Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"50 thousand fans in the world at the same time"


"50,000, keep your record deal CHUMP, 50,000 in the world at the same time."  - 50K - Bavu Blakes (ATX my dude.) 

Imagine being a filmmaker with 50,000 fans that always bought your film, tickets, dvd's, soundtrack vinyl, hosted your widget, etc.  It's all about the personal connection.  Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to be good at what you do, Bavu Blakes asserts it takes 50,000 fans to be sustainable. The same concept can apply to independent filmmakers. How many people does your message need to reach so that you could potentially convert 50,000 of them to actual fans and buyers of your films? How many fans do you need for your film to make a profit?

Lets look at the mathematics...

So Selling to 50,000 Fans... Only a portion of people who see your message will investigate further, largely based on the effectiveness of your marketing promotions and the marketing channels, and only a portion of those people will actually buy your product. Lets use the 5% impressions conversion percentage, and a 5% sales conversion percentage (both very conservative percentages)In marketing lingo the total number of people who will see your message, your ‘Total Impressions,’ is the Total Addressable Market (TAM). 

Your impressions conversion is defined by the number of people who see your marketing message that choose to interact with it, ie. clicking your banner ad and going to your destination site, reading a print ad and visiting your site, receiving an RSS update about your film and reading the coverage, then going to your site. These impression conversions are your Sample Addressable Market (SAM), or potential direct customers. The sales conversion governs all those that did interact with your message who decide to purchase your product.

In layman's terms, for every 1000 people that see your ad, blog, tweet, or Wall posting about your new film, 50 people will go to your site under a 5% impressions conversion percentage.  Scrutinize that further, and project, of that 5% of those that hear your message and visit your point of sales vehicle, 5% of those people will pay for your product thus moving 2.5 product units.    

So under the 5% impression and sale conversion assumption, to build relationships with 50,000 fans that purchase your product every time its released, you need to reach 20,000,000 people (roughly 1/13 of the US population), your TAM , and 1,000,000 of those people need to visit your point of sale ie destination site, amazon link, Itunes store, etc., your SAM.

Obviously the quality of your creative content, the authenticity of message to the target audience, and the understanding of the product's target audience influences both of those conversion percentages dramatically.  So as a marketing producer your goal is to nail the conversion of people reached to people converted.  

So lets look at the revenues now.  You built your list to 50,000 with your first film. Now your film is available in the theater, on DVD, and direct download via Itunes through an aggregator, or a ‘broker’ that gets your product up on iTunes, who both take 30%, (ie, of the 14.99 Itunes is charging, they take a 30% cut and your aggregator will take an approximate 30% cut of the remaining balance...ie you are seeing $7.34), and 5% of your audience will purchase your product.  Itunes streams your film for between 2.99 and 3.99, and sells the download for 14.99.  They are going to get their cut of 30% regardless, so hopefully your aggregator's terms are favorable.    

Assume those 50K buy the digital download version of the film, you are looking at approximately $367,000 in revenue at per unit return of $7.34.  I hope your film costs less than $367,000 to make and market, and if you can do it for that, then I am all about 50,000 fans in the world at the same time.  

Shout out to Marcy Garriott for turning me on to this song, and to all you producers and directors with 50,000 fans, hopefully you are providing enough value to them that your conversion percentage is better than 5%. 

Respect your peeps, respect your fans.  They make or break you.  

One Love.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Before we make love let's have a good conversation."

"Its time for some Mind Sex, we ain't got to take our clothes off yet.
We can burn the incense and just chat.
Relax i got the good vibrations, before we make love,
let's have a good conversation."
- Dead Prez, Mind Sex

Upon reading Marsha Lindsay's (CEO, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs) article in Ad Age this morning - "How to Develop the Right Communications Strategy for a Conversation Economy"- immediate interest was sparked from her assertion that we are no longer marketing just products, we are marketing conversations as well.

While her tactics for stimulating the brand-consumer dialogue are directed at moving mainstream product, filmmakers targeting niche audiences can definitely adopt the article's lexicon, and strategic approach.  It points out that "even if people know there's an opportunity to have a conversation with you -- on Twitter or your blog, for instance -- you can't expect them to engage given all the other demands on their time. You'll need a strategy that both gets them to know you exist and care so much that you exist, they'll become intrigued about conversing with you."

We are currently working on a teaser for the indie rock doc, Echotone, which is being prepped for release next year, and Ms. Lindsay's article comes at a very serendipitous moment in our process.  As we devise our strategy on which selects to pull into a 30 sec teaser, the first asset to be shared with industry colleagues, support community, and prospective release partners, it is important to consider the dialogue not only around a charged documentary, but also the dialogue created by each unique marketing asset.

