Blog Post

Direct the New Modest Mouse Video

Rather than paying for an editor, Modest Mouse‘ label Epic is tapping the power of a horde of internerd hipstards through a contest sponsored by Apple. Download the provided footage of Modest Mouse rockin’ out against a green screen backdrop, make movie magic, and upload it to Apple by May 22. The winning clip will be the official advertisement music video for Modest Mouse new single “Missed the Boat.”

Modest Mouse at Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

I’ve been looking at some of these user-generated content contests with a more critical eye of late. The attention economy is all well and good, but Epic and Apple are into the economy economy — you know, the one with cash money exchanged for goods and services.

Who owns the rights to your finished piece? Epic presumably owns the original source footage, and you own any additional content created and then composited in. So does that mean that you’re entitled to a cut every time someone downloads the video from the iTunes Music Store? What about sales of Modest Mouse retrospective DVDs that might include the video?

I’d say read the fine print, but in this case, there is none — I couldn’t find official contest rules beyond what was on the site, and the link on the page to Apple’s “Terms of Service” link is broken. I did, however, find the official rules for a similar contest sponsored by MTV for Modest Mouse’ single “We’ve Got Everything.” (Did every director they called refuse to work with them or something?)

There was the boilerplate about how all the content in submitted clips had to be the work of the entrant, none of the work could have been used commercially in the past, and any subjects appearing in said work had to have signed releases, etc. But what struck me was the submitted videos were “work for hire,” with all rights held by Sony BMG.

At least in the MTV contest, the work for hire pays — the winner won’t receive any royalty checks, of course, but he or she will get a Sony HDR-HC5 camera (which retails for $999 at B&H). So, exciting foray into mashup culture and media democratization, or way to get both advertising and publicity for free?

I’m leaning towards the latter.

Photo of Modest Mouse recent performance Portland’s Crystal Ballroom by Jesse Millan.

9 Responses to “Direct the New Modest Mouse Video”

  1. concerning your statement – “I’ve been looking at some of these user-generated content contests with a more critical eye of late” not related to video but on the photography art side I saw a great little promotion concept called a million little pictures put on by the or . Im also on a development team working on a national Internet broadcasting network for developing net video user content into cash or national ad revenue. There will soon be a contest related to that launch (ummm dont know exactly when soon is but can keep anyone interested posted.)

    as far as owning rights… many moons ago I was involved in producing a state wide battle of the bands the way we use to do it offline and there were TV production issue with the same type of issues…. the same thing here…whoever distributes the work usually ends up with the lion share of control.

  2. Glad we bent you back into shape, Schlomo. My problem is that they aren’t buying the product at all — they’re just taking it. As pointed out here on NewTeeVee, the cellphone video that was uploaded to CNN’s I-Report got 2 million views, and I doubt the “citizen journalist” got even the regular freelance rate for his footage.

  3. You are both right. Now that I’ve finished my coffee, I’m back on the cynic train:)

    Really though, its true. Just like how television news divisions are hyping up citizen journalism (because of their shrinking budgets), so are every other part of MSM trying to have the public do the heavy lifting– then buying the product!

  4. Steve Bryant

    I gotta go with Jackson on this one. This sort of UGC opportunism is simply a way for record labels to shift the cost of production onto amateurs. While the contests may be good for an up-and-coming filmmaker, the danger is that this process will become metastastized throughout media.

    To wit, I recently spoke with a successful comedian here in New York about this problem. She was about to sign a TV pilot deal with a network when the network did an about face and asked her to post her material online on her own web site as a “trial run.”

    There’s an unfortunately blurry line between using the Web for inspiration and talent, and using it as a slave labor farm team to offset production costs and increase profits.

  5. While that is certainly an example, considering the rights terms required of submitted materials and the technical skill and software tools necessary to do the compositing, I wonder how many truefans will really be able to compete.

    It is geared toward student filmmakers, so there’s that. But now it turns out there’s “Another Freakin’ Green Screen Contest” starring Modest Mouse, excuse me for being a bit cynical.

    They just put out their first major label release, but they can’t afford to hire an actual filmmaker?

  6. I’m with you in having a skeptical eye on this sort of contest, but then I think about the 15yr old falling in love with Modest Mouse (or whoever) and getting the opportunity to create stuff for their favorite band- how cool is that?!?

    The Optimist View is that after going through all of this work for the band, that the 15yr old gets inspired to keep creating stuffs for themselves. It may be a jumpstart to someone becoming a powerful creator of video on the Interwebs. And that’s pretty darn cool.