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Archive for October, 2013

Patronage for the Arts

Someone asked me earlier this year to finish the sentence, “2013: The Year of _____.”  My response, “2013: The Year of Video.”  Of course, with most of the year  behind us now, some may disagree with my a priori assessment, but I had three trends in mind that still seem to be signaling something:

  • Facebook is no longer cool.  It suffers from the same problem as your mother’s  jeans.  Instagram has become the new platform for youth culture.  A whole generation is learning to communicate as much in images as words.  Proof point #2: Snapchat.
  • The launch of Instagram Video sent a shockwave through social networks.  Poor Vine.  Now that some of the initial buzz has worn off, Instagram Video seems more incremental than revolutionary, but regardless, the short-form video continues to hold allure and encourage experimentation among both consumers and businesses.
  • Product placements aren’t just for Hollywood anymore.  Talenthouse has built a platform for promotional campaigns that can tap the long tail of digital media creatives.  Multi-channel YouTube networks have launched services like Fullscreen’s Gorilla and Maker Studios’ MakerMADE, and new tools, such as Fuisz, are emerging to enable more monetization options from video interactivity.

At a time when marketers are throwing around buzzwords like “authenticity” and “engagement,” online video has become one of the most attractive channels for reaching consumers (and I don’t mean YouTube channels).  Could video also hold the promise of a fair shake in the Internet age for artists?

The music video for Hood Party by Fat Tony provides an excellent illustration for what I have in mind.  What if Fat Tony had been able to connect with Google before making that video?  This is a company already paying to promote products like Google+, Google Hangout, and Google Music at music festivals and other events.  It’s a safe bet the company would also have been willing to pay something see their product appear in that video (along with H-town’s Bun B) instead the fictitious “Froogal.”

Fat Tony may not be the biggest name in hip hop, but he has a unique voice and a persona to which his fans can relate to better than some mega-Hova-superstar.  That’s authentic, and for the audience he reaches, it drives more substantive engagement than anything Kanye West can offer.

Nonetheless, Tony’s audience remains relatively small.  It’s too costly for Google to seek out, identify and negotiate deals with enough artists like Tony to reach a compellingly large audience.  What if someone else could aggregate those audiences instead and facilitate the transaction like a clearing house at a stock exchange?

As the means of production have become more accessible, creative stars have proliferated.  Even though their individual luminosity may be modest at best, as constellations they could be brighter than any other one star alone.  Surely there is a viable business for anyone who can broker the relationships and lower the transaction costs from connecting brands and all those creatives.  Corporate sponsorship, however unappealing that may sound, could be the new patronage for the digital era.

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