Connect With Fans

And now, back to the stuff I more regularly blog about, the entertainment business.

One of my favorite blogs is run by the guys over at Techdirt, and in particular, Mike Masnick. Most of the posts are insightful and deal with a lot of stuff that we in the Producers Guild (as producers) are not dealing with in any meaningful, proactive ways. Specifically, a lot of the posts about the state of copyright, and Big Content’s utter failure to adapt business models to social realities are spot on in my opinion.

Masnick recently gave a presentation at Midem that he posted online that I believe is profoundly relevant to the survival of creative professions. I highly recommend taking 15 minutes to watch it.

The “profound” parts I’m referring to are two salient points that reflect the world we live in today.

  1. Connect With Fans
  2. Reasons to Buy

In the past, film & television production were socially-exclusive enough (means of production and distribution were limited); that simply by their nature, producers could make something, then put it out do a little marketing, and expect to have an audience (connect with fans).

Those days are rapidly falling into the sunset, but Producers haven’t changed their mindset. We are largely, willfully ignorant.

There is a big hurdle to overcome in changing this mindset, and that is the assumption that as “creatives” that whatever we make deserves to have a profitable audience by the mere act of creating it.

Coming back to Mike’s presentation, which is crafted around the changing music business; applying his two points to any creative content reveals a great big gaping hole in what we do in the content creation business.

Besides just creating the content, how do we Connect with Fans, and what added value do we offer? There are precious few examples of this in the media business (yet).

One great example, however, are the fan communities that Peter Jackson consistently builds when he does a film. He lets his fans into the process with tons of behind the scenes footage, AND allowing fans to ask questions and then answers them. He builds a conversation.

But far too few producers, directors, and content creators take this kind of approach. We cannot mistake a “behind the scenes” video website for conversation. The fact that he answers fan questions is the primary value.

Adding value, however is something we’re even worse at. We don’t offer special editions (that ARE really special, other than in label only), signed by cast members. We don’t offer chances to meet cast or crew or come to set, or anything special. We just make, and say “here ya go, now pay me.”

One interesting and innovative example of “adding value” to creative content comes from Josh Freese, drummer for Nine Inch Nails. Freese recently released some new tracks and is selling them in packages that range from $7 for the album and three music vids all the way up to $75,000. What do you get for $75,000?

$75,000 (limited edition of 1)

-Signed CD/DVD and digital download
-Go on tour with Josh for a few days.
-Have Josh write, record and release a 5 song EP about you and your life story.
-Take home any of his drumsets (only one but you can choose which one.)
-Take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from TOOL’s Lamborgini OR play quarters and then hop on the Ouija board for a while.
-Josh will join your band for a month…play shows, record, party with groupies, etc…. -If you don’t have a band he’ll be your personal assistant for a month (4 day work weeks, 10 am to 4 pm)
-Take a limo down to Tijuana and he’ll show you how it’s done (what that means exactly we can’t legally get into here)
-If you don’t live in Southern California (but are a US resident) he’ll come to you and be your personal assistant/cabana boy for 2 weeks.
-Take a flying trapeze lesson with Josh and Robin from NIN, go back to Robin’s place afterwards and his wife will make you raw lasagna.

Ok, maybe a bit extreme, but it makes a point, right? And someone might just buy it. That’s like selling almost 11,000 albums in one fell swoop, but without the cost of … um, 11,000 albums.

You know, that if you’re a good enough producer, and you treat people right, you could easily set up a dinner with 2 or 3 of the stars from your movie, and one lucky fan (make sure you get a few promotional days with your talent included in their contract, and that something like that could be considered promotional – guaranteed to get a bigger bang PR wise out of that than to hold a PR conference…). Of course, you’ll also have to pay for the dinner, and security and whatnot to make sure the winning bidder isn’t a crazy nut bent on hurting anyone, but hey, that’s manageable.

At any rate, I think Mike is dead-on, and content producers really need to start thinking of better ways to connect with our fans, and giving them reasons to buy. One side effect of this, I believe, is that when we make something fans do connect with, we’ll have a much more satisfying work experience as producers than we currently have when we get our Nielsen numbers or box office reports.

I, for one, would love to get to sit down with a few fans who really enjoyed our work and share a meal. That’s a whole lot more positive reinforcement than we often get from our creative execs or distribution partners.