Branded Content, TELUS, & The Future Of The Arts

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The last 20 years have brought big changes in the way entertainment media gets funded, consumed and created.

17 Years ago P2P transfers, Napster, Limewire, and other services, forever changed the way music was consumed and funded (or not).

15 Years ago iTunes set a path for a new way forward, sure the money wasn’t as good as CDs but people were buying music again. Maybe not albums, but songs!

12 Years ago The Pirate Bay and other torrent sites launched and sent the world of film into the same situation as music. Huge files were being moved around quickly and no one was getting paid.

9 Years ago Netflix changed everything about how people consume movies & TV by launching on demand streaming.

9 Years ago YouTube launched their Partners program and made creating free video content, supported by ads, a viable income source for creators.

5 Years ago Spotify went global and streaming music began to spread. Moving people further away from purchase and even deeper into singles over albums.

5 Years ago Kickstarter launched, bringing crowdfunding into the mainstream.

3 Years ago Patreon got people thinking about crowd-funding in a brand new way, brining ongoing support and subscriptions to the forefront.

Changes like these are now the norm, and they just keep coming faster and faster. The ones listed above barely start to scratch the surface of all the changes we have all faced and each and every one means adjustments and each changes the landscape for those of us who work in the arts.

I don’t believe that any of the above changes are “bad”, in fact overall this is best time in history as far as how many of us can enjoy the privilege of creating for the world, however ever-changing markets are always risky places to build a business. When your income streams are constantly shifting you need certain consistent elements that allow you to adapt and survive. Everyone who has done a lot of theatre, concerts or other live events knows this. The better you know your script or set list, the more you can adapt and improvise with the inevitable changes that occur in a live environment. If we want to move forward with any confidence, there needs to be an anchor, a script, a proven structure that allows us to take better and better risks on the shifting elements.

However, as we have discussed the last 20 years have been pretty volatile! So, what’s left? To find it, we have to look a little further back, to something that has been going on for centuries. For as long as there have been humans there has been art, for as long as there has been art someone had to “fund” it, unfortunately (as essential as it is to culture), creative entertainment doesn’t fill your belly, someone else has to help with that. The wealthy have to help with that. For centuries that was individual patrons (wealthy business owners, royalty, land owners, etc.) and sometimes it still is, but unless you are really lucky you probably don’t have a rich uncle who wants to fund your band just for kicks. We need people we can offer value to.

Before the advent of 30 second spots most TV and radio was “Brought to you by” a single sponsor or maybe a pair. These companies would fund the creation of programming in exchange for prominent advertising. Audiences knew who was paying the bills, and they were cool with that. It costs money to make good things.

I firmly believe we are headed back into that world, and WHY NOT! When done right it provides far more exposure for the brand than a traditional advertising (that are often skipped, muted or ignored) and helps creators make great projects. Not just an opportunity to make ads, the best branded content lets creators follow their own unique visions. And guess what? Audiences are cool with it. I was more than happy to hear about MailChimp bringing me Serial, I’m glad to see Acura making it possible for me to watch Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, and honestly my  interest only grows when I see brands that are innovative enough to help bring us great content and support people with creative ideas!

Which brings me to TELUS’ STORYHIVE (I’m not shouting, they are always written in capitals). I am obviously biased because through this program I have had the chance to produce a short film and direct a music video, however I can’t say enough good things about it. Not only have I seen some of my projects made, I have had the chance to watch some GREAT stuff from directors & producers I probably would have missed without it! The deal is, they let us make almost anything we want, we own it and we help spread the brand. If that’s not a win/win, I honestly don’t know what is!

So please, if you own a company that is trying to decide how to spend their next round of ad dollars, or have other financing to use creatively (STORYHIVE is how TELUS allocates it’s CRTC mandated community programming fund, and how TELUS chooses to support local creators.), consider some well branded content, I can give you tons of examples and even connect you with some great artists if you need help!

If you are an artist looking to stabilize your business and grow, approach a business, help them move into this market, it truly is a win for all of us and for our culture at large. I can even fire you over some really solid stats if you need help with your pitch!

To see some of the great work that comes out of STORYHIVE here is our latest music video:

and some other favourites of mine!