Distribution platform VODO aims to get the best out of a free-to-share model for content producers
By Rosie Lavan
VODO was established to try and solve some of the fundamental problems which the digital age poses for artists, endeavouring to deliver the very best and guard against the worst of online distribution.
Launched in 2009 with support from the Arts Council of England, Channel 4’s BRITDOC foundation and Emerald Isle, VODO is a distribution system which aims to harness the untapped potential of peer-to-peer distribution for creators.
VODO offers content to audiences on a free-to-share basis, working with artists who are keen to publish their work online. It has developed strong relationships with some of the leading players in P2P, including BitTorrent and uTorrent, in what it calls a distribution coalition, or DISCO. Each month, with these partners, VODO releases and promotes a film for download. In the year since its launch, the service has seen typical monthly audiences grow from 150,000 to an estimated 850,000.
VODO users who download these films have a role, too. In exchange for incentives ranging from extra downloads to membership of a VODO Studio with special opportunities and benefits, users can become sponsors of a release. The system has already proved lucrative, pulling in $30,000 in eight weeks for Pioneer One, a show made for VODO, and more than $25,000 for The Yes Men Fix The World in the month following its release.
Users are also encouraged to become active “Influencers” of VODO releases, promoting their favoured films by connecting their social network accounts to their VODO account and writing reviews or recommendations to share with their friends. Whenever someone follows a link from these reviews back to VODO, the user earns Do – the site’s internal currency. The bigger an Influencer’s Do balance, the more effective their promotions have been. In time, the plan is for users to be able to exchange their virtual Do for gifts and prizes, from VODO products to MacBook Pros.
VODO was set up to provide a sustainable and ideally profitable model for content producers. Currently creators who distribute their work via VODO receive 75 per cent of direct sponsorship, 50 per cent of studio membership income, also from user-sponsors, and 50 per cent of all sales on physical products made via their film’s landing page. The reach of VODO’s DISCO members is such that a work promoted through VODO might be seen by a cumulative daily audience of 65 million people. In addition, a deal with VODO is non-exclusive, so producers are free to pursue other distribution partnerships.
VODO is the culmination of efforts which began with the Pretext project in 2006, another Arts Council-funded initiative which sought to distribute quality, minority texts online via a model that benefited the creators. Jamie King, founder and CEO of VODO and member of the original Pretext team, also directed the two Steal This Film documentaries, which further explored these issues and profiled the movement against intellectual property.
Both Steal This Film outings garnered considerable media attention, and one of the major lessons to emerge from the project was that in order to command success online, content producers have to command attention: in other words, just because a film is online, it doesn’t mean anybody is watching it.
It was founded on a brave premise for a new world of distribution, and VODO seems to be proving its point.
Key VODO releases