All posts by ModernMediaMix

DIY Punk in Eastern Iowa

Independence, self-expression, and just plain not giving f*ck. These virtues help drive the spirit of DIY Punk as it thrives in eastern Iowa. But what is DIY Punk? Where did it come from? Why would anyone want to pile into a sweaty basement with strangers? Glad you asked because that’s exactly what I did on the night of September 23rd!

PunkThe event was Sister Wife at The Black Hole. Scheduled for seven “so obviously, that meant it really started at eight.” In fact, I arrived to the event so early that Sister Wife actually thought I was the house owner since there were so few people at seven.

The Black Hole is a home music venue set up in a basement using two large speakers, string lights, and a small wooden stage in the corner of the room. There was also plenty of graffiti on the walls and charming, to say the least, decorations with an overall bohemian atmosphere.

PunkThe event was put on by a group known as Cedar Valley DIY, a network of people that host underground shows as well as other events.

There were five bands that performed that night, Canids, In the Attic, The Hex Girls, Sister Wife, and Shutup. I was invited by my friend Nick Fisher who plays bass/vocal for The Hex Girls. “Cedar Valley DIY is a very loyal audience. Same with places like the Octopus.”

The Octopus is another local venue with a solid music community as well as a place where a number of starting bands get their first tastes of stage time. Every month they host an open mic night and once every year they host a new band night; which is how The Hex Girls first got involved with them.

Bands like The Hex Girls first found their inspiration from other huge punk band, Green Day. Green Day started out in the East Bay of San Francisco playing shows at a local venue that didn’t allow signed bands and worked with a small studio that helped them produce their first few records. Green Day recently released an entire video series on their early years on Spotify that I would highly recommend.

Cedar Valley DIY themselves have also helped to launch a number of local performers on tour nationally. One such band is Avoid, a five-person group from Cedar Falls. You can check out their bandcamp here.

DIY Punk and DIY music in general has been seeing a great rise thanks to the Internet and home recording equipment being cheaper than ever. For only a few hundred dollars a person with a laptop could record an album and put it online. They can also perform as well thanks to communities and venues like Cedar Valley DIY, The Octopus, and all the bands that perform in and around Iowa.

If you want to support Cedar Valley bands like The Hex Girls, the best way to do it is go to a show but if you can’t do that you can stream them here on Spotify. I highly recommend making the effort to get out to a show because when the music is blaring and the crowd is dancing the night can be an experience you’ll never forget! Just don’t forget ear protection!

-Jonathan Carpenter

Disney’s Distribution Dilemma: Coco Needs Some Frozen Fever

What happens when movie fans become upset with your upcoming release and you are worried about the potential loss in ticket sales? You slap some Frozen on it and call it good. This is, in my opinion, exactly what Disney has done with its upcoming release of Coco. They are able to use this technique to support Coco mainly because Frozen is such a coveted property.

FrozenWhile, as I will discuss later, using this method of premiering shorts in front of films is not something new for Pixar, it is becoming something new for other distribution and film companies particularly within the independent arena. Utilizing this method could lead to additional revenue sources for these companies.

Before we get into the thick of things with Frozen and the other companies, let’s discuss Coco and why fans are so upset with Disney. Some of you may remember a certain 20th Century Fox film titled The Book of Life.

According to reporting from Polygon, it’s a colorfully animated film that tells the story of “living characters venturing into the Land of the Dead” based around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. Music also plays a huge role in this film. What’s the issue with Coco? It’s basically the same.


Disney’s Pixar actually announced their concept for Coco slightly ahead of 20th Century Fox, they just beat Pixar to the box office. While this fact may help Pixar’s reputation slightly, it is hard to change audiences’ minds once a rumor takes hold.

Another reason fans are upset with Walt Disney and Pixar over Coco involves the composition of the production crew. The Book of Life had “several Mexican producers and animators onboard” while initially Coco had an all Caucasian team lined up. After some additional outrage by fans, Disney enlisted an all Latino cast for the film along with a “coalition of cultural consultants.”

Additionally, the Walt Disney Company did not do itself any favors in the publicity department when it attempted to “trademark ‘Dia de los Muertos’” as the original name for Coco. Not a smart move, but if Disney knows how to do one thing right it is to use magic. In this case, hopefully to save a movie from flopping at the box office.

This is where Frozen comes into the equation as a saving force for Coco. The third installment in the Frozen series, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, will premiere exclusively in front of Coco in theaters. This may seem normal for Pixar as it has been a tradition since A Bug’s Life was released to include an original short at the beginning and/or a feature short included in the credits as “outtakes”.

Some examples of these include: For the Birds released with Monsters, Inc.; Blue Umbrella released with Monsters University; Piper released with Finding Dory; and Jack-Jack Attack that was in The Incredibles credits.

