Blader Digests: Rollerblading’s Financial Future

A lot of people got up in arms over Ryan Loewy’s essay on his website, titled “Rollerblading’s Financial Identity Crisis.” The TL;DR is this: Ryan doesn’t really like the pay-for-play edits that have been coming out because he feels little effort is put into them (with notable exceptions being F33T and SSM’s 666 series).

Because of the loss of a physical copy, Loewy pines, things become more disposable and therefore a loss in quality.

“It just seems to be less about the time invested, and more about the views and revenue that can be pulled, and that, that my friends, is the flaw that will continue to rid any of these works of the true value that they actually possess,” Loewy concludes.

For that, I would like to retort. Loewy has some good points, but since I’ve been meaning to write on this subject for months, I figure this to be as good as any time as ever.

When I traveled all over the U.S. this summer, sleeping on blader couches to tour with my book, I talked with lots of people about paying for edits now. Much to my surprise—considering the stereotypical cheapskate (no pun intended) nature of rollerblading—plenty of people were happy to shell out of a few bucks to get the latest from bladers they’ve loved for decades.

So the following thoughts and suggestions aren’t merely my own, but rather a compilation of discussions with, and opinions of, rollerbladers across the U.S. and in Toronto (i.e. I did some homework before reaching my conclusions).

A Broskow/AJ piece for $4 to raise money for a larger project? “No problem,” they said. $8.99 for a Franky edit? “Sure!” many shrieked. “That’s a bit too much,” few said. Six bucks to watch the edit that put Shima in a wheel chair?

Most people I talked to thought it was a good idea and they promptly supported it. It was embracing a (not really that) new technology to get money to people who are severely underpaid for their levels of talents.

While pay-for-edits is only a few months old, there will be discussions about what is worth what, but sales for those making the videos will be the ultimate test. If I tried to put out an edit and charge 99 cents, I’m positive I wouldn’t have enough to fill up on the McDonald’s Dollar Menu.

Who is trying it? Valo with Valo 4Life and V on the iTunes store, Shima, Joey Chase, Jon Bolino, Franky, Jeff Dalnas, the KCMO crew (Farmer, Kelso Brothers, etc.) and the Sacramento guys, including Sean Keane, Casey Baggozzi, and an unforgettable ending from Michael Braud in The Drought.

The Drought from Casey Bagozzi on Vimeo.

Recognize any of those names? I sure fucking hope so. It’s a miracle more of them aren’t in wheelchairs, so if they have found a way to get some money they deserve—and not from sponsors and cutting down production costs to increase profit—then good for them.

If the lack of a physical copy makes you uneasy—as it does with me when it comes to books—then maybe they can find a way to do a print-on-demand for them. Instead of getting what you paid for instantly that you can keep on a hard drive, you can order a copy, wait a week or so for it to be replicated and packaged, another 3-5 days for Media Mail to ship it to your door, and you can hold your DVD or BluRay (both antiquated technologies) with pride.

Don’t get me wrong—I like my shelves to have something on them, like printed books and DVDs, but I don’t miss carrying around CD carriers or CD players with me to listen to my music. I’d rather keep my MP3s.

Yes, I fear Google Glass and the Apple Watch like the Luddite I am, but when technology exists to reduce costs for a cash-strapped industry I love more than my dog, I’ll embrace some changes.

Besides, there are more pluses than negatives on the issue.

