You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ze Frank’s BuzzFeed Video Studio Shows Musicians How It’s Done

At the Code/Media Conference at the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point, Calif., Walt Mossberg, Kara Swisher and the rest of the refugees from the Wall Street Journal have come to make money for themselves. That’s the mantra of the Internet … DIY until the big boys take over, and it all solidifies.

BuzzFeed has a movie studio. It started with two people; now it’s got 160 and a four-acre campus. It’s run by Ze Frank. I Googled him while he spoke. Turns out he went to Brown and studied science. There are exceptions, but those who learn how to analyze and scope the entire landscape win in the end.

So BuzzFeed makes 50 movies a week — 5,000 so far. They’re all over YouTube and Facebook, and they’re all about playing and learning and/or making money.

That’s what Ze said you do — learn or make money. If neither happens, you never do it again. And there’s no bitching allowed.

Bitching has taken over the music business narrative. We’re our own worst enemy, constantly decrying tech and the public and anybody else who refuses to allow us to do it the way we used to in the pre-Internet era.

Of course it’s hard to write a great song. And no one cares about a good song. But the truth is, access is easier than ever, allowing you to experiment until you gain traction. So put it up on YouTube and see if it sticks. And if it doesn’t, do it again. And again. Failure is the route to success.

Of course tech has infiltrated the means to production in music. People love being able to make it at home. They just hate that everyone won’t listen and pay them millions.

BuzzFeed doesn’t do it like the old studios. There’s no separation of functions, because the younger generation knows how to do everything. They know how to write, shoot and edit. You just set them free. Meanwhile, the music business is run by old men who want to keep doing it the old way. If you turned over the business to the under-30s, it would be much better. Make them the heads of labels. Because when you have a blank slate, nothing is off limits, nothing is off the table.

Frank created a movie studio out of whole cloth. And he knows it’s not like Warners or Paramount; it’s about virality. Subscribers are a fraction of those who see clips — commenters even smaller.

If you’re in the creation business, you’ve got to be an optimist. You’ve got to see the new tools as an opportunity, not a deterrent. You’ve got to know there’s no center and no cohesion. You’re building your own network; none of the old ones reach everybody. If you want someone to rescue you, you’re toast.

It’s a whole new world. Everybody is multitalented with numerous skills. But in music, one person sings, another writes and another plays and/or produces. Is that a recipe for success?

No, success is about capturing lightning in a bottle: Lorde at home recording off the grid. It’s about throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks.

Polishing albums for years that get a month’s worth of publicity and a weekend’s worth of play is not how you do it anymore. Now you create. Marketing is passe, too slow, too old school. It’s about doing as opposed to selling. It’s about finding out who you are, and reacting to the reception as opposed to trying to get the public to conform.

There’s not one public, there are many.

And the best and the brightest — those with insight and gumption — are triumphing.

If you’re complaining, you’re losing.

More Voices

  • Stock market Stock buyback

    Stock Buybacks Leave Firms Without Funds to Invest in Future (Column)

    Corporate giants on the S&P 500 have spent more than $720 billion during the past year on stock buybacks. Media and entertainment firms account for only a fraction of that spending, but even $1 million spent on share repurchases seems a foolhardy expenditure at this transformational moment for the industry. The record level of spending [...]

  • Hollywood Has Come Far With Diversity

    An Insider's Look at Hollywood's Diversity Efforts and How Far It Still Needs to Go

    I am a white man working in Hollywood. I grew up in Beverlywood, an all-white, predominantly Jewish, Los Angeles neighborhood sandwiched between 20th Century Fox Studios and MGM, where my elementary school had only one black student. I am compelled to write about diversity in Hollywood because “diversity” — in front of and behind the camera [...]

  • Venice Film Festival A Star is

    How Venice, Toronto and Telluride Festivals Stole Cannes' Luster (Column)

    In all the years I’ve been attending film festivals, I have never seen a lineup that looked as good on paper as Venice’s did this fall, boasting new films by Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), Damien Chazelle (“First Man”), Paul Greengrass (“22 July”), Mike Leigh (“Peterloo”) and the Coen brothers (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”) in competition, [...]

  • Black Women in Medicine BTS

    Hollywood Needs to Include People With Disabilities on Both Sides of the Camera (Guest Column)

    In five years, nothing has changed. Despite open calls for greater diversity and inclusion, recent research shows that there was little change in the number of characters with disabilities in popular films in 2017. A study conducted by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that [...]

  • Seven Seconds

    Fighting the Racial Bias at the Core of Hollywood’s Cop Shows (Guest Column)

    If fiction is the lie that tells a deeper truth, the TV crime genre has been, for the most part, the lie that simply tells a lie. As a storyteller (Veena) and an advocate for racial justice (Rashad), we collaborated for the past two-and-a-half years in an attempt to reimagine the roles of cops, victims, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content