For a full list of films and their accompanying shorts click here.

Frozen  Frozen

Normally these shorts are created by so called amateur animators and generally are not directly affiliated to any major property. Coco’s short, on the other hand, is a well-known Disney property that had a lot of effort put into it.

The point of contention occurs regarding the originally planned distribution method for Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. Early in its development it was said that ABC, which Disney owns, would premiere it as a television special. Eventually deemed “too cinematic” it was decided the short film would become a theatrical featurette instead. For more on this click here.

While this may seem a coincidence, I feel as though the Walt Disney Company realized they wouldn’t fully recover from the lingering “ghost of The Book of Life” and their “ill-fated ‘Dia de los Muertos’ trademark attempt” without taking additional measures. Can you say oops?

FrozenAll in all, the Walt Disney Company realized that Coco’s box office performance wouldn’t be at par with what they needed, so they altered the distribution pattern for Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. Now having it paired with Coco in theaters not only gives the feeling of exclusivity, but it will also draw all of the Frozen fans to the theaters to see the next installment in the very well established franchise.

Interestingly enough, the Walt Disney Company is not the only one putting exclusive content in the form of short films ahead of major releases. Within the independent film business, Neon is a company that is starting this trend up again.

Neon, the “distribution shingle launched by Tim League and Tom Quinn” (Winfrey) buys independent short films and places them with their other independent properties for distribution. The first installment for Neon was 5 Films About Technology which premiered alongside Colossal. As of now, Neon only places shorts in front of its own properties, but only time will tell if they decide to sell the rights to short films to other distributors.

Is placing short films with major releases an effective method of distribution for major film studios to use in the future to get a larger audience in attendance?

-Piper Davis

The Minions Sure Know How to Rake in the Big Bucks

This past summer has had numerous box office hits, including the worldwide release of Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Spiderman: Homecoming, Dunkirk, Cars 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales, Baywatch, Atomic Blonde, and Despicable Me 3, which happened to bring in the most revenue at over $1,005,854,581 and was ranked second-biggest animated opening of all time (The Numbers). So how does a film, like Despicable Me 3, generate all of this revenue?


The blockbuster film emerged in the 1960s when Hollywood studios were experiencing financial difficulties due to the Paramount Decree, where these films helped the studios to “differentiate their products from the supply of competing media, such as television and helped revive the theater as a privileged place for the film experience and high quality entertainment,” stated Tanner Mirrlees (Designing Global Entertainment Media, 2013).

In fact, some of the biggest blockbuster films that were mass marketed and released, was George Lucas’s Star Wars and the hit film Jaws– along with many others. These films emphasized the exchange value of high-concept, mass-marketed, mass-released, and mass-targeted films, complemented with synergetic merchandising.

Blockbusters are able to stand out from the rest of films as they have large budgets, are marketed globally as high-concept and “must see” events, have big releases, and are designed to create as much revenue as possible, not only by collecting box office receipts, but by also spinning off commodities.  They also target a global, rather than a national based audience.

MINIONS The Despicable Me franchise has shown that there is life outside Pixar and Disney, both commercially and artistically in the blockbuster animation world. Despicable Me features the “despicable” character of Gru, and its little yellow creatures that are shaped like Tic-Tacs, in my opinion.

With Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment as the main production companies, the overall budget of the film was estimated at about $80 million, nearly matched by its $75 million opening weekend (IMDb). The 90-minute film, however, did not look as promising as the previous Minions and Despicable Me 2. In fact, the opening weekend was 14% lower than Despicable Me 2 and 37% lower than the Minions had opened up with (The Numbers).

The PG animated film raked in over $260 million in domestic revenue and over $748 million in foreign revenue. The largest foreign market was China, raking in over $158 million, with Japan coming in second at over $61 million (Box Office Mojo).

Its strategic marketing also had a lot to do with its success. Bloomberg reported that Universal’s parent company, Comcast, and its partners spent a combined $593 million publicizing the film, with less than half going towards traditional TV and print ads. The Minions have truly taken over the market appearing on merchandise, Tic-Tac packages, Chiquita Bananas, iPhone cases, Twinkies, etc.

Another franchise that has done well outside of the U.S. is the Ice Age franchise, where more than 80% of its revenue comes from the foreign box office. In fact, the fifth installment bombed its U.S. opening but went on to succeed in the global market (The Numbers). Opposite of this foreign success, Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets both had stellar runs at the U.S. box office, where Finding Dory was able to gross over $782 million globally.

Feel free to respond with your own personal opinions on how the Minions and the Despicable Me franchise has continued to succeed over the past few years. Are you a fan? Or, are you surprised at how successful this animated franchise has become?

