Rolling Stone story: ‘Genero.TV and fan-sourced music videos’, November 2009

Here’s my second story for Rolling Stone, from the December 2009 issue. It’s 600 words on an Australian website called Genero.TV, which allows fans to create music videos for bands for a chance to become their official video, and win $4000. The article was illustrated by Simon Noynay.

Story below – click for full-sized version.

Rolling Stone article, December 2009: fan-sourced music videos, by Andrew McMillen

The Future of the Music Video

Fans making official film clips for their favourite bands – is it sharing the love or just a way for artists to get something for nothing? By Andrew McMillen

There was a time when a major artist could easily drop a few million on a music video; from Michael Jackson’s amazing $7 million “Scream” to more restrained efforts like the Gunners’ $1.5 million “November Rain”. These days, of course, it’s very different, and a modern classic like OK Go’s aerobic masterpiece “Here It Goes Again” is proof that even if you don’t have a budget, a good idea can go a long way.

But what if you’ve got no cash and no big idea? Well, there is a solution. Melbourne-based website lets bands post new songs online and then have fans create videos for them. Submissions are judged by the bands and fans alike and the winning entrant becomes an officially approved, internationally distributed music video. The winning clip from each round also receives a $4,000 cash prize. launched its first round of songs in September this year with the support of 17 artists, including British electronic act Unkle and New York reggae group Easy Star All-Stars and an Australian contingent of artists includes The Temper Trap, hip-hoppers Hermitude, and up-and-coming Sydney-based indie rock band Bridezilla.

“As a musician, it’s refreshing to engage with new people on a creative level,” she Bridezilla guitarist Pia May Courtley, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the role-reversal (and collaboration) between bands and fans. “There’s lots of people out there with great ideas making viral videos anyway. If anything, these people aren’t governed by ‘what sells’, so their ideas end up being more genuine.”

For young artists, the Genero approach makes perfect sense, tapping into a movement that is old hat to every kid on the planet. As Elgusto of Blue Mountains hip-hop duo Hermitude reasons, “Our fans have been uploading YouTube videos set to our music for years, so we’re well aware of the untapped talent of filmmakers out there. Entering the Genero.TV contest could be their way of getting their foot in the door.”

But it’s not just a curiosity about what the public can come up with that is driving artist involvement – frustration played a big part in The Temper Trap’s decision to join, reveals guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto.

“We’d done a few costly music videos that we weren’t really happy with,” he admits, but stresses that getting good results, not saving money, was the major motivation. “Our involvement with the site isn’t to say that we wouldn’t pay the creator of the video we choose,” Sillitto clarifies. “We were fed up, and we saw Genero as a good way to get our fans involved in something tangible that the band is doing. It allows them to feel a part of the process.” director Michael Entwisle underscores Lorenzo’s statement. “From our perspective, deepening the fan-artist engagement is a main benefit for our featured artists. More engaged fans are going to be the ones who will pay more money for concert tickets, merchandise, and music. What we’re doing shouldn’t be seen as a disruptive model for the music video industry. We’re hoping it just becomes a complementary platform that suits some artists, songs and labels.”

In a similar move this July, Sneaky Sound System announced the winner of their own online video contest for the song ‘It’s Not My Problem’. While it didn’t offer the same creative clean slate that does – entrants were supplied with green-screen footage of singer Connie Mitchell – producer/songwriter Angus McDonald states that the band would run a similar fan-sourced video contest “in a heartbeat”. “Music videos are such a lottery, even with experienced directors and producers at the helm,” says McDonald.

As for whether the lottery is made even riskier by entrusting creative control to their fanbase, Bridezilla’s Courtley admits there’s always a chance it could turn out to be a disaster. “But,” she says, “like a first date or foreign food, you never know until you try.”

Here’s my original pitch, sent September 1 2009.

Crowdsourcing Fan Creativity
Rolling Stone December 2009 cover: Them Crooked VulturesIn August 2009, a service called Genero.TV launched a business model that allows fans to create music videos for artists. This is how it works: artists contribute the songs and upload them for the fans; the fans create the videos and upload them to; then the world watches, votes and spreads the word.

They’ve just released their first round of 16 artists and songs, which each feature different prizes. The overall prize for this round is US$4000, which will be awarded to the director of one of the 16 final videos. As I understand it, videos submissions are judged by the bands and, and all of the winning videos will become the artists’ official video for that song.

Of the 16 artists, such as UNKLE, Easy Star All-Stars and Casiokids, 6 are Australian:

  • The Temper Trap
  • Bliss N Eso
  • Birds Of Tokyo
  • True Live
  • Hermitude
  • Mirror House Antics

Cool idea. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Who’s behind Genero.TV? I can’t find any info on their personnel or the country where they’re based.
  • Who funds the site?
  • What kind of licensing is required for this kind of business model?
  • Who’s funding this business model?
  • Why did these Australian acts decide to jump on board?
  • What are the acts’ expectations of the quality of submissions?
  • What’s the value of the music video in 2009? (I’ll speak to some Australian acts who’ve had viral video ‘success’, to determine the outcomes)
  • Is this just a way for lazy bands to turn creative control over to their fans for cheap, or is it a genius idea to shorten the distance between artists and their fans?

Coincidentally, Sneaky Sound System last week announced the winner of a $10,000 fan-sourced music video competition that they ran through their website. They’d provide a good supplementary viewpoint to this article.

As with my first Rolling Stone story on streaming music subscription services, the interviews I conducted far exceeded the article’s word limit. Check back for outtakes from these articles here soon.

Trackbacks for this post

  1. Fan-sourcing filmmaker creativity: a counterpoint at Andrew McMillen
  2. Rolling Stone story outtake: The Temper Trap at Andrew McMillen
  3. A Conversation With Michael Entwisle, founder of Genero.TV
  4. Rolling Stone outtake: Bridezilla at Andrew McMillen
  5. A Conversation With Simon Noynay, illustrator at Andrew McMillen

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