Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed this week brought up something interesting. Dan Fable, a Manchester musician turned photographer/videographer, was offering an insane deal for bands. What’s more insane is that people weren’t taking him up on the cheap offer.
“We are offering to shoot two live music videos and a photoshoot for £100, and people are actually not sure,” complained Fable. First, I’m wondering how he’s making profit from this deal. Secondly, I’m wondering why musicians aren’t taking him up on the offer. Now, I know that Fable is looking to push his Keep Me Young media brand, and it can’t hurt to shoot for as many bands as he can, but there comes a point in which you’re losing money. Luckily, he let us in on how it all works.
For the amount of work Fable is providing, you’d imagine that there would be at least a four-figure bill to accompany it. £100 for all that work seems impossible until Fable explained that he’s splitting up a single day in the studio between six different bands. “We will be sticking to a very strict schedule in order to make this work,” he explained. “We have two hours with each act. One hour to film, and around thirty minutes for the photoshoot. The rest of the time is used for setting up and packing down.”
Even if he’s offering a budget airline-style package, that’s a lot of work. Even though he’s shooting for the same amount of time, that’s a lot of postproduction to churn through. Here’s how it all breaks down:
We are shooting on two consecutive days, six bands per day. So over the two days we will turn over £1,200. I estimate we will retain £800 profit from that. It will take me around one week to complete everything including the two days shooting. I am able to keep the costs down as I am well connected with a lot of people in this industry and have great relationships with people involved.
First, he’s not shooting custom music videos. He’s shooting (sometimes acoustic) live sets in the same studio. Not all that difficult a set up and he can run it like a conveyor belt, doing the photoshoot with the constant lights that he set up for the video shoot. Next, Fable takes care of the shooting, lighting, and editing, and then hires somebody to take care of the audio. So the crew is tiny compared to most. Finally, he’s using his connections to get a great deal on the studio. As he put it, “The owner also runs a recording studio close by so it benefits him greatly to have 12 fresh new bands on his door step each month who might want to use his studio.”
This is the studio Dan's shooting in. Hopefully he can bring enough variety to the table.
Let’s break out the triangle of creative cost. Price, quality, and time are the factors here. If Fable is able to get price and time down, then surely the quality will suffer. It does, but he’s asking the band to accept something basic instead of intricate. The glaring issue here is that these bands will be shooting in the same studio and releasing their fresh content at the same time as each other. I suppose if you’re only paying £100 then it could be totally worth it.
Fable is using sound-detecting lights along with a couple of red heads; Arguably a decent mix between a live stage and a set. He’s only shooting on a Canon 60D, but in the name of keeping costs down, 4K is too much. Then the audio is covered for the entire band, from the drum kit to the brass. He’s using a Shure BETA 87A radio mic for the lead vocals and a SM58s for any other backing vocals. Audio technology isn’t my forte so I’ll have to take his word for it. If it sounds great, then that's half the battle.
The Industry Problems
A lot of readers might scoff at this scenario, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Fable is a stunning example of how far creatives need to go in order to get money in the door and jobs flowing. However, part of me likes his new system and how he’s willing to work with his fellow musicians. To him, it’s about creating content with them even if they can’t pay up. It’s not as if he’s competing with higher-end photographers.
What’s even more problematic is that Fable found it difficult to get bands to sign up. I mean who doesn’t have £100 for a two-hour shoot? Surely they'll spend thousands on equipment? I can only imagine that musicians with money want a custom package and a “proper” shoot, but there shouldn’t be any excuse for those on the lower end of the scale. Perhaps it’s a sign of his advertising efforts, the music industry, or both.
The cost will rise to £200 soon, and he’ll be able to make around £2,000 profit in a week doing this if all goes to plan. That’s about $2,500 which isn’t bad at all. What do you think of Fable’s system? Is it viable?
Edit: This article was updated to include a real example of Dan's work on this particular endeavor, rather than an older video of his.