MVD Visual, a division of MVD Entertainment Group of Oaks, PA, has picked up North American distribution rights for Troubadour Blues on home video, download and streaming platforms. MVD is a family-owned company that got its start in the heyday of MTV, distributing music videos on VHS to the burgeoning video rental market — they are music people and will help get this documentary into appreciative hands.

MVD will market the DVD version to chain stores like Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Family Video, specialty record and video stores like New England’s Newbury Comics and California’s Amoeba Music, and e-retailers like Amazon, B& and DVD Planet. Also, it will be available for digital download through iTunes, Amazon Digital and similar paid download sites — the fastest-growing segment of the home video market. In adddition, MVD will negotiate with video on demand services like Netflix and Hulu in an effort to make Troubadour Blues also available through those streaming channels.

Until now, the film has only been available at live screenings and on a few websites (by the way, big thanks to Chris Smither, Slaid Cleaves and Peter Case for selling it on their websites). We’ll continue to sell the video on our own website while supplies last. In 2013, I’m going to continue taking the film out on the road as much as I can, particularly in parts of the country like the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast that I haven’t been able to visit so far. But the new partnership opens this film up to a much wider audience, and is a huge step toward greater recognition.

Credit for this is due to my estimable sales agent, Dan Gurlitz of Soundview Media Partners. Dan has a lot of experience in the world of music and video marketing, and was willing to hold my hand through the many stages of the sometimes confusing process. I particularly appreciate his honesty and candor — if he thinks I’m wrong, he’ll tell me.

I began work over a year ago on a new film, Don’t Give Up Your Day Job. This is a documentary about the whole range of musicians, from dedicated amateurs who play music for fun and self-expression, to experienced “weekend warriors” who play in bar bands, to highly trained practitioners of forms of music (like free jazz or opera) that aren’t in demand in the market. On a deeper level, I’m trying to ask some questions about the role of the artist in our highly commercialized society — where it seems the only critical standard we have for art is “How much money did it make?” — and talk to musicians frankly about success, professionalism, originality and other issues.

The concept is loosely based on a groundbreaking book by sociologist Ruth Finnegan of the Open University, The Hidden Musicians, which is a study of muslcal activity in Milton Keynes, England. Milton Keynes is a “New City,” built after World War II to house a growing population of returning veterans and their families, and in the U.K. it’s sort of a byword for a somewhat bland place with no distinctive culture. Dr. Finnegan found quite the contrary, that the city was bursting at the seams with musical activity, from folk to rock to classical to choral singing. I hope to include an interview with her in the documentary.

I come from a small city, Erie, Pennsylvania, which has a surprising amount of musical activity for its size and location. I started out interviewing a lot of Erie musicians, simply because I know who they are, but I don’t want to make this a film about Erie. I’ve shot segments in Arizona and California, and have segments planned in Houston and Marfa, Texas, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, and other locations. Stay tuned for developments, and get in touch with me if you’re a musician and think you would bring something special to the project.

From The Blogs

Building a New Infrastructure for Filmmaking — As a grassroots filmmaker, your chances of getting into even a second-tier film festival are slim to none. Here’s what we can do about it.

Screening Tours: What Works and What Doesn’t — What I learned from my 3,000-mile trip to conduct screenings in Tennessee, California, Texas and Arizona.

Getting Their Attention: The Hardest Part — Building an audience for your film is hard work. Here’s what I’ve learned about the fine art of publicizing a grassroots film.

What I’ll Do Differently Next Time (20/20 Hindsight) — Obaservations on releasing and promoting your own film if you’ve got more time than money.