I saw an incredible film last week. It was only playing at 6 theaters across the country. Two happened to be in LA.
We were interested in seeing a movie, picked our favorite theater and checked the listings. I use Rotten Tomatoes religiously. Like I use Yelp. It’s been years since I’ve gone to a movie before checking its Rotten Tomatoes score or entered a restaurant before reading its Yelp reviews. Very seldom do they fail me.
Boyhood had a score of 100%. I’ve never seen that before. It was a no-brainer.
I went in not knowing anything about it. But from the moment after the credits rolled, I became obsessed.
Boyhood’s brilliance does not lie in its script. It exists in its heart. Shot for about one week a year for 12 consecutive years, this film tells a coming of age story like never before in the history of cinema. It opens in 2002, with Coldplay’s “Yellow,” on a 6 year old boy lying in the grass. Every few scenes the story jumps a year. The accompanying soundtrack helps mark the time. We see the boy and his sister (along with their father, played by Ethan Hawke, and their mother, played by Patricia Arquette) age. The boy grows into a man – with accompanying facial hair, piercings and girlfriends. The girl grows into a woman.
Sure, the concept is revolutionary. Never been done before. But what truly makes this film stick (and gets me to want to see it again) is the intimate connection the audience feels with the characters. I felt like I was a part of the family. I felt like I grew up with Mason and Samantha.
Boyhood doesn’t have the normal Hollywood beats that appear in virtually every multiplex released feature. This film succeeds in captivating the audience by reaching deeper, waking up your soul and inviting it along for the journey.
Boyhood is being slowly rolled out across the country over the course of the coming month. An indie feature, funded by IFC Productions for just $2.4 million, it’s a difficult sell to the multiplexes out of the gate. But something tells me by the end of the Summer it will be everywhere.
Opening week sales mean less and less in a digital world. Who cares if an album sells (or streams) 100,000 copies its first week or its first year? 100,000 is 100,000. Traditionally, record stores wouldn’t keep titles in stock if they weren’t selling, but that’s not an issue anymore. Albums remain online forever. Boyhood, like many great albums, is a sleeper. Sleepers take awhile longer to reach a general mass, but stick around forever. Boyhood will be a word-of-mouth success. How could it not be? It’s such a fun story to tell.
Instead of worrying about opening week sales of your album, create something great that people want to share. Make sure you have a story outside of the music that fans can share when encouraging their friends to check it out.
Boyhood has been getting loads of press. Its story is something reviewers want to talk about. Most indie films are lucky to get a few reviews, but this is an easy sell. Does your band have a story that people want to write about? What sets your story apart from every other indie artist releasing new music?
Sales don’t matter anymore. The long tail can be realized in the streaming economy. The beautiful thing about where the music industry is headed is that artists can be rewarded for creating important art that people want to listen to again and again. The more people listen, the more the song earns, and (if not on a major label), the more the artist gets paid. This was never the case before streaming existed. Once an album was purchased, it never earned another cent no matter if it was listened to once or a hundred times.
It took Lorde’s “Royals” six months after it was released to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. And that was five months after it went viral on Spotify from being featured on Sean Parker’s Hipster International Spotify playlist.
However, according to mainstream standards, this single was a flop because it didn’t immediately take over radio or chart in the first week.
So many labels, managers and artists are stuck in the pre-streaming mentality of make-or-break first week sales numbers. Create great art. Work your butt off promoting that art while continuing to create more great art. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t have the world altering affect in the first few months. If it’s truly great and you continue to work hard exposing it to more and more people, it will eventually reach its tipping point.