The quote is from Topspin Media CEO Ian Rogers from his presentation at New Music Seminar in LA. Topspin will be making some big announcements at the SxSW Festival next month including opening a new self service, flat $9.99/month fee plus 10%  free on ticket sales and 15% fee on all other merchandise sold through their system. The service will now be officially open for musicians, filmmakers and authors.

Rogers’ presentation is well worth your time to read as it drives home many points I have made about a filmmaker’s ability to self distribute. He makes it very clear, backed up by Topspin data, that to sell successfully a fan base must first be built. This takes consistent time and effort and if you are starting from near zero, you should not be trying to sell anything at first. First comes awareness, then comes engagement, THEN comes conversion. In my last post about the sales funnel, I pointed out that only some of those who are aware and engaged will go on to buy.

Top takeaways from the presentation:

-”Step one is to take those people who have never heard of you and make them interested. Turn them from non-knowers into carers.” It all starts from making great art. Now, some could interpret that as needing to make artistic content. I will extend that to the concepts in Seth Godin’s most recent book Linchpin “Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.” While I know that you consider your art to be making film, consider that it is also your ability to communicate with passion to other people. That communication could come in the form of knowledge sharing, including your audience in your process or facilitating connections with other people as well as films you create.

-“Do Something Small Weekly and Something Big Monthly.” Something small could be writing a blog post; releasing a short video of your work, your travels, a place that gives you inspiration; an excerpt from the script. Something big could be a new teaser video, an online Q&A session about what you are working on, a music track release from your soundtrack, a collaboration with another artist.

-”At first you need fans, not dollars.” Find ways to offer something your fans will value in exchange for permission to continue the conversation with them. For musicians, this is usually free song downloads. For authors, it could be a free ebook short story. Filmmakers will have to consider the point. Obviously it will be something prized to the type of audience you are looking to build. The key is to build up a permission list of at least 2,500 email addresses in order to start monetizing your products and this will take time.

-CwF+RtB=$$ (connect with fans+reason to buy=money) You’ve made the connections, you have permission to continue the conversation, now comes the reason to buy. If you are in touch with your fans, you will find out what they are willing to spend money on. Perhaps a special edition copy, perhaps customized merchandise, perhaps preferential treatment at screening or an enhanced screening event. Not everyone has the same level of interest in you (some may experience your site for the first time, some are only casually interested, some are highly fanatic) so offer different products with different price points.

In closing, Topspin is running a competition to give a $5,000 grant plus marketing support to the person who submits an innovative direct to fan business plan. Submissions are now being accepted on the Topspin Media site.

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