Making music videos, loosing them and the consequences

March 26, 2010

I just learned a very old lesson the hard way and want to share this experience with my readers.

Yesterday I had to take my Notic Nastic “Sleep Tight Live Clip” offline.

The act is now a member of their local equivalent to the American RIAA.

I did not have a written agreement with the act, making the video was not a money deal for me, we simply granted each other the right to show our works online.

I was 100% sure we would do the paper work once it actually matters, e.g. before a record deal and as in this case before the act would sign up with their RIAA-like organisation. But that just did not happen. I only heard about the news after the fact.

Of course the act still has use for their song without my video, but I have no use for my video clip without their music. From a business perspective this is a lost investment.

On a personal level I lost much more than that.

Where I am today with this blog, what this all means to me and the consequences

This really is a rather small blog, about 1000 (unique?) visitors/month, sometimes a couple of hundred more, sometimes less. Yet I know via the links clicks/search results I get that I am at least reaching some of those people that I want to reach. For example about two years ago, to my great surprise and joy, I got linked by an indie friendly Hollywood editor/teacher/writer. Of course I immediately returned the favour in my blog roll and we still link each other to this day. I know that there are people out there who (try to) survive in the film/media business without simply using others or seeing all of this simply as a money printing exercise. But we probably are a minority.

What I do with this blog and all my previous online projects (moderator at Ourmedia, digital_kevin’s blog, writing for the P2P foundation Wiki or my Blender VSE/2D title presets) is probably what you would call “grassroots” work. I have a long term plan for all of this and I can be very patient if necessary.

Being in my late 30’s it’s now twenty years ago that I decided to go the indie way and I made a lot of sacrifices for that on the way. More than once I traded so called career opportunities for creative freedom and my good conscience. Sometimes it’s a very, very high prize to pay, yet I definitely do not regret one single time I did it.

Now there is another moment like that in my life – the Notic Nastic video clip is not the only one I lost within just six months. I had another project, another act, a completely different kind of clip, a combination of remix video and 3d. The plan was to enter the video to the Blender Suzanne Award last October. Weeks before the deadline it turned out that the artists actually did not have the last say when it comes to using their own music – this act was a member of AKM (the Austrian equivalent to the American RIAA) and they simply said “no (exceptions)”.

Again this really was all my mistake, I did not have anything in written form (yet), had already invested months of work and the project died very painfully after my failed attempt to produce an alternative music track while still trying to finish the video in time for the deadline.

I can imagine how naive that might all sound to some, yet when you are a one man studio, totally plunged into your work, simply full in love with your latest and most beautiful baby, these things actually can happen, at least to me.

Since I am currently busy with other projects those were my only two (online) video projects I did in 2009. With the Notic Nastic clip gone I now have zero projects to show for that year.

While all deeply frustrating I am somehow glad this all happened now, while I am still preparing to launch a video/clip related business. (It’s done when it’s done, I’ll write about it once things are there.)

For me the consequences are:

When it comes to music videos I will exclusively be available for acts that are not a member of any organisation like AKM, GEMA, BPI, RIAA etc. And I mean it. Even if Madonna was going to ask me to do a video for her (she most probably won’t), my first question would be if the song was an RIAA free track. If the answer was “no” my answer would be “I’d love to do it, but I can not afford it artistically – I would not be allowed to show my own video on my blog without (someone) having to pay for it.” As an artist I simply find this unacceptable.

Some roads are harder to walk than others and I think I have never felt used so much as right now with the lost Notic Nastic clip. It might have only been a 1′ 14” clip, yet for me personally this still was my latest and most beautiful baby, edited with lots of love while using an open-source editing solution, working on an open-source operating system, promoting the video on an open-source powered blog, working with an indie act that had no record deal but a lot of talent and then even making it to BlenderArt Magazine with the “Editing with Blender, Ubuntu: Screenshots, workflow from my Notic Nastic live clip” blog entry. The clip so far also was my most radical attempt at further exploring an (experimental) jump-cut and anti-continuity editing style that is wild yet still looks smooth and sexy.

Some roads are harder to walk than others and I will always keep choosing the ones that I feel are right and true to my art.

You can’t buy me and if you use me I will not accept it and will let others know.

Hardly a day goes by where I don’t see yet another good reason for making my cross at the next general elections next to that new candidate called “Pirate Party”.

This system needs to be changed. I won’t shut up. Not me.

Ever heard that old saying that “the RIAA eats your babies”…? I’m pretty sure now that this is actually true.

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