Over the past decade, VAS has cemented its position in the action sports video market to the point of a near monopoly. But now there’s a new kid on the block. Launched by industry veterans Mikey LeBlanc and Kyle Kennedy, KidsKNOW has inked deals to distribute 13 films from producers such as Absinthe, Brain Farm, Videograss, and Think Thank and is carving out a niche as a snowboarder-owned and focused company.
“We are definitely stoked to be working with KidsKNOW and having Kyle sell our videos,” says Videograss’s Joe Carlino. “Having sales men, to sell snowboard videos who know who’s actually in them is what’s up! The sales crew is friends with more then half the riders in our films. It doesn’t make sense when you have, ‘Mary Sue’ and ‘Sally Jane’ selling a product that they have no clue about. Like Chris Farley said, ‘I can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take a butcher’s word for it.’ KidsKNOW is simply the best snowboard DVDs made by the best producers.”
Absinthe’s Patrick “Brusti” Armbruster adds; “We feel that the DVD/BluRay business is changing and that we needed someone that knows how important the movies are for the industry, the riders, the kids, the shops, the brands, etc. With the right attitude and motivation there are still lot’s of possibilities out there to spread our message. Instead of working with one global player we restructured our distribution network and selected a strong partner in each country. For the US we feel that working with Kyle and Mikey at KidsKnow is the right pick. Plus in times where things are challenging I’d rather go with something that is also bringing a more fun aspect to it which working with Mikey definitely does!”
We caught up with Kennedy, who worked with Academy Snowboards for five years before joining the Snowboarder team for three, to learn more about the project and how it has gained rapid acceptance from producers and shops alike in just a few short months.
What’s been going on to get things ready for your first season?
We’ve been pressing on prebooks, just getting the word out more than anything. We sent out a flyer with a teaser DVD to all the retailers. We’ve been getting a lot of orders on the prebook side. It looks like everyone’s excited to have a fresh name in the game right now. It’s relearning the older shops that have done the same thing every year,ordering their movies from VAS. We’re making lots of phone calls. I’ve been there for the launch of a brand [with Academy] and know how hard it is to get reception and this had been really, really good. VAS owned everything globally and now the game is open. Some of these hardgoods distributors are like “No way, I have a chance to sell this? This is going to help me sell my other products.”
Give us a little history of KidsKNOW.
It started, when Videograss was first conceived. Everyone was using VAS, but we wanted to do it ourselves. Nothing came of it and then I left Snowboarder and Mikey and I started talking about the distribution. I ended up going on a trip to Central America and did a vision quest and thought about what I wanted to do. The day I came back I called Mikey, went to Portland, and started talking about distribution. Originally it was just going to be Videograss, but we decided if we were going to do it, let’s do it right. I talked to a couple producers—ThinkThank, was down, I talked to Blue [Montgomery] at Capita, he was down, and it just kind of came together. At SIA, I sat down with the rest of the dudes and everyone was super excited and receptive.
We had pretty much everybody until the 11th hour and VAS realized that they were losing so much business that they put these crazy deals on the table to pull People and Forum back. We were fortunate to have everyone we have and it’s a perfect scenario. Since January we’ve been putting together the contracts, dialing in the programs, the tax stuff, logistics. fulfillment, working with the replicators, and just a lot of work to get things together.
For us, we’ve been approached to do more than the 13 movies we’re doing currently. We actually have been turning some people away unfortunately, but we want to make sure we have everything dialed for the first year and we’re really excited for the producers we’re working with. We got Absinthe – they were completely happy with VAS. They had no reason to talk to us, but because of Mikey’s relationship with filming with them for so many years and my past relationship they were in. My approach was that they don’t have to come on board, but just wanted them to know what we were doing. It was the same thing we did with Red Bull Media House. It was like, “hey, just give us your ear for a second. If you need any assistance, we’d be stoked to do something.” At the 11th hour they called us and said you have to do The Art of Flight.
Our goal the whole time has been to make sure that the best producers are placed in the best retail shops and that we can help sell through and then get re orders. It’s a simple formula. VAS did a great job of covering all titles and all things action, but fulfilling on all avenues like reorders, it’s tough to do everything good.
