going to start making their live show archive available for download, with each show selling for $5. Even when the quality of the recordings isn’t great, the energy is still palpable and the shows are still enjoyable — but something is missing. Fugazi was such a compelling live act not just because they were talented musicians and performers, but because their shows were brilliant communal experiences, and not being able to watch them play means fans miss out on a key part of what made them so amazing.
Fugazi, like many other bands, are probably sitting on mountains of video content — recordings of live shows, studio sessions, and general tomfoolery and/or political rants. But to date, few bands have made releasing their video archives a priority — and the ones who have tend to be pretty established. I’ll beat the drum for bands releasing more content than less until my laptop is pried from my cold, dead hands, and that includes video. It doesn’t matter if it’s great, or even particularly illuminating — fans want to see the behind the scenes, warts and all.
An artist could always put content up on YouTube, but now there are more interesting ways to monetize video. VHX allows users to build their own streaming channels and create subscription services, and just announced an API that allows users to basically create their own networks. They’ve worked with the Foo Fighters, among other big names, but theoretically any artist with enough content could use the API to make an app or a channel.
From there, an artist could take a few different paths. More established folks could start releasing a certain number of old performances per month to subscribers; newer artists could produce fresh content. And the possibilities are endless — live shows are just the most obvious starting point. An artist could create a show that had nothing to do with music at all, but fit well with their overall vibe; maybe something in the fitness space, or fashion, or tourism. We’re starting to see this with things like Vice’s collaboration with Action Bronson and his food show, but you don’t necessarily need Vice to back you when you can just sell direct to fan.
The subscription model also solves the monetization issue for artists, who often can’t make money off services like Vine or Periscope, and can have a hard time monezting YouTube. If Vine or Periscope really wanted to do something great with artists, they would build in a way easily monetize views or put certain content behind a paywall. YouTube recently announced the purchase of Bandpage and will likely use the service to give artists a path to monetization of their content, although it might be more circular — instead of fans paying for video content, they would watch the video and be directed to buy tickets, music, or merch.
Speaking of YouTube, there’s nothing stopping many artists from creating their own personality driven shows and using those to strike brand deals and find new fans. I’ve never listened to an Action Bronson song and probably never will, but his show is pretty funny and I’m happy to catch a few episodes whenever I come across it. I’d love to see certain musicians whose style I love spin out a show about shopping, or artists who represent cool places do a show on their hometown favorites.
Too many artists just think of video in the narrow music video context, and this isn’t to discount the art form — music videos are great! But they shouldn’t be seen as an endpoint; they should be viewed a jumping off point.
The term “full-stack” is pretty grossly overused at this point, but I’ll use it anyway — artists need to create full-stack personal brands, and video is a key component. Whether that’s releasing content to shore up a legacy or creating new content to drive adoption, the visual side of things matter almost as much as the audio. At the end of the day, it’s all content and all pathways in — does it matter whether someone comes to you via a song, a TV show, or a fashion brand, as long as they find you?
Every artist should take a full inventory of themselves and their image, and then figure out how to monetize it. They are missing huge opportunities if they don’t engage with the brands they love publicly, no matter how indie those brands might be. In fact, indie brands are probably better — it’s a heck of a lot harder to strike a deal with Budwieser than it is to do something cool with a local brewery, and it feels more authentic in the end. It won’t pay the big bucks, but it’s a nice supplemental income and benefits all parties involved. If you’re an artist with great fashion sense, pair up with local indie designers and get some affiliate deals going. Like food and have a particular take a cuisine — there are already a ton of those shows, but maybe a fresh spin will draw people in.
Making interesting video content available serves all potential audiences — super fans will subscribe and consume everything, and casual fans can engage in a different way. The audio simply isn’t enough anymore — the video needs to be a key component of any artist’s career as well.
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Now you can buy whole book of pieces like this, along with long interviews with some very smart people. “How We Listen Now: Essays and Conversations About Music and Technology” by Cortney Harding is now available via Amazon.