Bringing a documentary to home video as an actual independent is hard. At GNP Crescendo, it is something we have been working on for several years. We want to share with people the thing we are passionate about, independent music! Pushin’ Too Hard, The Seeds music documentary has had a long journey to home video, but it is finally happening.
I definitely don’t want this to turn into a lament about all the changes that the music industry has undergone in the last several years, because I really do think that progress and change are opportunities even though they often masquerade as impediments and headaches. Change is also inevitable: the issues surrounding streaming everything right now put the early 00’s complaints about that 70c for an iTunes download in quite the new perspective.
The Struggle of Being an Independent Label
Our independent status makes the changes to the revenue flow difficult to work through without a parent company’s seed (heh) money to get things rolling. There isn’t any back-up funding for extending the festival and screening licenses into full-fledged home video permissions, which is a big part of the behind the scenes in making and most importantly, releasing a music documentary. Certainly nobody around to pay for private investigators to find the guys we had lost track of over the years and really wanted in the feature and to credit in the film
Screening the documentary in person around the country (as well as the jaunt to London, UK) was a real treat for Neil. He loved getting out among the old and new aficionados of the band and hearing what they thought of what he’d done with the material. The Q&As he did, often with producer Alec Palao, would be some of his favourite moments from the last few years. Keeping that energy up around The Seeds, their music and giving the fans what they want, is why bringing the documentary to a release was a natural next step and one Neil was so excited for!
Neil was around when his jazz icon father Gene Norman recorded The Seeds – in fact his dad asked for Neil’s recommendation on whether to sign them or not, trusting the ears of a different generation with this new-to-him sound. Which is to say that Neil has plenty of first-hand memories and stories that he loves to share, and people love to hear. It is safe to say that he’d be happy to tour this movie as his regular day job, beyond the several years he enjoyed doing so – the great turnout and response everywhere seemed to indicate it was worthwhile to keep at it.
As an independent record label, most people wear several hats and devotion to the roster of names that need attention, care, production and management can mean projects like releasing a documentary through home video can take longer than at a larger music label. However, as technology turned the industry on its head and cut the workforce all over, it also made slicker and more streamlined practices possible. We’d been necessarily downsizing for so many years that by the time the pandemic hit us all, we were well-practiced with having a small footprint and working from home. We were determined to use the isolation and extra time that came with lockdowns to bring the movie to full fruition and get it released once and for all! The cues and properties sheet for the finished product is hundreds of lines long, but we set to work shoring up, confirming and renewing.
Hitting a Speed Bump
I was about 90% done with juggling legalese and payments which made me gulp as I mailed them off, when I logged in to my Amazon Video backend account to adjust some of the details and settings that were cued up to get the documentary published on the platform. There was a new banner at the top of the page announcing that effective immediately, Amazon was no longer accepting unsolicited submission in the non-fiction category. After digesting this not-great news I considered that possibly they had become overrun with vlogs and short format material as people hustled during the pandemic, trying to monetize any way they could, so I shot off an email asking for confirmation, and describing that this was a full-on documentary with, like, Iggy Pop and The Bangles, guys. I got a canned response that just repeated the new policy. It has affected a lot of independent content producer’s plans; you can search around and hear plenty about it from many producers. We’d already run into a wall with Netflix, and although we have a good relationship with iTunes on the music side, they wanted us to have a few more features in order to use the self-service tools we enjoy on the music side.
It’s fair to say we lost a month or three to dithering at this point, but additionally, big licensors had all their staff working from home, and responses to our last outstanding requests were getting spotty. Getting your legal straight isn’t a matter of degree – it’s the one you don’t get done right that’s going to make you miserable at some point. When you don’t have a large parent company to back you, you can’t afford to make a mistake there, that will cost you in the future.. For some, we resorted to mailing checks along with an agreement and a cover letter suggesting that cashing the check constituted acceptance of the terms. That actually worked a few times and we heard back from people – pro tip for you right there. And suddenly we’re all clear and ready to go and we just don’t have a platform!
Finding The Right Platform
We were in talks with an aggregator who could push us out to dozens of streaming platforms all at once. It was tempting, but there were so many unknowns and very little certainty. They wanted their logo up front of the credits. We wouldn’t be able to control much of anything about where it was seen and how.
As an independent, we’re used to the double-edged sword of making all your own decisions and having all the control, and having the buck absolutely stop with you. By opting to sell direct with the help of Vimeo, we’ll keep that dualistic balance but also the direct connection to the people who are going to see and enjoy it. It’s past time, you’re not wrong, but it’s here, it’s been done right, and we really hope it was worth the wait! Watch The Seeds music documentary today!