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DIY Convention "Doing It Yourself" in Films and Music

SAN FRANCISCO CA. - Notes from the Red Devil Lounge

It's a packed crowd at the Red Devil Lounge on a Wednesday night in San Francisco. People of the film and music community have braved, what can only be described as some strange summer weather. Thunderstorms seem likely as a cool fog blowing in from the Pacific meets a warm easterly breeze. Nothing can keep this crowd away from the first ever San Francisco DIY (Do It Yourself in Films, Music & Books) Conference, presented in conjunction with Nadine Condon of Nadine's Wild Weekend, and Jocelyn Kane of Motogirl Productions.

It promises to be a promoter's dream. Networking and panel discussions on "Film Marketing, Promotion and Publicity" and "How to Sell 10,000 CDs", followed by Q and As with each panel, and a live music show by two bands.

Looking around the room, thinking about the ViV and a Movie Monday night shows at the Red Devil Lounge, a am wondering if that show is what sparked the current trend in art/music events, when I am hit by a sudden dé javu. I remember Beaux Arts. I am thinking of my first experience in a coffee house that mixed music with art and films.

I was 17 years old, living in Tampa, Florida. There was a coffee house called Beaux Arts, right across the street from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department, in the middle of no-where, just off a causeway. I can't remember how I discovered it, but once I did, it was my haunt until I graduated from high school.

Beaux Arts was an old-fashioned multi-story wood frame rooming house owned by one of the more colorful characters in town. Films were screened in the front room. You walked into a dark room filled with people sitting in dining room chairs that were set up in rows facing a small screen. The movies were mostly French art films from the twenties. Not the kind shown in local theatres in Florida.

Acoustic Folk and bluegrass were on the bill nightly in the back room with big screen windows. Rehearsals were outside in the Christmas tree-lit garden, with little paths separated into intimate seating areas. Performances were in a big screened-in room in the back, filled with comfy couches and chairs. For some reason, there was usually a cool breeze blowing through the room, so the lack of air-conditioning wasn't a problem. The thick marijuana smoke competed with the smell of coffee brewing on the porch. I never realized how unique it was at the time. My father sent me a news clipping about it burning down years ago.

Nadine's booming voice in the mic brings me back to the Red Devil. (Was she once a lead singer in a rock band?), She thanks us all for coming out and introduces the panelists. I know five of them.

FILM PANEL

Moderator – Bruce Haring
Co-chair of DIY Convention from LA
Glorinda Marie, local chapter leader of SF Indieclub, accomplished actress
Brian Ging, Indieclub member and Filmmaker "American Yearbook"
John Howard Swain, a veteran film actor and director, and founder of Full Circle Productions and AFTRA, an acting school and production company.
Joel Bachar, curator of "Indepnedent Exposure", presenting monthly screenings of film shorts. He is also Programmer and Publicist at the Roxie Cinema.
Ryan Harlin of Emo Roit Productions, a LA based film company that specializes in documentaries.

Glorinda's main goal has been to bring the SF film community together by providing an on-line email newsletter and sending out regular calls for work to and for the members. The film business is a who-you-know people business. A helpful friendly upbeat personality are welcome on any stage or set.

Glorinda's hard work has paid off for people like Brian Ging, who met and interviewed most of his cast and crew online. His advice to filmmakers, promote your project from the beginning. You can't start too soon. Once you have a definite plan, start with the site and keep everyone informed. He also stresses keeping everyone involved in the project, including the tryouts who didn't make the final cut, in the loop as much as possible. All those people will want to see the final result of the project. Being a nice guy helps. Brian didn't just tell us how to promote, he showed us by repeatedly mentioning "American Yearbook", the name of his film. Brian plans on spending his major efforts on impressing the festival people and distributors with DVDs and swanky packaging, but he intends to use the web and PR for generating his audiences, not print ads.

John feels he is learning how to promote by learning from past failures. He is starting his new film with promotions early this time instead of waiting till the film is in the can and ready to screen. He also feels that print is too expensive for the returns. He also plans to use the internet and press. That is the common theme it seems. www.fullcircleproductions.com

Joel is a part of a larger international circle of film screeners. He and partner Patrick formed the Microcinema International to exhibit, promote, and distribute independent short films and video through a loose syndication of venues and festivals. Their web site, www.microcinema.com is heavily linked. He does regular emails to local as well as international lists. Each one targeted to a specific area. Since he has a lot of films to publicize, he ends up pushing the venues and the schedules more than the individual films. (This is always a question that comes up for promoters, whether to focus on the venue or the acts.)

Ryan primarily works with bands and uses their shows to promote his projects, as well as the web. He links to other punk bands and sites that fall into the punk genre. He is a big believer in targeting to a nitch audience. (This specialty group and nitch markets becomes another theme, especially when it comes to selling music.)

MUSIC PANEL

Moderator – Nadine
Robert Rankin Walker
president of Heyday Records, started in SF, now in LA.
Derek Silvers, of CDBaby.com, internet marketing guru
Jeff Alulis, lead singer of The Dead Kennedys, also works Emo Riot Productions
PC Munoz, bandleader and singer of PC Munoz and the Amen Corner
Tim Quirk, former singer/lyricist of Too Much Joy, now with Wonderlick, and Listen.com

Nadine started out the discussion by announcing the biggest problem for all bands is that they break up. Keeping a music career together in view of the likelihood that the band won't last is a real challenge for musicians.

Robert works with bands he likes and understands primarily. He is most approachable via email. He doesn't reply on, or pursue, radio or the press for his record sales. He sells through his distribution channels, online and at shows. Aways keep all appointments and be on time.

Derek is probably the most well-known of the panelist. (He receives the biggest applause.) The audience is clearly interested in what he has to say about what sells. His advice, go for the nitch audience. You need to cut with a knife. A general, middle-of-the-road approach is lost in the crowd. The highest selling CDs on CDBaby are the most unique. Songs for sailors are sold through sailing publications. Gregorian chanters singing punk songs sold really well. Songs about horses appeal to Equestrians. Derek urges people to get creative in their marketing techniques. The creativity doesn't end with the song. Marketing and promoting can, and should be an extension of that creativity.

Tim works with an online sales group that is extending itself into several different categories to allow clients options on how they want to download music legally. They can download on song at a time, a CD or subscribe and download as many songs as they want. They are working in conjunction with CDBaby and others. In fact, both Tim and Derek suggest giving your audience/clients as many ways to support you as possible. Give them a lot of options and a lot of different deals to choose from. Give them the option of buying more than one CD at a discount. Ask for donations and investments in your next CD. Sign up with as many online services as you can.

Jeff works mostly at the shows. He also networks, (that's how he got the lead singer gig) and develops relationships within the industry. He finds being easy-going goes a long way. "Don't burn bridges"

PC Munoz has been working the club circuit for quite a while. He has a unique crossover style of music that has won him a diverse fan base. He has put a lot of time and energy into team building rather than doing all the postering.

CONCLUSIONS

1 Get a Web site yesterday
2 Know your audience, and or client base
3 Getting along with people and treating them well is of utmost importance.
4 Networking, and being helpful cooperative and reliable
5 Try to keep the group together, but have an alternate plan just is case
6 Put together a team of professionals, and volunteers to work with you
7 Keep your private life, friends, etc. on separate terms for the business, if you work with them
8 Start promoting projects at an early stage. Keep everyone up-to-date on our progress
9 Developing a unique nitch product for a smaller market can, and often does result in higher sales
10 Pitch the story to non-industry media. Find nitch stories.
11 Be creative in the marketing of the product
12 Use all channels to sell
13 Make it easy for people to do what you want them to do.
14 Tell them what to do.

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