As most of ya’ll know, I Facebook obsessively.
I played a short acoustic duo set a few weeks ago for the Never Heard Of ‘Em Concert Series.
For those of ya’ll that haven’t seen it yet, Never Heard Of Em is a book written by my friend Sue Donahoe chronicling the DIY Indie Music scene that exploded in Austin in the mid ‘90s.
My set Sunday consisted of seven songs performed by myself and my longtime friend and guitar player Jim Hemphill.
We had decided to have our set videotaped just to see what might happen.
Up until about a year ago I’d have never agreed to a home video recording of any performance of mine. I was of the opinion that there are just too many uncontrollable variables affecting quality control.
I had nightmares at the thought of a really bad recording of an otherwise good performance, leaving potential fans who stumbled across the recording turned off.
A while back I had a pretty lengthy debate about this topic with a Facebook friend of mine. I asserted that a bad recording lived on forever at YouTube and FB and that while I wasn’t concerned about the music being shared, I was worried about the quality of the videos.
Mr. Moto’s position was that if the performance was good, fans and potential fans would get that and forgive the video anything it lacked in recording quality. We went at it for the better part of two days.
As much as I hate having to admit it, Mr. Moto was right.
Flash forward about a year. I did several tours in the time between my debate with Mr. Moto and now. A lot of my shows have been videotaped on everything from top of the line cameras to cell phones. They’re all on YouTube for the whole World Wide Web to see. The good recordings and the not as good recordings. And while I’m sure there have been people who didn’t like them, the majority of the responses have been positive. I’ve even seen them show up on FB from time to time.
I started noticing something interesting. Whenever a new bootleg would show up, even one that wasn’t of very good quality, all the other videos would start getting more views. So a live set that was badly recorded on a cell phone would pop up and get 50 views, and it would add 50+ views to a different video of the same song.
I decided I’d ask my resident expert on video and all things YouTube, my 15 year old daughter Cassidy.
Cassidy lives on YouTube.
I asked her why did she think even bad recordings had a positive impact.
Her answer was a bit of an epiphany: If people are looking at your videos and they click a link to a badly recorded one, they just click the next link until they find one they like.
With the rise of social media sites and affordable digital cameras it’s no longer a matter of just having one choice, even among not very well recorded videos.
We live in the time of the citizen journalists. Probably half of any breaking television footage on the news was shot by a home camera or a phone.
Also with the coming of digital phones and of course YouTube there’s been a kind of revaluing of videos.
Our no budget live shots can’t compete on a quality level with a big budget video by a big name Nashville act. The beauty part is that nobody expects them to compete. Hell, I’ve seen quality videos shot by professional videographers that didn’t get as many looks as something my roadie shot on his phone. Is the phone video network TV quality? Of course not. But then again, none of the fans seem to mind. They take it in context that what they’re looking at is either a live shot of us at a gig, or else home movie footage with one my songs as the soundtrack.
So, while a year ago pointing a video camera at me may have gotten me to turn my back to the camera, a year later I love seeing those mini-cams and phone-cams out there in the audience.
And the reason is that it’s just that many more hits on YouTube and every time any video good or bad gets a hit, that’s one more person who’s heard of my band.
I make my living selling tickets . . . . sure you can video my gig.