I love Vimeo.
Around 18 months ago we rebuilt our site using Vimeo as our player. Before this we were using Wiredrive. Their website boldly declares that Wiredrive puts your media to work. It actually doesn’t. It creates conversations like this.
‘Hi, it’s **** calling from Bungle-Bartle-Boss-Boss-Abbott-Steve-DDBCDEFG. Your website doesn’t work. It won’t play.’
‘I’m so sorry to hear that. If it’s not too much of an imposition, may I ask what browser you’re using?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You know. How do you get on the tinternets? Firefox, Safari, Chrome? You get me?’
‘Oh I see. Let me have a look. I’m not very good at computers. Ah yes. Here it is. Internet Explorer.’
‘Ok safe. Do you know if you’ve updated it recently?’
‘Well I was having some problems, so I called the IT Help Desk six years ago, but they still haven’t got back to me.’
Yes. This shit doesn’t happen anymore. Vimeo is a far more stable player. Whatever horrendous, atavistic browser you’re using, you can still watch our work. Since we switched to Vimeo we haven’t had a single complaint.
And then last week two of our videos were disabled as a result of copyright infringement claims by record companies. We were notified by Vimeo without any prior contact from the Labels concerned. Nothing. No courtesy email. No conversation. Just the old Major Label iron curtain. Computer says fuck you. None of this is of course Vimeo’s fault. As they exist in the public domain they are bound by DMCA guidelines, which give third parties the right to flag content they feel has been mis-appropriated. I have no issue with this. The thing that makes me wanna punch walls, is the dogmatic, myopic, one-size-fits-all, bumbaclut, wrong-headed, niggardly approach employed by the Business Affairs teams at Majors.
The story goes like this. I had it drilled into me for six years. Given that all other barometers of an artist’s traction have been gradually eroded, Youtube views are everything. Under no circumstances can you cannibalise your view count. All traffic must be driven to ONE Official Youtube file. Labels hire people to monitor what’s being uploaded across the various platforms and then flag any Unofficial files that they might find. The trouble is that Vimeo uploads by companies who actually make the videos, often with a great investment of time, energy and money, innocently seeking to promote their efforts, often get killed in the crossfire.
Even my mum knows that Youtube is a faulty gauge of potential success because it’s free. For every Ed Sheeran there are a hundred Kreayshawns, who after 40 million views on Youtube, sold 4900 copies of her album in its first week of release. No shit. Views don’t equal sales. It’s impossible to distinguish between the curious viewer who stumbled on your video, a crack-head fan who <3 <3 <3s your video and watches it a hunnert times an hour, and someone who might actually buy the fucking record.
Somesuch & Co don’t have a sales rep. We put any surplus resources back into the work. Sally and I spend hours, evenings, weekends, holidays, writing this garbage because we genuinely give a shit about the company we’ve created, we’re proud of the work, and we want as many people as possible to see it. There’s no hidden management consultant. No branding expert. Just our voice. Some people love it. Other people really hate it. That’s how it goes. We make no apologies. But thanks to communities like Vimeo, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook we’ve been able to build an audience and disseminate the work more widely than we’d ever dreamed. Surely this is to the advantage of artists and record labels? Who knows, while our audience is small and niche, it might actually want to pay for some of the music we expose them to? Believe it or not we are quite good at marketing. Yet the music industry, in monotheistic thrall to Youtube, seems bent on denying itself these opportunities like some crazed ascetic. It’s weird. Almost perverse.
No one wins when our videos get flagged: I have to call someone in the Video Department, who is underpaid and overworked, who in turn has to call someone in Marketing, who is underpaid and overworked, who then has to call an intern in Business Affairs, who isn’t paid at all and overworked, who subsequently has to call the Head of Business Affairs, who is paid a huge salary and is overworked devising ever more vile ways of exploiting artists - like the Expanded Rights Rape euphemistically known as the 360 deal. This process can take up to three weeks. Round and round the merry go round.
The most frustrating thing is that it’s not really anyone’s fault. In these fragmented, straightened times, companies need nimble, flexible structures, but despite their best efforts, the Majors are still set up to get a billion Robbie Williams CDs onto the shelves of Tescos. Well I guess it worked in the 90s. Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes on Kensington High Street will tell you: trying to do anything in a Label is like trying to turn an oil tanker. A nuanced response to anything is impossible. One-size-fits-all.
I guess all I’m saying is Think Before You Flag.
It’s all love. I’m just strung out. Being a parent means you get up earlier than Greggs.
See you at the UK MVAs on Thursday. We’ve got 23 nominations.