I wrote earlier about a movie called 800 CDs, which tells how one indie musician managed to empty the boxes full of CDs from his living room. Now here’s a review from the indie musician that I live with, Ukelilli (a.k.a. Lillian Parker)…
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I’m a novelty musician, and I’m starting to think about embiggening my promotions. John sent me a link to the movie 800 CDs, a documentary about a man in a similar position. Chris Valenti has just recorded his first CD and gotten 1000 copies printed. After having sold a few, and given a way a bunch, he is left with 800 copies of his pride and joy in boxes stacked in his living room. This made me laugh, because I have a similar situation happening in my apartment (with my 5th album). This doc claimed it would answer my questions, and as it was not available on Netflix, I decided it might be worth it to shell out $30 for it. (You get a soundtrack CD, too. Value add, right?)
It was really awful with a handful of redeeming qualities, none of which will really entertain the average viewer. Chris Valenti produced, wrote, edited, and directed this movie, which is something a non-filmmaker maybe just shouldn’t do. The titles were frequently cut off (outside of the ‘title safe’ portion of the screen), the video and audio quality was wavering and generally bad, and movie as a whole had no real beginning middle and end.
The movie features Tim Sweeney, an ex-record exec turned indie marketing consultant. Hearing his advice was frequently useful, but I felt like we weren’t getting the whole spiel. Continue reading about 800 CDs…For example, he suggests that you never send out a press kit, but instead send out an “Artist’s Package,” which, from what he was saying, just sounded like a creative version of a press kit. It involves a Bio (which should be detailed and personal), a copy of the CD, Song Insights (a paragraph about the personal background of each and every song), and a Retail One Sheet. This all sounded like great
advice, but I don’t know what a retail one sheet is and they never explained it, except to have Tim Sweeney say, “And don’t just copy someone else’s format, because then it will get thrown away.” Well great. From watching this movie, the only prayer I have of creating this ‘retail one sheet’ is to copy the one they’ve shown on screen because no one has ever told me what it is. Great.
Tim Sweeney sounds like a really inspiring guy, so the first thirty minutes, in which he was featured heavily, was good. But then Chris has us following him trying out all of Sweeney’s suggested tactics and really making them come off as lame. Too much of the movie was devoted to promoting other struggling musicians (did they support the budget?). This climaxed in a montage of pictures of missing people, which is a crusade of a particular singer-songwriter whose sister disappeared. After that, there was a twenty-minute chunk all about Chris’ two city tour. I didn’t watch this movie to see this. I watched it to find out amazing industry secrets! And suddenly, Chris is saying, “Hey, check it out — it worked! They’re all gone!” All his CDs are gone. Where did they all go? How? I had no idea…
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I have to agree with Lillian that the self-promotion component overwhelmed the informational component at the end. 800 CDs seemed to be as much an advertisement for marketing guru Tim Sweeney as it did for Chris Valenti and his musician friends. I had a strong aversion to Valenti himself, who actually should be more savvy about filmmaking, since he is an actor, and since he wrote, financed and directed an indie feature before making this documentary. The movie was called Sensitive Johnson and it made light of a man who suffers from premature ejaculation. Valenti’s songs seem equally sophomoric. (The track ‘Booty Call’ is described as his “new approach to dating.”) On the other hand, you could choose to be inspired from his quest. If this guy can appeal to enough people to sell his CDs, any musician with an ounce of appeal should be able to do the same.
Ukelilli on MySpace