The audience for this film is particularly interested in actively discovering and sharing new music online and at live events. What is going to pull this film from the niche space to a more general audience is the conversation circulating the film, and the creative content of each marketing initiative.  Ms. Lindsay’s insights introduce a new layer of analysis to balancing each piece of marketing collateral's content, while providing the release team with additional vocabulary to discuss the ‘conversation strategy’ driving the release of Echotone’s promo content, live events, and the film itself.

As the marketing strategy for the film relies on a mass-roots approach that stimulates the offline-online conversation between audiences frequenting live events and the digital space, what are the elements of each piece of content that further reinforce the message in the teaser? ensuing trailer? and ancillary viral promo clips?  What are the conversations we want people to be having about this movie?

Identifying and condensing the "talking points" of a release provides a compass for all communication strategy.  When structuring a DIY release you are working with publicists, designers, both graphic and interactive, event promoters, street teams, radio spots. Not only the branding must remain consistent (twitter - @myfilm, online - www.myfilm.com, www.facebook.com/myfilm), the 'conversation' must reflect that consistency as well.

If it hasn't become self evident that we work in a society where people are turning to their peers and communities for advice beyond just purchasing decisions. That our economy is being directly driven by the social conversation, not mass media.  The renaissance has arrived, and it is paramount for brands and films to provide not only a quality product, but great pillow talk as well...whether you are part of the conversation or not, it will ultimately find you thanks to the glorious age of Web 2.0.

To the fellow indie filmmakers working on their release plans for next year, I highly recommend subscribing to Ad Age's newsletters. The articles are a valuable source for augmenting your lexicon and understanding of larger marketing practice.   Educating ourselves, and the collective community, on the lexicon of marketing helps to soften the language barrier that limits filmmakers from communicating with audiences, primarily, and secondarily, marketing departments at distributors, brands, and other support mechanisms being built into the release of your film.

There is a lot more to be said on the current disconnect between the world of marketing and the rest of independent film industry, but in the mean time you can read Ms. Lindsay's article here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"We poke out the ashes for a chance to cash in," - Mos Def, The Rape Over

After reading Antony Young, CEO of media buying firm Optimedia’s article in Ad Age today, his words inspired me to respond immediately.  I began hammering out a comment, then realized there is a lot more to be said in response to his article, so I decided to post my thoughts here!


The headline reads: Do NBC, Fox, and Disney need to rethink their Hulu strategy? You can read an excerpt from Mr. Young's op-ed here: http://adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=139869


For those interested in the gist of Mr. Young’s prose, they assert that as the premiere controllers of premium content, NBC, Fox, and Disney’s decision to move that content to the digital space via Hulu is cannibalizing the potential revenues that still could be earned by networks through media sales. During this transitional move to the content viewing experience where everyone’s primary interaction with content is a manufacturer-supported, centralized VOD interface brought to you via your Sony, or Panasonic flat-screen wired directly to your household internet connection, with options to watch the desired piece of content for free with advertisement, or watch it commercial-free by paying a viewing fee, there will continue to be a back and forth on when that ‘perfect moment’ is, that ‘moment’ being defined as the moment where a content distributor can no longer milk a specific content delivery platform for all its worth before abandoning it, the next move being the trimming of infrastructural fat.


Is this content viewing experience five, ten, or fifteen years away domestically? What about internationally?  I don’t know, but whoever collects data on technology saturation please chime in on those benchmarks because that timeline directly influences my decisions on distribution strategies for content to be released in the next year, the next five years, or the next ten.  Until that information is readily available, content producers and distributors just recognize they need to be everywhere at once, so when full saturation of in-home flats screens with internet connections eventually takes place, content distributors flip the proverbial switch and end their broadcast operations, leaving broadcast airwaves the opportunity to be repurposed by the FCC for some telecom giants’ mobile phone infrastructure.

As an independent content producer who is expected to take the initial risk of creating the pilot leading to the series that brings and keeps audiences, providing the opportunity for media sellers and advertisers the ability to collaborate and profit off of a successful show off, the media buyer’s plight doesn’t reflect a challenge in NBC or Universal’s strategy, but it does shine light on how media buy agencies must adapt to survive in a multiplatform environment that works to cut the advertising out of the viewing experience. HBO has found a way to subsist by building their own audience through the production and distribution of original content that has a clear, free-spending, rabidly-loyal, niche audience tuning in at 9pm.