Advantages of the Pay-for-Play Online Model

  • Format: Smartphones? Tablets? No fucking DVD drive on any of them.
  • Instant delivery: In the days of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, people want it now. When I was in Chicago, many of the guys there hadn’t seen KCMO. Instead of bugging the guys at The Pull (which doesn’t have a physical store front) to get a copy so all could watch, I plugged in my Paypal info and bought them a copy. A few minutes later and everyone was watching.
  • Disbursement: Instead of money going to DVD replicators and printers, more of the money goes directly to the filmmakers and skaters involved.
  • Quality: It’s entirely unfair to compare today’s rollerblading to things like Coup de Tat or VG19. If that’s the standard to which everyone is held, then no one should ever put on skates and have a camera pointed at them. There are greater things to come in the future than can be judged in the past.
  • Allows for instant feedback: Let’s face it, there have been some major letdown team videos in recent years. I won’t name names, but should we have paid for those things in installments like the 666 series, we could have provided instant feedback to whoever was making the video so by the time the ender came out it’d hopefully have corrected sins made in the first.
  • Fair market: If you think something is too expensive, don’t buy it and the model will die instantly if everyone else is on board. If you pirate it, kill yourself. Hell, tell me you’re going to do it, so I can cover it just like John Danielson. It’ll be fun.
  • It creates a market for the ams: Skaters with really great talent who have already proven to be good at rollerblading can market themselves as individuals and not have to wait for a sponsor to take notice. I love me some sub-pro paid skaters, and I’d love to support them to keep blading hard. So, say if someone really great, really entertaining skaters—i.e. Cameron Talbott, Carson Starnes, Sean Keane, Mason Richard, Brandon Ford, Gumby, Gavin Drumm, Michael Garlinghouse, Mike Froemling, Kevin Yee, etc.—put in the extra effort to put out what could be a section in a pro video and asked 99 cents for it, I’d spend it.  (As someone who self-publishes his books, I support this spirit.)
  • Opens the opportunity for other funding measures: We shouldn’t wait until a blade legend is waiting to be put into the ground to support skaters. The current model could inspire other funding mechanisms, much like blader and professional YouTuber Rob Scallon discussed on Blade or Die this summer. Since we viewers, fans, and shit-talkers demand people expect people to destroy their bodies—in near Gladiator fight-to-the-death fashion—we have some kind of ethical responsibility to help them out. It’s the least we can do.
  • You might just open a blade wallet: What would you think of putting $20 a month away in a Paypal account? Doesn’t sound like much, but if you budgeted that to buy online blade media, you’d be able to buy the Broskow NYC edit, a 666 edit, The Drought, and Jeff Dalnas’ latest all in the same month. Or you could skip two of those and get a Franky edit, which history has proven repeatedly to the point where it’s a scientific fact: it’s going to be good.

    No rollerblader's wallet. Ever.

  • How much do you really expect to be free? Honestly. Broskow’s V13 Coffee edit was insane, but since it was a commercial for skates, it was free. If you didn’t buy the skates (I did), you owe someone something.
  • Alex Broskow V13 “Coffee” Pro Model Promo from Themgoods on Vimeo.

Disadvantages of the Pay-for-Play Online Model

  • No physical copy: Let’s face it—racks of blade videos are sick. If all else fails, I can print out the splash screen from the Vimeo page, burn my own disc, and put it in a DVD case I bought at the dollar store. Then I’ll have that physical copy I so desperately need.
  • Less free content: There’s nothing better than free, but free doesn’t help our friends and heroes do what they love and what we love watching them do.
  • Having to spend money on rollerblading: I know it sucks, but industries can’t survive on hopes, dreams, and “in the old days” talk.

It’s entirely about value to the consumer (you and I). While Ryan Loewy doesn’t see the value in more edits produced with more regularity, I sure as hell do. Full-length videos are great and they’ll never leave their spot in our sport, but paid edits can provide the right skaters a way to pay their fucking rent doing what they love and are good at instead of tending bar or loading furniture.

It can make it more like every other job: put in work, get a paycheck.

Because that’s where rollerblading is at, idealistically like it or not.

The bulk of the glory days in rollerblading weren’t funded entirely by the sales of aggressive skates. A HUGE recreational base was the foundation that kept the bridge from sinking into the ocean. Do you know how many people bought K2 Fattys and never so much as rotated the wheels? (No, really, if someone has that statistic, I’d love to see it.)

via Chicago's

While there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest the population at large stateside might be interested in getting around on rollerblades again, there’s no proof to suggest that our industry is anything but dependent on current rollerbladers.

We can’t continue to keep our heads stuck up our asses to think that just because something worked when rollerblading was the No. 1 recreational sport in America that we can keep our feet firmly planted in the ground and expect the world to stop changing.

The world changed around us, shunning the one thing they all clamored for. Now we watch as our industry continues to dwindle and hesitate to put our money where our mouths are when it comes to watching the best do their thing? Fuck that. That’s suicide.

I might be nearly broke and struggling to get freelance work right now, but I’ve always got money for people who keep me juiced on blading.

I’m no economist. I’m a journalist, but I did some homework to back up what I said. I know I’m not alone in saying it.

Blade or die,

— Brian Krans

P.S.—You didn’t have to pay to read this pile of shit, but if you’d like to support this site, order one of my books while I’m trying to find a full-time job again. You get books many bladers have said they’ve liked, and I can afford to buy the necessary amount of beers needed to analyze rollerblading this much.

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