Ropeadope is a record label named after Muhammad Ali’s famous boxing tactic (in all its glory here, but not to be confused with this). The company started in 1999, made waves last year by switching to near-exclusive digital distribution, and has also expanded into clothing, concert promotion, and online community building.
It’s all par for the course in this era of brand complements and extensions, and the Ropeadope vets have certainly learned a lot about what works across genres ranging from hip-hop to experimental jazz over the past eight years (one of the founders, Andy Blackman Hurwitz, has even branched out into diverse, kid-oriented music that won’t drive parents nuts).
Ropeadope TV seemed like a bit more of a stretch, especially after observing that a significant amount of its content is rather unexciting collections of YouTube videos. The selection of original footage from staff at the All Good Festival last year is better, and it makes sense given the label’s concert promotion arm and focus on indie appeal. For example, here are the founders giving their own circuitous, transparent explanation of the Ropeadope name:
But if RAD TV aims to become a distinct destination, instead of just a time-waster for visitors to other parts of the site, it will need to find more contributions from original filmmakers like the two series there now – 7 of 7 and Keeping the Lights On.
The former is a documentary by Dan Canyon of a band escaping to the South of France to record. It’s slow burning, in a good way if your attention span isn’t too shot, and there’s always something compelling about observing creative processes at work (even a cricket named Edward takes a starring role).
And of course, the film is perfect for Ropeadope music nut audience, which might forgive the occasional choppy editing sequence or superfluous scene. The fit’s less obvious for Danny Powell’s series Keeping the Lights On (see blog here), which documents the varied, far-flung day jobs that proverbial ‘starving artists’ keep to support themselves. However, the work’s clean, detailed, interview-oriented style is ideal for capturing artists’ tales of unconventional work and should draw in audiences of any background. The first two episodes tell the story of a Brooklyn visual artist who restores church statues to get by. Here’s installment one:
Powell promises to expand the series to all kinds of artists who have “day jobs” of some sort, while also providing a basis for a community of all creatives, aspiring or otherwise, and those who admire their work. It is certainly a vibrant theme (Studio 360 explored it recently as well) with plenty of potential for establishing exciting connections.
Powell also has plans to turn the series into a full-length documentary at some point, though he is pleased with Ropeadope’s commitment to allowing the series to grow week by week and believes that it was meant to get its start online, which makes sense, given the buzz it could generate amongst the Freelance Switch or artsy Tumblr crowds.
While it might not have the scale of the recently-launched YouTube Screening Room, Ropeadope TV’s efforts to build and further engage its artistic, indie audience with original, well-chosen online video are certainly on track. It’s not the first label or small artistic outfit to latch on to this trend by any means, but fortunately there’s a lot of video territory to grab at out there. If the content thrills, there are audiences eager to watch.