For networks that subsist on ad-supported content, the great digital revolution is such that it removes antiquated legacy businesses and mechanisms from the production and distribution pipeline.    As a marketer and motion picture producer who recognizes and respects different consumers preference to consume content in either the digital and broadcast space, it is our goal when moving our content to place it with the right audience, and that are content is ubiquitously available.  Content is platform agnostic, it is the audience we are interested in reaching.  Putting the audience first, like Hulu does, is what creates a loyal following of users, not passively viewing in the broadcast space, but actively engaging, not only in the content, but the conversation around the content. 

Within this shift of how consumers consume content is a larger cultural shit driven by open source ideology and a desire for transparency.  A shift to a more transparent society can be seen by the recent FTC ruling, http://bit.ly/1HjOCM, the global open-source movement sculpting internet culture, and social networking platforms that allow for users to curate and share their own personal content libraries.

When one door closes however, another opens, and in the world of sinking broadcast and print ad-sales, new opportunities for brands embracing the philosophy of brand integration will find  creative ways of reaching their target audience, even though the original advertising delivery system is clinging to its last breaths.  Products and brands interwoven into, not only the fabric of the content, but the release of the content creates a consistent connection to the target consumer, who is engaging with the content for some qualitative psychographic motivation.  This allows brands and product to cross beyond the content into the larger consumer conversation as well.

To distill Mr. Young’s op-ed to its fundamental assertion, the big three of NBC, Disney and Fox maintain control over a global infrastructure.  They control what content gets financed, what content gets distributed to an audience, and how it gets to that audience.  Mr. Young’s urging of the Big Three to exercise their global control is reflective of an older, generational ideology and paradigm where consumers and users are viewed as passive cattle consuming whatever is shoved into their brains.

With Obama’s Government 2.0 approach, American industrial leaders and businesses will be challenged to make a decision that leads them to the embrace this paradigm shift to a transparent, democratic, web 2.0 existence, or find themselves floating in the wake of sweeping change. From the view of this content producer who is always streamlining the hands that dip from the pot of your creative intellectual property, platform agnosticism is the way forward as long as 12% of the televisions sold at Best Buy are equipped to reach the internets.  But does NBC, Fox and Disney really need to rethink their strategy? According to this article in Entertainment Weekly they already have. - http://news-briefs.ew.com/2009/10/22/hulu-to-start-charging-in-2010/

For the media buy agencies though and broadcast networks looking for a solution that will liberate them from the traditional ad sales model, perhaps embracing philosophies that understand the collaborative and creative spontaneity that comes with the perfect brand integration instead of philosophes that encourage them to ‘exercise’ the immense control they already have and are recognized for (which will inevitably end up alienating future, younger audiences). NBC, Fox and Disney’s initial launch of Hulu evidently embraces the larger shifting cultural paradigm of transparency that is becoming a fundamental tenet of American culture, and I remain confident their current users will follow their transition to a paid-content model, or at least I know there’s a line item in the Jayanty family pro forma for paid content.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Make Your Own Virtual Movie Theater

Snag Film I heart you! Letting me curate my own film program from your library!  you know what would be the bee's knees...if I could pull films from other sites too...anybody in the world of tech listening?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Mic Control starts today, unless you wanna learn the hard way to get 'scared way.' This is not a game...We are not players, we do not play." - Soul Postion


 As the inaugural post on this blog there is a lot of pent up verbage dying to spew on to the screen, but part of starting and maintaining a blog is discipline and to start this one off on the right foot I am going to exercise a little and keep it short and sweet.

People in the film community are talking.  Distributors, producers, the media, directors, writers, ex-studio execs turned producers.  A lot of this talk is charged with fear and uses language like "crumbling indie distribution model" while others are using this opportunity more as a call to action to the independent film community to wake up and start innovating again. 
 This conversation has taken place in close proximity to independent film as witnessed from the battle still being waged on the music frontier.  This struggle has been one that artists have experienced since the first caveman discovered he could earn his keep by chronicling his fellow troglodytes heroic hunting expeditions through pictograms scratched on the fire lit wall of a cave sheltering his tribe from the nasty ice age going down outside.

For the ideahed this blog is a way to participate in the collective conversation on how the independent film industry is changing and how one can sustain themselves through their entreproducerorial endeavors in this evolutionary and most exciting of times.

The purpose of this blog is to spotlight and share interesting, inspiring, and innovative goings-on, strategies, tactics and nuggets of truth in and around the spaces of motion picture marketing, digital distribution, DIY strategy, social media, emerging technology, open source ideology, and finding new ways to rock the mic and get paid for it.  

One Love