Alt-J’s “Breezeblocks” video was created via Radar Music Videos’ innovative platform
midemblog: Why did you set up Radar Music Videos?
Caroline Bottomley: I love music videos. I was looking out for a business way to connect people, as I used to be a promoter and loved putting on new talent to an appreciative crowd. I saw an opportunity to connect directors with labels and artists in what was an extremely protected, gate-keepered industry. In 2007, it was difficult to work as a music video director outside London, New York or Los Angeles. Even if you did live in the right city, if you hadn’t been to the right art school or didn’t already know anyone working in music videos, it was almost impossible to break into music video production. It was a rarified world.
Radar was an idea at the right time. Social sites like MySpace and YouTube where coming into their own and that, combined with falling costs of video production, led to a blossoming of new music video directors. That environment also facilitated an explosion of bands who were generating their own fanbase and their own revenue streams outside the label system. So by 2007, there were a lot of new and talented directors, and a lot of new bands with their own funds. And a load of record labels without much money. Online video became an artform in its own right, based around clever, eye-catching and quirky, low-cost ideas.
> What’s different about commissioning music videos through Radar?
Broadly, there are 4 ways to commission music videos:
1. The traditional way is to work with specialist music video production companies. This used to be the only way to get a promo and it’s still the best way by far to commission larger budget videos ($15k plus). Production companies give full support and liaison all the way through, using in-house directors. Larger labels pretty much only work with these specialist companies and they employ in-house video commissioners to oversee the process.
2. Friends of the band/the band themselves. A very common approach, usually for one of these reasons:
– The director shares a strong artistic vision because they’re in the band already or in the same close group of friends.
– No budget – the band/artist are calling in favours.
– Lack of contacts – the band/artist don’t know anyone else who makes music videos.
It can generate fantastic results (see Hold Your Horses’ hugely popular video, made by the band) or be a source of misery because ’it’s a favour’ – eg the director’s never free, the director does a dreadful job, unexpectedly money is needed, etc.
3. Competitions. There are quite a lot of competition-based sites. Many of them hit the wall whilst the competition business model was getting worked out – competitions are risky and so can put off experienced directors. Nowadays, prizes (ie cost to band/label) are not high – $5k is not unusual, but sites do tend to work with better-known bands and artists as the main attraction for directors. Some competition sites also help promote videos.
4. Pitch-based sites. Labels/bands/artists post their brief on the site and directors submit pitches online direct to the label/band/artist. It mimics specialist production companies, where labels commission on the strength of written treatments, but operates with much lower budgets, typically $800-$5k. As far as we know, Radar is the only site with this approach. Radar also helps to promote videos.
> What wins have Radar had recently?
Many great videos have originated in Radar and collectively they’ve racked up many millions of YouTube views. The best videos have enabled the label/band to secure some great premieres and features, including MTV, Huffington Post, Pitchfork, Laughing Squid, Q, AllMusic and many more.
One recent Radar video hit was for UK indie band Alt-J (above). The video for Breezeblocks single was made by a New Yorker, Ellis Bahl. Ellis was an experienced corporate and shorts director, he’d made great MTV stings, but not many music videos. Thanks to the video he made, Infectious Music (Alt-J’s label) got the video premiered on DazedDigital, one of the big 4 UK music blogs. The video has since featured on probably hundreds of blogs, and Ellis has been signed to a prestigious production company.
Another recent video I love is by UK photographer-turned-director, Emile Rafael. He made a beautiful, understated video for Swedish artist Saturday, Monday. The mighty PopJustice blog described the video as “bursting with warmth and loveliness”, and again the video is doing great promo for the band and label.
> What are your future plans?
We’re continuing to focus on getting great connections made to get great music videos. It’s usually down to a few key variables – attracting great tracks, attracting great directors and crucially, encouraging labels and bands to post attractive budgets. The minimum budget on Radar is $800, but briefs are more likely to pull in really hot directors if they’ve got budgets of $3k and above. There’s a really clear correlation between the size of budget and the number and quality of directors who respond, so as ever, our job is about making the case for spending the budget. If an artist has a great video it’s so much easier to premieres and features. If it’s not a great video, well, premieres and features aren’t going to happen.
We’re also developing ‘lyrics video’ commissioning. It’s a solution for labels and bands who want quality videos for album and EP tracks and who don’t want the bother and cost of commissioning pure promos.
Finally, we’re getting more personal relationships going with the bigger music blogs, to help get the great music videos more promotion. It’s all about the videos and keeping our clients happy. So we’re always trying new things…