Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Sign up for new cable/Netflix/phone/porno-website service for just $12 per month. Of course, that is only the first three months, after that the twelve bucks becomes $59 – the REAL price. Most adults are familiar with the bait-and-switch strategy and won’t fall for it. At least not more than once.

Hey, I was in Thailand, and it sure LOOKED like a pretty girl, how was I supposed to know ...

How does this apply to music videos?

All music video jobs go out to directors with the standard stuff: MP3 of the song, the lyrics, the brief from the brand manager and the shoot dates. The label also includes the budget number. These days, it is more and more likely the budget number is a lie.

Okay, maybe lie is too strong a word. How about “wrong?”

I see lots of jobs that come down the pike with $150k price tags. That number (as low as it once seemed) can, in 2008, get some very high-end directors to pay attention. Directors start formulating ideas, reference photos are pulled, exec producers open spreadsheets, but then ...

A buck and half becomes a buck and a quarter. The budget just lost some of its juiciness. The director and the rep and the prod co ponder the situation but decide to plow ahead even at the lower price. Everybody wants a job.

What happens if the $125k budget, then drops again? Is $100k enough? Not enough to do the same creative, so some of the reference photos are tossed out and spreadsheets get shorter.

What made the budget drop to two-thirds of the original number? What if it drops more? Maybe the label reviewed their finances and realized they genuinely had less than they thought (something I often encounter when I go out to buy my weekly Hypnotiq and Triscuits supply). It is possible that the label has been testing the song with radio stations and the music is not the hit they had hoped it was, so a smaller budget makes better sense. Perhaps the entire label’s financing structure with our Chinese overlords is being changed, so there are less yuan around for dancers and smoke machines. Maybe, but why do I believe none of that?

It seems clear that many labels are starting off budget numbers at a level that will attract lots of director attention, but they know the number won't end up there. This can get treatments in the door, and often from impressive names. I think that an artist reading (or having read to them) ideas from Applebaum or Kahn or Robinson makes them feel like they are well taken care of super-duper-stars, a label specialty. That the actual video will end up being directed by someone who watches a series of DVDs after all the quality directors drop out when the budget is cut to $12 and some Best Buy gift cards, let’s hope the artist and manager don’t notice that.

Is it shady for labels to float one budget number when they know the actual budget will be much, much less? Sure, but these are record labels we are talking about. They screwed over Bo Diddley! Some director with his reel on Wiredrive getting jerked around won’t even disturb their REM patterns for a moment. It should be no surprise that labels are trying anything they can, times are tough (or so I have heard).

Maybe these ‘Oops the budget just dropped again. We are SOOO sorry’ moments really are accidents. For a smart director they shouldn’t be a surprise.

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