Music videos are perhaps the pinnacle commercial form of video art – forever testing boundaries and pushing cinematic techniques with always-distinctive styles and often obtuse symbolism.

The democratization of the means of video production AND now the lines of distribution have opened the gates of music video creation to a whole new class of hyper-creative and highly motivated young creators. But, amidst the deafening noise of prolific internet-age creativity, these works of art often go unnoticed in the ether.

So, who better to harness the power of this growing community and give these videos a home than the people who championed the music video in the first place with the original launch of MTV. Enter $99 Music Videos.

Next New Networks (a new media founded by MTV’s first ever creative director, Fred Seibert) teamed up with Jack Ferry (creator of viral comedy award-winning short Knock Knock) and Melissa Schneider (producer of Michael Eisner’s The All-For-Nots) to create $99 Music Videos, an online music network that connects the next generation of filmmakers with emerging bands to create original music videos for only $99.

Every Tuesday the networks will air “Making of” videos to introduce the band, director, and see how the video was made. Then on Thursdays, they’ll premier the latest music video made for under $99!

We had the pleasure of talking to Jack, Melissa and Next New Networks’ Head of Entertainment, Tim Shey, about the concept, it’s challenges and its future…

But first, the concept in their words….

And the resulting genius…


Tilzy.TV: What inspired the concept for $99 Music Videos?

JACK FERRY, CREATOR & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:
It all came about because of “Knock Knock.” It’s a comedy sketch I made with some buddies of mine one evening. We posted it online (YouTube, Myspace) and it got Millions of views. We spent like 40 bucks on it!

I always wanted to make music videos, so this gave me an idea.

What if we took cost out of the equation, made it more of a creative CHALLENGE?

Can we still make something cool if we could only spend 99 dollars?

I chose $99 because (I don’t know, for some reason) $100 sounds like
real money and $99 doesn’t. It’s just enough to get something made.

From this, “$99 Music Videos” was born.

Tilzy.TV: What does $99 include? I can’t rent a camera for less than that! You must be providing SOMETHING on top of that??!?

JACK FERRY, CREATOR & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:
You certainly can’t! Typically, the filmmaker provides the video gear and the band provides the instruments.

In this day and age, it seems almost everyone has access to a video camera and a computer (which you can use to edit on). You can use any type of camera, get creative. One filmmaker made a video using stills from his digital camera.

Can’t afford to rent lights? Use the sun!

Incidentally, we shot some stuff with La Strada indoors, but it didn’t really work in the edit. So, I’m taking my own advice, here. That whole video uses the sun as our light source. For our “playback” device, we used my video iPod and my boombox.

Tilzy.TV: Tell me a bit about the process of pairing filmmakers with musicians.

MELISSA SCHNEIDER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:
Jack and I have been scouting bands ever since CMJ. We’ve probably seen about 70 or 80 live bands in the last several months. I’m not exaggerating! But since you’ll typically catch 3 or 4 bands per show, it actually adds up pretty quickly.

When we spot a band we like, we approach them. Most of the them get the concept, love the idea, and jump right in.

Then, we meet with the band personally, figure out the type of video they want, then pair them with the appropriate director.

Because we went to NYU (Jack studied film there, I studied Theatre), we know tons of filmmakers. Plus, Next New Networks employs tons of filmmakers and animators. So, we have a huge variety of talent.

Outside of that, we’ve been contacting filmmakers whose work we’ve spotted on the web, in order to extend that network. But it’s all been growing very organically.

And now that the website has launched, and we don’t need to keep the project “secret,” it should be a lot easier to get new talent involved.

Tilzy.TV: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced getting the production off the ground?

JACK FERRY, CREATOR & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:
As it turns out, making a cool music video for only 99 bucks is hard!

For instance, for the La Strada video, I really wanted to do something thematically linked to Ellis Island immigrants. (I don’t know. It just works with their sound.)

Anyway, I couldn’t rent a boat, obviously. So, we bought tickets on the Ellis Island / Liberty Island Ferry. Only 12 bucks!

Then, we kinda had to act like tourists shooting a home video on the boat and at the islands. It was a bit guerilla-style. We didn’t apply for permits.

We did get shut down (briefly) while shooting in front of the Statue of Liberty. But once we filled out a permit form, they let us get back to shooting. They were really awesome about it, actually. It didn’t even cost a penny for the permit!

We never would’ve gotten away with that if we had a big crew. But we used a small camera and there were only three of us (four, if you count Melissa, who was shooting the Behind-the-Scenes), so we didn’t look too suspicious.

Tilzy.TV: Does this concept ever get tired? What will keep me coming back each week for more?

MELISSA SCHNEIDER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:

We will feature unique, creative music videos every week. With our variety of filmmakers and bands, I hope it’ll never get tired.

The thing is, it isn’t about the money. It’s about the creativity of the videos. Since all the filmmakers and bands are so talented, every video will be a uniquely cool experience.

Tilzy.TV: The press release touts the fact that this concept was “developed by the same creative mind that made MTV rock (Fred Seibert).” What will you borrow from the old model of MTV, and how does the web make this? What does Next New Networks bring to the table?

TIM SHEY, NEXT NEW NETWORKS:

All of the right things were really there in Jack’s idea from the start, and so the Next New Networks team brought all of that additional thinking — the things that have worked for our networks to date, our experience building communities, our distribution and promotional capabilities, and our creative ideas around interactivity — to the idea of a music videos network. What’s different this time around is that we have the Internet. There’s a huge community of filmmakers and musicians online, not to mention music fans, that we can tap into and really serve with this network. If we do this well,
they’ll become the biggest marketers, distributors, and contributors to this network.

Tilzy.TV: You mentioned that this will become a social network/market for filmmakers and musicians. What sorts of interactive elements will facilitate this community?

TIM SHEY, NEXT NEW NETWORKS:
We hope that it could — and if we see the kind of response we hope for, we’ll be adding features to facilitate that. We’ll have more to say on that soon, but right now we’re concentrating on the launch and making sure the network builds a great audience.
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