I didn’t know who Aloe Blacc was going into this series. Apparently he’s been called “an indie R. Kelly,” a soulful singer-musician-emcee from the O.C. with a loyal cadre of admiring fans. But jumping into the indie music web series The Craft, I can see the appeal.
That’s one of the great secrets of this emerging medium—that web series are discovery tools—grabbing us wherever we are in our on the web and pulling us into other worlds. These are deep dives. The ten-minute episodes are longer than traditional MTV-style jump-cut flyovers, bringing out a fuller, much richer story behind each musician.
Launched over a year ago, The Craft is a labor of love series, not aggressively pumping out episodes to fill pages and keep eyeballs on site, but to tell stories. These are the stories that take time, and the creators want to tell them with style. That, and they have day jobs. So far three full episodes have been released, with a few interview episodes in between. Another is planned for release within a week or so.
I spoke to creator Trevor Smith, who’s day job doing motion graphics at a major TV network comes in handy with the series. “We have to sort of be flexible about how much time we have to work on things,” said Smith. “I’ve always mandated that we won’t finish an episode until we think it’s done – at the level it deserves.”
Smith calls the series “a show for people who really, really like shows.” He added, “it’s something that is of high quality that has something interesting and engaging. We’re not TMZ. We’re going to give you something that is a short-form, broadcast quality show.” Smith produced the series along with his wife Stephanie Luciano-Smith and his DP, Mat Lucas.
Talking to Smith, it’s clear he’s picked his passion for his subject. “It’s the community that I come from,” said Smith. “I’ve been a DJ for 15 years and I’ve played music and worked with a lot of musicians in LA for years. I want to give people who don’t have a record deal a voice—getting out the ‘this is who I am as artist.'”
I asked about what would happen should there be interest from a major brand or perhaps a television network. Would it change, go more mainstream? “The Craft will stay for independent artists,” Smith replied. “The only way it will get sponsorship is if the brand is willing to support that. I don’t want to sell it out.”
Maybe it’s that refreshingly polished yet independent essence that make The Craft so intriguing. Smith & Co. artfully weave together stories of music and the creative process with the artists’ own stories. The stories have a plenty of greenfield value, even more than a year later as new viewers stumble upon the episodes. As Smith puts it, “you’re creating a much longer brand stamp than just one momement in time.”
Sometimes you can’t help but go along for the ride. I tracked down Aloe Blacc’s underground college track “I Love USC (And I Hate UCLA)” which made waves back in 1999. That’s when you know a web series is on to something, kicking off some further digging. And with music, that’s where the good stuff lies.