Peter Himmelman's Furious World: Streaming Spotlight

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Himmelman’s music career began decades ago in Minneapolis, where he was frontman for Sussman Lawrence, a popular local band that always seemed on the verge of making it huge. He moved to the New York area in 1983, where he created music for fashion shows, short films, and commercials. “Anything to pay the rent,” he says.

He met the woman who would become his wife (Maria Dylan, daughter of Bob Dylan) while on a trip to Los Angeles in 1988. The courtship was brief (“We got married in like 20 seconds,” he says), and the transplanted Midwesterner soon found himself living in Los Angeles. He’s been there ever since.

Growing a Live Online Video Show

Furious World started as a one-camera show, with one computer processing the video and one processing the audio. While the quality was acceptable, Himmelman saw others presenting much more professional work online, such as Leo Laporte with This Week in Tech, and wanted to get the same results in his own show.

The secret, he learned, was a video production tool called the NewTek TriCaster, which makes it easy for video creators to match the look of professional programs. Himmelman got contact information for NewTek representatives and pestered them, he says, until NewTek offered to help sponsor Furious World by donating a TriCaster.

“Once we got the TriCaster, the quality became ‘before and after,’” Himmelman says.

While the TriCaster has been a big help, it hasn’t solved the show’s real problem: money. Himmelman spends more than $1,500 of his own money to create each show. Much of that goes to the live band, the two or three camera operators, and Jacobs, who works most of the technical equipment during the show and after. There’s also food for all involved. It adds up. Expenses are easy to accumulate; sponsors, not so much.

“The difficulty has been trying to maintain some kind of control and figure out a way to monetize it. That has been the biggest challenge,” says Himmelman.

Not that he hasn’t been trying. While the show is free, he offers a backstage membership for $10 per month, which allows fans to tune in before and after live shows to hear a few extra songs. The membership also gets them free Himmelman artwork and the chance to watch him create songs in the studio, when inspiration takes him.

While the membership plans are helping with expenses, they aren’t paying all the bills. They’re more a model for what could be, Himmelman says. What the show really needs is an ad salesperson, but that person would have to work on spec. “And if they’ll work on spec, then who are they?” Himmelman asks.

Without sponsors, without money coming in, the grind of a weekly show has become especially wearying for Himmelman. He’s not sure how much longer he can do it.

“What is it that I’m trying to get across and what am I trying to say? From week to week I’d get up there and have nothing to say and feel very uninspired about a show,” Himmelman says.

Finding Inspiration

What drives Himmelman to keep putting Furious World out is the response he gets from fans and other artists. It drives him, giving him the energy he needs to push past the despair.

“When musicians call me up and say, ‘Hey, I checked out your show,’ it’s kind of cool. It’s getting somewhere,” Himmelman says.

The show will likely continue, probably yet this spring. What shape it will take, however, Himmelman isn’t sure about. Doing a live show doesn’t make sense today, he acknowledges, since most of his audience isn’t watching the live stream. While he likes the romance of a live show, he knows that people prefer to watch video on their own schedules.

If he abandons the live show idea, he can record several episodes over a week and then release them one by one. That would save on production costs. That would also save him the pain of having a weekly Tuesday deadline looming. He could record up to 20 shows at once, he says, and then recharge until it’s time to shoot the next batch.

As Himmelman reshapes his show, he’s planning his guests and working to take a more curatorial role in future, making Furious World less about him and more about his guests’ projects. If success takes longer, he seems willing to put more time in.

“I think, ‘Well, I’ve been at this 2 years,’ but 2 years is not much,” he says.

A little time off has done Himmelman good. He’s been enjoying creating music, something that the weekly grind of the show had separated him from. He needs that well of creativity or he has nothing to draw from during Furious World.

“You still have to be inspired, you still have to be challenged, you still have to be impassioned and frustrated and everything, and there’s no app for that,” Himmelman says.

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