Today, we invite local filmmaker, Nic Adenau to share his story with us. As a former visual collaborator with the likes of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and other notable projects, he lets us in on his experience of working in the shifting music industry and how it's informed his film career.
What do you think? Join the conversation by commenting below.
My name is Nic Adenau and I’m a filmmaker from Portland, Oregon. Over the past four years, I’ve worked in independent filmmaking, commercial filmmaking, and the music industry. I’ve had my hand in all aspects of filmmaking, but this past year I’ve focused on editing and color grading. I’ve also recently dedicated time as a creative on a documentary about a friend who returned to India to meet his mother for the first time in almost two decades. Within the music industry, I worked as both a freelancer and employee for around 14 months for the Seattle hip hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Like many filmmakers, I found myself drawn to the music industry due to the appeal of the music video. I quickly got pulled into music and learned much more than just the filmmakers’ role inside the music industry. I am extremely grateful to have the experience of working and watching a team develop from a lukewarm Seattle hip hop duo to the first independent, Billboard #1 Artists, VMA Winning, Grammy winning pop stars. The experience completely changed my outlook on the shift in the music industry, film industry, and entertainment as a whole.
Now a year after parting ways with the music industry, I’ve started to put together how I, as a filmmaker, can learn from new paradigm (how content is created and consumed) in the music industry. So here is my overview on the similarities between the the emerging industries of film and music and also how filmmakers can learn from the shift in the music industry.
The Wild West Of The Music Industry
Sean Parker started it and Steve Jobs branded it. For those who can remember, the 1999 wave of Napster made peer-to-peer file sharing completely accessible to the general population and allowed people to illegally download music within minutes (depending on your dial-up connection). In 2004, Steve Jobs announced Apple’s iTunes Store which catered directly to their quickly growing iPod market. Since then, Apple has dominated legal music retail and created a giant cluster-f**k in the industry. Add social media into the mix and you have an equation to explain why so many small artists have gained huge followings and signed giant record deals based off a “Do-It-Yourself” internet marketing. And thanks to my old boss, Mackle-Johnson, there’s now a giant debate regarding whether record labels are necessary to become a highly successful commercial artist.
Music & Video Streaming Services
It seems like every month we hear about new entertainment streaming services. It make sense since 2013 proved that streaming services are becoming more popular than digital music and video sales. For music streaming we have: iTunes Radio, Pandora, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Last.FM, Rdio, Google Play, and many more. For video we have: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Vimeo On Demand. I’ll be honest and say that there is more room for musicians to gain a following with streaming than filmmakers. However, I am really starting to believe more and more that Vimeo On Demand could be a format that gets filmmakers a lot of of new play. I know it’s a young, evolving approach to film distribution and consumption, but I can’t help but think that other companies will birth and adapt based on this format.
The New Paradigm: Internet & Technology
Technology has made many professional tools for both filmmakers and musicians widely accessible for dirt cheap. It’s easier than ever to make a “professional” grade album or film using very little resources. We are now seeing new entertainment created from people who would have not been able to 10 years ago. Combined with social media, you can view these new artists’ crafts within moments. And for better or for worse, this trend is not going away. Eventually everyone will have access to the same tools and only the most creative mindsets will find success.
Filmmakers Takeaway from Music
Musicians and filmmakers have different professional advantages, but overall, they are on an even playing field. However, I do believe that musicians have one large advantage. They are reaching more individual fans through social media. To make it as a creative (director, writer, cinematographer, etc) in the film industry, your work is often recognized through the collaborated work of various crew members and cast. Most successful musicians brand themselves with their bandmates or as individuals. Filmmakers constantly change their creative team and it’s not until they have name recognition that they find a unified fan base similar to musicians. My suggestion is for filmmakers to seek this type of fan base.
I have seen my fair share of crying and screaming fans before shows and backstage. It’s a strange phenomenon that I will never truly understand. But what I took away from those fans is that a true fan base can lift you up and take you to places you never thought possible. Sometimes, yes, that support can bite you in the ass. However, if you really want your film’s content to inspire thought, then you want and need those genuine fans.
I’m not saying there is a defined successful route for filmmakers to pursue a fan base like musicians. That’s up to the filmmakers and their artistic paths. However, there is one item I’ve grown to firmly believe will help filmmakers. Musicians brand themselves as artists through social media. It blows my mind that we don’t see as many auteur filmmakers with so much social media. It’s time that filmmakers start branding themselves as artists. I want to see more digital-aged auteur filmmakers.
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