What is Commercially heard is not what is Culturally happening. You can guarantee the same logic applies to music videos. The music video industry is controlled by the major distributors of Solfeo. The marketing systems that are in place force commercial products ahead of the underground artists’ work right into the hands of the consumer. How do you compete with that?
Jesse Russell Brooks is the director of an underground music video commissioned by Change Everything Music in Los Angeles, CA. Once he was on board in July 2004, the small label stuck Brooks with that exact same problem to solve.
Underground Hip Hop artists have very little money compared to the commercial giants. The standard approach for many underground Hip Hop artists is to immediately distribute a music video on the internet through venues such as Ifilm.com or often to various public access shows in America. Independent agents such as The CVC Report or Royal ‘D’ Visual Marketing can distribute for your group or label and also help you try to place a music video on network TV for about $10,000. A small price to pay for the possibility of commercial notoriety.
This article is about a film-maker who exploited an arena that would develop the value of a Hip Hop music video over the underground competition, without competing with the commercial giants. “The power of the music video has been diminished for underground artists by the commercial industry. The consumer has become too savvy to rally around a public access music show in conjunction with one or two local radio interviews and or a club performance. In my mind, there was a piece of the puzzle missing. A modern day promotional tool that would augment the value of underground Hip Hop marketing.” Jesse explained.
“The International Film Festival Circuit is an untapped marketing device for underground Hip Hop artists. Absolutely Untapped.”
In America alone there is roughly 1500 Film Festivals that promote and screen work to over 10 million audience members a year. These audiences members include music labels, film directors, video game designers and famous artists all looking for what is new in film and music. Right now, 25% of these festivals carry a music video category. The last 75% is looking for a way to develop a music video category and will make adjustments to accommodate the music video art form, Especially if it is Hip Hop.
The Spaghetti Junction Urban Film Festival is the largest predominantly black film festival in Atlanta, Georgia. I emailed them to find out what their position was concerning music videos. A representative replied, “We do not have a category for music videos anymore. We did in previous years but did not receive any entries last year. Film-makers these days have over saturated the market with shorts and documentaries. The music video submissions simply are not there to invest the time and effort to promote a category for. If the pressure was there, we would offer grants, industry support, and find the money to make it happen.”
The Film Festival Market is the point where the needs of the underground Hip Hop artists and the underground film director can both be met. Festivals offer grants and cash prizes, merit initiatives, industry jobs, interviews, contacts and free advertising for the film-makers as well as the artists. Judges may be very important or distinguished industry professionals who make themselfs available to the film makers and artists. Local and national major players such as production studio executives and radio DJ’s are often in the audience. If they are not, you may be encourages to invite them with an endorsement from the festival director. Film makers and Musicians participate in talk backs in front of large audiences. There are areas for free shameless advertisement and a lobby for impulse sales. Local music stores and book shops participate to boost their image and products to the community. The film festival circuit is the missing link to underground Hip Hop marketing.
The film festival circuit is unspoiled by any impression of what Hip Hop should look like or sound like. It is the opportunity for underground rap artists and their directors to not only increase their audience, but to also share words and visuals that would normally get us stamped as “ Too Art house” or “Too Conscience” or “To Radical” or “To Controversial” by commercial outlets. Film festivals are made up of consumers and professionals looking towards the next creative move outside of the commercial world that may eventually broaden it.
“My goal is to not only influence film makers to start shooting music videos for the festival circuit, but to also influence underground Hip Hop artists to make music videos and begin using the film festival circuit.” Brooks has started an advocacy to influence festivals to add a music video category. The Queens International Film Festival has asked him to help develop their 2005 fall season with a music video category. This is the opportunity for festival directors to widen their economy and Hip Hop artists to broaden their playground. Brooks predicts that local bar bands and underground Hip Hop groups will eventually flood the America festival market with enough underground Rock, Jazz, Punk, and Hip Hop music videos that the category may begin to split into genres. Turning what use to be a venue to discover film-makers into one for discovering musicians as well.
“This is a Magic Bullets that could gentrify underground hip hop and forge a way for these passionate, intelligent, articulate, young gifted and black artists to express themselves in a market that does not have to compete with the stereotypical, commercially controlled musical kingpins.”
With in the past 6 months , ILLCOM’s music video “The Uprising” directed by Jesse Russell Brooks has received 11 awards and over $4000 dollars in cash grants from film festivals in America and abroad. The video has been screened in over 20 festivals in 2004 and is presently pending in over 45 festival competitions and 5 invited screenings for 2005. ILLCOM has sold more the 10,000 units and is pending a national tour Fall 2005. The Video Link is listed below.