OK, so you might think video websites based on music are a dime a dozen, doing nothing more than showing the latest bootleg video by the next best rapper alive or some obscure news footage about someone having a mental breakdown on the subway. Yet we at Format Magazine are always at the forefront of highlighting people, movements, and websites that go against convention and bring something fresh and unique to the table. In VIMBY, we have found a fledging video-oriented website that is starting to make big moves in the blogging world. We got the chance to get together with Zosimo Maximo, Creative Director of VIMBY to discuss what makes the site different from others, the dreaded word that is â€˜Hipster,â€™ and find out the reasons why VIMBY videos look so damn beautiful.
“I look forward to looking at this content 20 years from now and remembering exactly how it went down.”
Format: VIMBY, aka Video In My Back Yard, where did the idea come from?
Zosimo: Our CEO Dean Waters was part of a group that created the first local television station in Los Angeles that catered to 18-34 year olds. The shows were devoted to local nightlife, music, fashion, art, action sports, travel and more. The idea was modeled after Canadaâ€™s City TV. In time, the company folded because they could not support the costly monthly burn to be on television. Dean never gave up on the idea and molded it for a year and decided the web was the right place for it to live. He called me up to help him bring it to life. A year and a half later here we are. VIMBY is now in 18 cities with 100 filmmakers on our roster who deliver first run original programming on a daily basis.
Format: Could you explain how the site works?
Zosimo: When you come to the homepage, youâ€™ll see our site split up into videos, photos, and our blog. The videos are categorized into genres and then broken down into sub-categories. If you just want to drill down to a particular city, you can either go to a drop down of all markets or click on the map. Weâ€™re primarily recognized for our videos but we have a dope blog handled by our in-house team of prolific authorsÂ and we have a really rich photo section where you can view the work of photographers who document all types of scenes around the country. Last but not least, we have a solid music calendar featuring the best live shows and music related events in all 18 cities we cover.
Format: Would you view VIMBY as a community-oriented site similar to Facebook or Myspace? Was it ever your aim to follow that path?
Zosimo: Itâ€™s hard to compete with Facebook and Myspace and create any type of social network nowadays. From the get go, we recognized this and saw an opportunity to get into the digital space where originally produced content would be greatly needed. Weâ€™re not a social network, but in the same sense, weâ€™re building â€œcommunityâ€ through content.
Format: Now, many bloggers believe that vlogs will be even bigger this year. Do you believe VIMBY could be in the midst of this movement?
Zosimo: First off, Iâ€™d like to shout out all the blogs who have been supporting us. VIMBY has helped define the video/blog hybrid model. Blogs need original content and as many have experienced firsthand, itâ€™s not easy to do at a high quality without spending a lot of time and money. We are establishing ourselves as one of the best in online content and our model is set up where we welcome blogs to come and grab our videos. Itâ€™s a win-win situation for both parties. Vlogs are the future and WordPress has evolved so that bloggers have the capability to set up shop like a media site, all for free. The next step for us is to launch five new individual blogs next month all powered by VIMBY.
Format: Is the site a reflection of collected personalities or something that people wanted to see on the net? I mean you always hear people who have created something because itâ€™s what they wanted or there was a gap in the market for it. Do you feel that youâ€™ve found a niche with VIMBY?
Zosimo: VIMBY was founded by a group of like minds that recognized a pattern in a young demographic shifting their attention to from TV to digital platforms like the web and mobile devices. As a business model, there was definitely a need for quality local content and more importantly the need for advertisers to connect authentically with young consumers. The timing was right to enter when we did. In terms of building the product, I was given creative freedom to establish the direction of the content and I naturally started with my passions. I knew right away the importance of being credible out of the gate and connecting with many of my homies who just happen to be at the forefront of the art, music, DJ, skate, sneaker & street wear scenes. Some of our first videos featured the likes of Cey Adams, Adam Horowitz, Dante Ross & Peanut Butter Wolf. When you set the bar that high right out of the gate, the pressure was on us to maintain that standard. As we brought on more filmmakers and internal staff members, it grew from there and has become a culmination of various voices, styles and sensibilities that just happens to make sense as a whole.
Format: Ok, so would it be unkind or just plain wrong to describe VIMBY as the â€œHipster/Emoâ€ alternative to video related sites such as WSHH?
Zosimo: [Laughs] I donâ€™t take offense to it because I really donâ€™t know what that term means. Our goal is to document pop culture as a whole. Subjects being labeled as â€œhipstersâ€ fall prey to this broad definition of the term where almost anything we cover like DJ A-Trak, The Hundreds or Gym Class Heroes gets this tag. Mickey Factz claims to have invented the term and emcees like Pac Div, U-N-I, Cool Kids, and Charles Hamilton are getting this label too. Back in the day, would you have called Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, and J. Dilla â€œhipsters?â€ If so, then I donâ€™t have a problem with the word â€œhipsterâ€ if itâ€™s going to be used to describe independent operators and not mainstream followers.
Format: I have to admit I donâ€™t like the term myself, yet itâ€™s become relevant in both mainstream and underground music. Now just the other day I was watching a video on hip-hop producer Exile via VIMBY. How on Earth do the videos come out looking so polished and technically crisp? Do you receive all videos that way?