A look at KidsKNOW’s 2011/12 library of titles:
What’s your take on the overall DVD market?
Obviously it’s not growing but we think if we can utilize our resources and the voices that we work with and create almost an image or lifestyle, we want to collect these and support the hard work producers are doing. Support the movement of trying to prevent downloading for free and Torrents and stuff like that. We’re talking about doing these public service announcements where we get riders to say “don’t steal what you love,” like Marc Frank Montoya knocking on some kids door while he’s downloading a movie.
When you were developing the company, what was the feedback you were getting from producers about the problems they were seeing from VAS and how will you alter your model to improve on that?
When we first talked with Think Thank, they were saying that’s exactly what they wanted to do but didn’t. “Fuck yeah, that’s great, I can’t believe finally someone is going to step up and do this.” It’s been much needed – every producer is saying it. A lot aren’t distributing in the US because they don’t want to work with VAS – they didn’t get paid.
What do you see as the top things to help shops move DVDs?
The proper communication, making sure that they have all that they need, whether it’s brick and mortar or for online, that they have the right images, teasers, and things like that. For them, obviously proper POP and tools to promote it. Snow-specific teaser loops that feature the entire line, and it loops. My understanding is that hasn’t been done and sent out to everyone recently. We have a list of 1,300 retailers that received them last week. It’s been an investment, but you don’t even have to order from us to play it.
Instead of free copies on every 12, we give the tools. They know what they want, and I’m not going to force anything on them. That’s been an issue in the past.
Are you guys selling direct?
We will be offering a digital solution for some of the guys who don’t have iTunes set ups. The dealers will also have their own login for our site so they can check inventory and order on the back end. This digital solution is not in place yet, but it’s the big picture and we need to create a safe way to do it. That’s the only reason we haven’t done it yet is to keep it safe. iTunes isn’t really that safe – 1,000 downloads equals 4,000 copies.
How tied in are you guys on the international front these days?
We’re not 100% locked in. VAS has partners internationally where they had their footprint in regions. For instance, the guy who handles Europe, he called UK and Russia and Scandinavia and that was considered Europe. For me, you break that thing up.
Yeah, there’s like 23 different markets there.
That’s how it was handled in Europe. That’s not how it should be done. I can sell in Germany, Austria, France, Norway, et cetera. My strategy is focusing on the major stores in each and every market.
Are you working with different distributors in each market then?
Yeah, we’re breaking it down. We’re giving the hardgoods distributors the chance to sell these and they’re really excited- it’s a door opener. To offer a product that will help sell their product and only take up a little space, they’re super hyped.
You’ve got to be hyped on the rights to The Art Of Flight?
The only movie we’re sharing exclusivity with is the Art of Flight. That’s a game changer. That’s going to be a big movie for everyone. We’re sharing it with VAS. They got it before us. That’s the only movie basically they’re selling right now. I’ve been pretty impressed with the numbers we’re doing even though the shops have already ordered with VAS. I just got an order from Boardroom in Boise for four dozen and they’re not that big of a shop. They’re looking at this the way they should and the same way I do – it’s an opportunity for us to create snowboarders. For kids who don’t ride to say “I want to do that!” We don’t have new snowboarders we’re all gonna be out of jobs soon. We need to start making snowboarders. They’re just looking for somewhere else. People for instance, we lost them at the 11th hour. They were part of the original Kids Know crew. It was Cole Taylor, Justin, and Pierre and Mikey.That’s kind of the reason we named it Kids Know, it’s all of us all together again but we’re distributing all of our own movies ourselves.
Our goal is to have the full range. A great array of movies, not just all the underground movies, but have a major picture, like a Flight, and then a well respected history like Absinthe, then the younger guys like Videograss. Joe’s movie is going to be really good, it will help step the Videograss game up to another level. I’ve seen him come up from before the Bear movies. It’s so cool to see that progression and see him beat out some of these gnarly film makers. I’m looking forward to seeing his movie.