Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rock & roll marketing

About an hour ago, I came up with an idea that can kill two birds with one stone. It all started as I thought about how ridiculous it is that filmmakers usually have to pay big bucks for the right to include copyrighted music in their films. (And no, I'm not just looking at it from a filmmaker's perspective, as you will see.)

Most professional music groups (or the people who own their music) believe their songs are more valuable than the exposure their song would receive if it was included in a movie. They're wrong. How do I know? Because I could find thousands of unsigned bands who would gladly allow me to use their songs in a movie without paying them a cent. Unsigned bands know the value of that kind of exposure. Even if only a thousand people ever see the movie, the unsigned band knows that's a thousand people their music would not have reached without the movie. They know they can only sell albums if people hear their music and like it. It's a smart marketing decision.

How else do I know the big boys are wrong?

Because when they demand $5,000 or $10,000 or $20,000 (or more) for me to use their song in a movie, I walk. And when I walk, they gain nothing. They get no money from me, and they get no new source of valuable exposure for their music. Sorry guys, but you are not that important and your song is not worth as much as you want to believe.

How else do I know they're wrong?

Because bands make videos for their songs. Each video is essentially a short film with a one-song soundtrack, paid for by the band, not the filmmaker. Music videos are marketing tools that cost a lot of money to create. But the cost of making videos is puny compared to the revenue generated by videos. If it wasn't true, they simply wouldn't keep making music videos. Yet they apparently don't understand that other people's movies can do the same thing for their songs.

Eventually I'm going to create a movie. And when I do create that movie, I'll want to use certain songs in certain scenes. I almost certainly will want to use some of Jeff Buckley's stuff, for a few reasons: 1) Because I love his music; 2) Because I suspect his music will fit well; and 3) Because I want to expose his beautiful music to a new audience. But I am 99 percent sure it'll never happen, because someone is going to demand that I pay a very large sum of money before they'll grant me permission to use Jeff Buckley's music in my film. And as much as I want to use his music, I'm not going to pay anyone for the opportunity to sell their product, knowing I'll never see a dime of commission in return. Thirty seconds of a Jeff Buckley song is not going to make or break my film. There are millions more songs where that came from, and I can get some other great music somewhere else for free.

So understanding that I'll probably never secure permission to use any of the music I want for the soundtrack, here's what I think I'll do: I'm going to scour the internet, looking for small-time, local, unsigned bands. I'm going to send them e-mails about Aimless, telling them I'd like to use music from bands and artists who recognize that Aimless could provide a new source of exposure for their music. I'll ask them to check out the web site, and if they like what they see, they can contact me and send me some of their stuff.

But you know what's great about this plan? Every time I send an e-mail to a band, Aimless will reach someone new. So not only will I create a network that may help me find great songs for a soundtrack, but it also could sprout a lot of new branches on the Aimless marketing tree.