It’s a tricky game, but selling your videos online can help you reach a larger audience and greater success.
It’s a tricky game, but selling your videos online can help you reach a larger audience and greater success.

DVDs are still wonderful to many of us movie-lovers. You can hold them, enjoy the artwork, and display your collection on a shelf. You can enjoy the commentary tracks, behind the scenes videos, and other extras.

As a filmmaker, I would pack my DVDs with bonus features and Easter eggs to connect with fans. I could easily keep track of how many copies were sold, and only the big studios had to worry about their DVDs being pirated. Times have definitely changed.

Today, it’s all about online distribution. Everything from our phones to our TVs are connected to the Internet, and more content is being streamed every day. Making your videos has never been easier, but now you’re competing with Netflix and thousands of funny pet videos when it comes to distribution. Here are some ways to get your work out there, get it seen and hopefully make a few bucks in the process.

Bye-Bye DVDs

Forget about DVD sales as a revenue stream. I sell an occasional DVD at horror conventions or on my website, but many boxes of shrink-wrapped DVDs remain unopened in my office. Meanwhile, my horror movie, “Bloodwood Cannibals,” has well over 2 million views on YouTube.

DVD or BluRay discs can be nice gifts for your cast and crew, or friends and family. But don’t make more than you’ll need. Remember that they’re mementos, not a reliable source of revenue.

Discrete sales are still possible, if you include downloads. Amazon’s CreateSpace was an easy way to self-distribute your DVDs by printing them on demand. CreateSpace still exists, but video creators are now encouraged to distribute their work using Amazon Prime Video Direct.

Video creators are now encouraged to distribute their work using Amazon Prime Video Direct.
Video creators are now encouraged to distribute their work using Amazon Prime Video Direct.

How Much to Charge?

Pricing your videos can be challenging. With DVDs, you could justify charging $10 or more because buyers got a physical product. Setting a price for downloads is trickier. Charge too little and you devalue your work. Charge too much and audiences will look elsewhere for cheaper or free content. The safest bet is to look at what other creators with similar content are charging on your platform of choice.

The safest bet is to look at what other creators with similar content are charging on your platform of choice.

Not everyone will want to buy your videos. Today, more people are choosing to rent for a short period of time. Most video distributors that sell downloads also offer rentals at a lower price. How much of that money goes to you depends on the distributor.

Monetizing Ads and Subscriptions

Luckily, downloads and rentals don’t have to be your only revenue streams. If you have enough viewers, you can monetize your videos with ads. The most common way is with YouTube, although you won’t make much money without a huge audience and millions of views. However, if your channel has at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months, you can choose to earn money from advertisements, rentals or paid subscriptions.

Successful YouTubers can make a good living, but the majority of creators are competing for attention with thousands of amateur videos being uploaded every day. YouTube also has strict content restrictions you may not find on other platforms.

Many video professionals use Vimeo to showcase their work. You can sell downloads of your videos with Vimeo On Demand, and customize your On Demand page to match your website or other channels.

Distributing your videos on YouTube and Vimeo will help audiences find your videos through search engines. But if you have a website — and you should — you’ll want to lead users there to buy more videos. Most platforms have customizable players that you can embed on your page with a snippet of HTML code.

If you create lots of content like video tutorials, you can build your own subscription-based channel on Vimeo OTT or other “Over the Top” streaming video providers.

If you create lots of content like video tutorials, you can build your own subscription-based channel on Vimeo OTT or other “Over the Top” streaming video providers.
If you create lots of content like video tutorials, you can build your own subscription-based channel on Vimeo OTT or other “Over the Top” streaming video providers.

Patreon is another subscription-based or “fan supported” platform that is gaining popularity with video creators. Some creators also use crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter or Indigogo to raise revenue, but this can be a challenging endeavor.

Finally, Facebook is also gearing up their offerings for video monetization. The platform now lets you monetize your videos with Ad Breaks or Branded Content.

Adapting for the Future

If your video business still relies on DVD sales, it’s time to update your business plan. Look at all the distributions options out there and choose the one that’s best for your business. Remain focused, but flexible.

The online distribution market is constantly evolving.  Your video business must adapt for future changes, yet remain true to your market and audience. You have to keep your prices fair without undervaluing your work. It’s a tricky game, but selling your videos online can help you reach a larger audience and greater success. Good luck!

Joshua Siegel is a filmmaker and educator based in Northern California.

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