Nathan Williams and Christian Rigal worked for three years on their 'Why Not?' BMX video part, and sold it directly for $5 per download.
By today's standards, the year 2010 was unremarkable. Macho Man Randy Savage died of a heart attack. There was a tomato shortage in the spring.
But in many ways, it was a golden era of mountain bike videos. Every young, hungry rider was putting in work on sponsor-me edits, and bike brands were investing in big, ambitious projects with their top athletes. Video edits took time, they weren't something you filmed in a day.
Fast forward a decade, and we see more video than ever from incredibly talented riders—but it's clear that on average the effort per project has gone down. There are probably only ~10 truly exceptional video parts per year. Tom Van Steenbergen's Wild West
was a huge project and an absolute face-melter, Fabio Wibmer
regularly blows our minds, and you can always count on Brandon Semenuk
to drop a few gems every year.
Beyond that, there are a lot of one-day trail bike edits, or 3-4 day "projects"; marketing-heavy bike launch pieces designed to appeal to everyone, and a lot of YouTube folks talking at the camera for 10 minutes and 5 seconds. Ultimately, viewers are finding value in things besides shredits, and brands are demanding more return on their investments.
To be clear, that's not a bad thing necessarily. The YouTube space is exciting, and it's great that it's sharing more accessible versions of the sport with the general public. We've been having a lot of fun on our own channel
with projects like Field Test
and the Grim Donut
in there, but no multi-year shredit efforts...
And who are we to say brands shouldn't be making sure their products are promoted in their videos? Having sponsored riders is sports marketing, it'd be silly to forget about the marketing part. An all-action video part often doesn't align with a brand's marketing goals—especially when it's someone riding insane, un-relatable features on an un-sellable bike with obsolete wheels. Hell, Nico Vink's incredible 'From The Ash
' edit was supposed to be part of a bigger project that was plagued with production issues, so by the time it finally came out he had an entirely different bike sponsor.
All that said, there's something special about an action-based video part that someone put their blood, sweat, and tears into. As cool as that recent Trek Slash launch video
was, what it really made me want is a long-form video part from Kade Edwards.
But if brands aren't interested in these high effort, low ROI videos, who should pay for them?
When you watch the outtakes from 'Why Not?' it's clear that the effort that went into it was massive.
Well, in my opinion, I should. I'm the one that wants to see them after all.
In the BMX world, Nathan Williams and Christian Rigal worked for three years on their Why Not?
video part, and sold it directly for $5 per download. I enjoyed the trailer, heard a few people say it was good, and was happy to spend the $5. Total insanity, worth every penny. If you're at all interested in BMX, you should go buy it right now
That said, while nearly 900K people have watched the outtakes above, only a fraction of them spent the $5 on the film. So maybe I'm in the minority.
If the business model sounds familiar, it's somewhat similar to Brandon Semenuk and Rupert Walker's 2015 project Revel in the Chaos
. It's still available
for $6 on iTunes and elsewhere. But Brandon and Rupert went through more traditional distribution channels, and still worked with sponsors to fund some of the production. Today, a lot of top riders wouldn't have the luxury of that production budget.
In contrast, Nathan and Christian have taken a more direct path—they had a lot less support, but they get to keep a lot more of the money. I know my $5 went directly to them, and that made it an even easier choice for me.
So, should riders focus on long-term edits more than they are right now? Do you want to see a long-form Kade Edwards project? Am I just an old guy yelling at the kids on my lawn? Do I have a rose-coloured memory of 2010?
Are you willing to pay for a major ~8 minute video part from a top rider? One they worked on for a year or two on and put their bodies on the line for?
And if so, how much?