Zosimo: We work closely with our team of filmmakers. I have a background in commercial filmmaking and reality TV, so I adopted many of the techniques I learned while at MTV and brought them to short form web content. We put a â€œproduction bibleâ€ in place that all filmmakers on our team have to follow that calls for the delivery of a video with high production value. Our filmmakers send in rough cuts and we work with each video until we feel itâ€™s solid. We have some of the illest filmmakers on our squad and we grant them the freedom to go off creatively. In this game, with so many people trying to do content, I constantly have to push the filmmakers to keep elevating their game and stay two steps ahead of the competition.
Format: Have you any favorite filmmakers/visionaries that you enjoy?
Zosimo: Iâ€™m a straight film geek, man. As for [old] film, Scorsese, Antonioni, Kurasawa, and Trauffaut. More recent directors that inspire me are Wong Kar Wai, Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham, Zack Synder, and Darren Aronofsky. On the documentary side, the Maysel brothers are on top of my list.Â
Format: Any thoughts on Rik Cordero, do you like what he has done for the viral video scene?
Zosimo: I donâ€™t know Rik personally but I like his work. I know people have made statements that heâ€™s â€œcancer to the music video industry.â€ To me, thatâ€™s garbage. The decline of the music video business is a direct correlation of the music industry getting hit by free downloads, slumping record sales, and the economy. The days of a Dave Meyer or Chris Robinson super video are over. Directors like Rik or Modern Artists are just adjusting to the times and working with tiny budgets. Â Theyâ€™re working with the budget used for craft services on a Hype Williams shoot. Thereâ€™s not a whole lot you can do with that. Guys like Rik do have a more personal relationship with the artists and in my eyes are keeping the music video genre alive. Iâ€™m sure thereâ€™s plenty of other things he can focus on that will get him paid, so you got to believe heâ€™s still doing it for the love.
“Weâ€™re a powerful group who can light a viral fire on a new artist and I think labels are starting to get hip to that.”
Format: I have to say that I think Rik has done a lot in terms of promotion for certain artists, you just have to look at the work he done for The Rootsâ€™ last album as well as Q-Tipâ€™s, it can only be a good thing for artists who donâ€™t have basically any budgets. Do you see VIMBY playing a big part in the underground hip-hop scene?
Zosimo: I honestly believe that weâ€™re changing the game. Weâ€™ve created a doc/epk, music video hybrid thatâ€™s honest and a real representation of the artists. Every day, I have artists and labels hitting me up asking how to get down with VIMBY. So, thatâ€™s telling me that weâ€™re doing something that the industry and the artists feel is important. We have some extremely passionate hip-hop heads on our team like Mario Rangel so we take what weâ€™re doing in the genre very serious. We also have a strong relationship with people like OP! from Cornerstone, Hallway J, Shake & Meka, Eskay, Will from Imeem, PR guru Matt Conaway, and other influential tastemakers on the digital side. Together, weâ€™re a powerful group who can light a viral fire on a new artist and I think labels are starting to get hip to that. What needs to happen is for the labels and brands to stop treating online like the bastard step-child and put more money and focus on us, the people who really have the consumerâ€™s ear. Aside from what weâ€™re doing with our videos, be on the look out for the VIMBY mixtape produced by Cook Classics, upcoming music showcases, and our new hip-hop blog called uponthingz.com with Mario at the helm.
Format: So are you into music, action sports, and fashion yourself?
Zosimo: Absolutely. Iâ€™ve been a DJ for 15 years so my playlists are quite deep by default. Iâ€™ve had a deep appreciation for underground hip-hop most of my life but over time Iâ€™ve learned to open my ears up to quality music from all genres. I also started my career out as a clothing designer and worked for companies like Gucci and Prada. Back in the early 90â€™s, I started a streetwear/skatewear brand called Kulee as well. So, Iâ€™ve been entrenched in several of the subcultures VIMBY represents and now have the ability to capture it all on video. If I had a video camera back then, youâ€™d be able to witness how many of these subcultures originated. Iâ€™m talking about when Eddie & James first opened up Stussy & Union; when Shepard Fairey was bombing the streets from Rhode Island to LA with Andre the Giant stickers; when Stretch, Mark Ronson and AM were just starting to hit the nightclub scene; and when Harold Hunter and Justin Pierce came to Hollywood after Kids. Unfortunately, I didnâ€™t document that but now we know weâ€™re doing something special with VIMBY capturing pop culture from all angles. I look forward to looking at this content 20 years from now and remembering exactly how it went down.
Format: OK, being a music head, give me five artists who you couldnâ€™t live without and few to lookout for?
Zosimo: My tastes are all over the place so five is tough. If I had to stick to hip-hop, Biggie, Jay & Nas are three I couldnâ€™t live without. Iâ€™m feeling what the AOK Collective is putting out in the East and Diz Gibranâ€™s voice on the West is pretty dope.
Format: On a final note, how do you see the future of VIMBY unfolding, is there room for development and expansion?
Zosimo: Thereâ€™s plenty of room for expansion. Video in My Backyard is set up to work anywhere like the U.K. and Japan. But first things first, weâ€™re looking to roll out more â€œbackyardsâ€ in America. After that weâ€™re getting ready to launch five new individual blogs all powered by VIMBY that specialize in everything from fashion to action sports. A main focus of ours is to be a multi-platform media company where we bring our flavor and content production style to reality TV, commercial production, and online advertising.