Yes, I know. I talk more about everything else in the world than I do about music, which is where I actually make my living. But my fellow musos can learn from this sort of moxy. So listen up. You’re about to get schooled!
Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave somewhere, chances are you’ve heard about Red State. Smith’s new film is a chilling, indie horror flick, a huge departure from his regular wares (I’m guessing there’ll be a major lack of dick and fart jokes, for a start). However, the actual substance of the film isn’t all that’s interesting here, because Smith and Co. have decided to remove the role of traditional distributors and studios to release this film, deciding instead to make deals with local theatres who will host the film.
The reason for this? Removing the reliance on huge marketing budgets.
“[E]very time we make a movie, it’s the same fucking thing,” Smith said. “We make it for a very small budget, somebody spends a shit ton of money marketing it and then … nobody ever sees any money ever again… When that’s happening, when you’re spending four to five times the amount to market a movie, or open a movie, than you did to make it, that’s not an inspiring game at all… No kid could get into it now. … It’s impenetrable.”
For those of us in the music biz, this is a story we’ve been hearing for years. It’s nigh on impossible for the vast majority of artists to compete with the major label business model, more or less entirely because of their massive marketing budgets. On top of that, the selling out of major arena tours and the front page of the NME (or whatever your local major music rag happens to be called) are also targets that are out of reach for the likes of us.
So we’ve found ways around this. We put on our own shows. We book our own tours. We write blogs and put out our own zines and papers. We produce our own records and sell them directly to our fans. Like working at the car wash, we might not ever get rich, but it’s better than digging a ditch.
Smith’s no stranger to this sort of balls out move. Hell, he made Clerks on less than $30 grand that he got by maxing out a ton of credit cards. So seeing that the guy is still pushing the envelope as far as the indie film business goes is, to be fair, inspiring.
So take note, creatives of all stripes. Go for broke. Make something you’re proud of, and put it in the hands of the people who actually matter: the fans. Stop dicking around waiting for the big leagues. Your first album isn’t a taster for the major labels. Your first plays aren’t a dress rehearsal. Get off your ass and get in the game.
As Walter Gretzky would say, and Smith would concur, “Don’t go where the puck’s been – go where it’s going to be.”