Trendwatching: When musicians bypass media and go straight to their fans

James C. McKinley Jr, The New York Times, 6/21/13

Jay-Z's three-minute commercial during the N.B.A. finals last Sunday might have been perplexing. Its documentary style created the impression the viewer was eavesdropping on a [studio] session. It ended with a cryptic message, "The Next Big Thing Is Here" and below it At the site it becomes clear that "Magna Carta Holy Grail" is [his] new album, and the commercial was, in effect, Jay-Z's announcement of its release on July 4 under an arrangement with Samsung. The company will give away the first million copies to owners of its cellphones through an app. The mysterious tone of the ad and the secrecy surrounding the album are in keeping with recent trends in music marketing. In the last six months, several major artists -- David Bowie, Daft Punk and Kanye West -- have kept their new albums under wraps, then mounted brief, intense campaigns aimed not at critics and radio programmers, but at generating waves of interest on the Internet, banking on their fans to pass along news. Such viral marketing isn't new. But the recent examples are bigger in scale and seem to underscore what marketing experts see as two trends: the decline of record sales as part of the overall income of musicians and the rise of the artist as a branded commodity. A musician's interaction with fans has become a form of entertainment itself that drives sales of merchandise and concert tickets as well as corporate sponsorships. Jay-Z's decision to let Samsung buy the first million copies of his record at a discounted price and give them away is bound to boost his personal brand. [Marketing professor] Mike King said that teasing fans with tidbits, creating a sense of mystery and letting Internet buzz do the marketing, circumvents the critics and the major media outlets that used to set the agenda. Once, "it was 'How can you engage with the gatekeepers?' " he said. "Now it's 'How do you remove these gatekeepers and go directly to the fans?' "


"An official music video by the fans, for the fans..."

NetSkinny website, 6/13/13

A few months ago, Vancouver trio Hey Ocean! learned about a very special fan named Super Ben, a 2-year-old boy battling cancer. Ben's grandmother wrote to the band to say their music was keeping Ben and his family smiling and dancing through the tough times. This wasn't the first time the [pop music group] had heard from fans about the impact of their music on their lives. Inspired by Super Ben and the rest of their fervent fanbase, Hey Ocean! teamed up with Switchcam, the social video creation platform, to invite fans to submit videos of themselves breaking out their hottest dance moves to the album track "Make A New Dance Up." Switchcam's technology, which in the past had focused on collecting fan-sourced live concert videos, allowed Hey Ocean! to set up a video upload page to easily collect submissions from fans. The result was over 100 videos submitted by over 1000 people across the globe. Brett Welch, CEO of Switchcam, [said] "Hey Ocean!'s idea to take [our] platform global and use it to create an official music video by the fans, for the fans ... we just got really excited. And the result is priceless; it's so playful and fun. You can't help but smile."


Filmmaker invites fans to create a promotional poster for his new movie

Regal Cinemas blog, 6/19/13

Joss Whedon (director of Marvel's The Avengers) asked Regal Cinemas fans to help him promote his [new] movie, Much Ado About Nothing - a modern retelling of Shakespeare's classic comedy. Joss was looking for a unique poster design that can be used to promote [the film] as it opens around the country. Hundreds of fans submitted poster designs, and today Joss hand-picked his favorite. So, congratulations, Matt Stevenson of Washington DC! Matt's beautiful piece of artwork will be on display at participating Regal Cinemas showing Much Ado About Nothing and a limited edition print of the design will be handed out to guests attending Much Ado on 6/28 at participating theatres. You can see all of the entries on our Facebook Gallery.


Trendwatching: Fans whose movie trailers are better than the official versions

Angela Watercutter,, 6/21/13

Back in early 2012, the fan buzz around the upcoming film John Carter was, well, not great. It had a promising director in Andrew Stanton and what looked like great special effects, but thanks to some of the early teasers, hopes weren't high. Then a new trailer for the film appeared online and soon enough people started getting excited about the new Taylor Kitsch vehicle. The weird thing? That trailer wasn't released by the film's studio - Disney -- it was released by a guy named Michael D. Sellers. An independent filmmaker and longtime fan of John Carter creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sellers thought that the trailers released for the film had been a bit lackluster and he decided to make his own. His trailer spread like wildfire and eventually hit nearly a quarter-million views, at least one of which came from Stanton himself, who tweeted "Great fan trailer! They get it!" The trailer was also honored with headlines like "Fan-Made Trailer for 'John Carter' Could Be Better Than Official One" and "A Fan-Made Trailer For John Carter Sells The Movie Better Than Any Other Trailer So Far..." It was a hit for Sellers, who went on to write a book about his experiences with the film. But really it was just the latest piece in the burgeoning art of fan-made trailers -- a movement that includes supercuts, remixes, mash-ups, the relatively new art of "Gritty Reboots" and voice-overed versions that pinpoint the ludicrous things that happen in the trailers themselves. And now that studios seem to be warming to the fact they can take ad revenue from YouTube clips with their content rather than ask that they be taken down -- and that we live in a post-BuzzFeed world where there's innumerable places on the web looking for smart embeddable videos -- the remix trend shows little to no signs of dying down.


TV biz is grappling with how to deal with fans who 'remix' their shows

Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times, 6/10/13

When the new season of the TV comedy "Arrested Development" was released on Netflix on May 26, Andy Gilleand, a 26-year-old student, watched all 15 episodes in a single eight-hour session. Binge viewing isn't new, but what Mr. Gilleand did next is, signaling a new wrinkle in the increasingly interactive experience of watching television: he uploaded the episodes to his computer and re-edited the series, unpacking the show's original nesting-doll narrative and presenting it in chronological order. Then he posted links to his edited episodes on Reddit. Such bootleg efforts are requiring producers of original content to grapple with what this means for their art form and how it affects their relationship with their fans. Mitch Hurwitz, the creator of "Arrested Development," sees the do-it-yourself creations as a new way to engage with his audience. But Damon Lindelof, one of the creators of "Lost," was less sure about where to draw the line between encouraging the creativity of fans and respecting the wishes of the original authors. [Three years ago, Mike Maloney, now a 30-year-old insurance underwriter made a chronological re-edit of "Lost" and uploaded his 101 episodes to other fans -- first to file-sharing sites, then to its own dedicated website.] (A fan of the project also created a Facebook page for him.) Mr. Lindelof, who was aware of Mr. Maloney's [project] said he could not quite bring himself to watch it, even if he appreciated the impulses that led to its creation. "I totally embrace the experiment," Mr. Lindelof said. "But part of me feels like, oh my God, if it actually works better in chronological order, what does that say about me?"

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