BuzzFeed Motion Pictures

Ze Frank is educated and smart.

I’ve never come across that combination in the music business.

No, that’s wrong. There’s Cliff Burnstein, who’s a few credits shy of a Ph.D. in math. What do they say at Q Prime? To do all the superfluous work and allow Cliff time to think, because when Cliff thinks Q Prime makes money.


I’m not saying I don’t know a lot of intelligent people in the music business. But they’re street smart. They know how to intimidate, negotiate. Theorize? That’s absent. Which is why music’s lunch has been eaten by tech. And speaking of tech victories, the big story in today’s financial world is the “Forbes” cover story on Chris Sacca, the investor billionaire. You should read it. Chris has never given press access before. And this article proves why. Because you don’t look totally positive. Chris has made some choices and behaved in ways that I would not have chosen to. But he’s made the money. And that’s the only scorecard people seem to keep these days. And by those standards, Chris is winning.

And it’s not only money, unlike the Wall Street titans at Goldman Sachs, Chris has invested in companies you love and use. At least some of you. Like Uber, Twitter and Kickstarter. Chris is building things. Got to give him kudos for that.

But back to Ze.

Ze went to Brown.

But then he was a musician.

And I could delineate all of his history, but the point is Ze made it via his creativity, his art, which puts him in the same wheelhouse as musicians.

Only Ze was on the cutting edge.

Talk to anybody in social media. They all know Ze. Primarily for his 2006 web series “the show with ze frank.” Early adopters win. If they continue to stay the course. If you’re planning on being a YouTube star today, forget it. Same deal with imitating Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus. You’re too far behind the curve. You’ve got to catch the NEXT wave.

So now Ze runs BuzzFeed Motion Pictures.

I get it, I get it, you HATE BuzzFeed! All that listicle crap. But they’re two separate entities. Not all BuzzFeed Motion Pictures live on the BuzzFeed site.

Anyway, two years ago there were 2 people working there.

Now there are 170.

So you walk inside and everybody’s happy and there’s a lot going on.

This is contrary to the record label, where you see a sea of empty desks and everybody’s depressed.

First you see the intern stations. PAID interns, that is. 30% graduate to fellowships. And then some become full time BuzzFeeders.

And what do full time BuzzFeeders do?


Think about that. They’re creating. With very little supervision. They have to meet the metrics, which they can see on a personal dashboard, but responsibility lies with them.

Everybody in music is shirking responsibility.

But music is cheap to make.

And now movies are too.

Ze commented on the fall of cable TV.

Are you watching this? It’s kind of like digital photography. We heard about it for a decade and then it happened overnight. We heard about internet delivery of television programs and in the last two weeks, it’s arrived.

And what do people want to see?

That’s BuzzFeed’s mission. To capture eyeballs. And to replace the cable TV producers.

Ze thinks their model stinks. Thinks the music labels’ model stinks. Wherein you throw a ton of money at the wall and hope something sticks to pay for it all.

Ze believes you’ve got to pay as you go. Everything’s got to win.

And what do you win with?

Ze thinks long form story, the cable television you’re addicted to, may be history as much as the Russian novel.

The key is to create content people can identify with, see themselves in, that they can access at any time. Length, story? Irrelevant.

Mmm… Sounds like the music business, right? Where the creators want to make albums and the consumers want singles. And now we’re entering this ridiculous era of exclusives, with Beats and Tidal. Once we start Balkanizing content, we’re lost. But don’t tell that to the greedy acts and labels, who don’t comprehend the landscape and just want to line their pockets. The public HATES exclusives, they either tune out or steal.

So Ze’s mission is to get people to BuzzFeed films. To not reinvent the wheel every time. To get people inured to, addicted to, their content. He’s got people working on this mission. He just doesn’t want to open doors and let everyone else in, he wants to plant a flag the consumer rallies around.

Meanwhile, they keep expanding.

They decided they wanted to crack the foreign market. They started making clips. And then someone stumbled upon making clips of foreigners eating American food and vice versa. Bingo, success!

Where is the risk in music?

Not there. Tracks are honed to the point of irrelevance. New is anathema. It’s usually the same old thing over and over again.

But don’t tell this to the inner circle.

That’s what’s wrong with music. You work in it or you live for it and you have no perspective…that the average person has tuned out, because it’s incomprehensible or not good enough.

BuzzFeed is going for everyone.

Everybody makes about a clip a week.

They’re building inventory.

You know their work, even if you don’t know it’s theirs. Like that clip comparing women’s bodies over the ages, that’s one of theirs.

They got a $50 million infusion from Andreessen Horowitz.

When did anybody last put this kind of money in music?

They don’t, because it doesn’t scale. It’s not made for everyone. And people are closed off to reinventing the wheel.

Which is why you’d rather work at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. Where you get to put your hands on the wheel. Where you’re the master of your own domain. Where you can become a star.

“How Super Angel Chris Sacca Made Billions, Burned Bridges And Crafted The Best Seed Portfolio Ever”

“Women’s Ideal Body Types Throughout History”

BuzzFeedVideo YouTube channel

2 Responses to BuzzFeed Motion Pictures


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  1. […] via Lefsetz Letter » Blog Archive BuzzFeed Motion Pictures – Lefsetz Letter. […]

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  3. […] In the short term I think the former, but the long term is very much an open question: there’s no question the world is changing. Returning to Lefsetz, he made a similar observation in an article about BuzzFeed Motion Pictures: […]

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    1. […] In the short term I think the former, but the long term is very much an open question: there’s no question the world is changing. Returning to Lefsetz, he made a similar observation in an article about BuzzFeed Motion Pictures: […]

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