Link to the trailer:

-Savannah Necker

We’re Back from Austin! — Our NAB Radio Report

Last week, six UNI Digital Media students and Professor Torre had a great time at the NAB Radio Show in Austin, Texas, where we heard from leaders in the radio industry, and even the FCC chairman. When not in conference sessions, we enjoyed spending time in downtown Austin, taking in the local culture of Tex-Mex food and live music.

NAB RadioWe attended sessions on a variety of topics and issues facing the radio industry today and going into the future. One of the sessions was titled The New Digital Remote, presented by Second Street Marketing, a company that creates digital content for radio stations.

Session panelists included Tucker Young and Tim Hall, senior sales and program directors at Bryan Broadcasting and Radio One respectively. Representing Second Street was Emily Thousand, and Affiliate Success manager.

Digital Media Leadership major Nick Langel attended this session and said, “What I found was most intriguing about this session was advertising digitally through online quizzes and using different formats of media. They discussed the idea of not using radio just as radio, but also as digital.”

NAB RadioSeveral students attended a session on Content Cross Training that covered taking radio from beyond on-air and into the digital space. Taylor Lien, a Digital Media Leadership and English major, attended this session and observed, “It was fascinating the way that an older form of media has found a way to bridge the gap between radio, which is a more traditional form of media, and social media in 2017.” She learned from the session that the radio industry is using social media as a way to extend an on-air personality’s branding beyond just what is on the air.

Growing Your Talent, Growing Your Revenue was a session presented by the radio industry trade group Mentoring Inspiring Women in Radio. The session focused on breaking the glass ceiling in radio, and the ways in which women are able to move into executive leadership positions. The panel was composed of a group of high-powered female executives in the radio industry who had a lot to say to young professionals.

Marielle Gaiser-Gonzalez a senior Digital Media Production student got a lot of inspiration for a future career in the industry, noting that, “The women on the panel have persuaded managers in their companies to have faith in their employees, and allow them to work at their capabilities without micromanaging.”

NAB Radio

“A lot of these women had a recurring theme: be bold!” Gaiser-Gonzalez said. “Riding the fine line between confident and cocky is a delicate balance, but with the right attitude and a fair mentality, breaking the convention and becoming an innovator is imperative for each new generation starting in the industry.”

One session, Communicating Across Generation, Gender and Culture dealt less with the radio industry directly, and more with public, and human relations that come with working in the business. Clara Tosi, a double major Digital Media Leadership and Production found this topic an unexpected choice.

“I found the inclusion of this topic to be thought-provoking, since I have studied about this throughout my education, and I wonder if this is something that people in the industry are just now starting to think about.” This Communicating Across… session explored the possibilities of radio station apps on devices on smart TVs, car connections, smart speakers, and many more.

NAB RadioChase Danielson, a Digital Media Production major attended a session titled, Apps: Beyond the Smartphone: “I was enthralled by this topic because I never really thought about how many smart devices are all around us, and how radio stations can get themselves onto many of them. Some people in the industry think that these smart devices are “killing radio” but some of these smart devices might actually be the key to saving radio, by bringing radio back into the home via smart televisions and smart speakers.”

Jaelyn Hogue, a senior Digital Media Production major had this to say about the Radio Show and other opportunities given to students. “I thought going to the NAB Radio show was a great opportunity to learn about different job experiences. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after graduation, but now I have a better idea about my different options. In the sessions I learned that finding your dream job takes time and effort along with growth. I am ready to experience the radio industry for all it has to offer.”

Paul Torre, a professor in Digital Media Leadership, noted that, “the NAB Radio Show is one of many opportunities offered at the University of Northern Iowa, where students can learn about media industry best practices and network with professionals in a wide array of media fields.”

NAB Radio

We are all grateful to the Iowa Broadcasters Association for making this trip possible! Trips like these are a great opportunity for students to gain professional perspective before getting into the workplace. Watch here for a highlights video of our trip very soon!

-Taylor Lien and the 2017 Radio Show Team

We’re off to Austin for the NAB Radio Show!

The Digital Media Leadership program is sponsoring a group of University of Northern Iowa students, and we are heading to Austin, Texas to attend the NAB Radio Show this week!

NAB Radio ShowAs students, we have a unique perspective going in, since we are learning about an ever-evolving industry. Many of the seminars will pose a great opportunity to gain information on what’s happening in the media industry right now, as well as trends for the future.

The NAB radio show encourages “young professionals” to attend, and we are excited about a series of sessions geared towards how to start out, and how to continue to succeed in the industry.

NAB Radio ShowOne seminar is titled, “Whose Job is it Anyway?” and tackles the issues of skill gaps and hiring demands in a multimedia environment. The session features a panel of executives and sales managers that will provide valuable insight to those preparing to enter the digital media job market.

On the other side of the spectrum, seminars based on content or industry trends will bring real-world perspective to lessons learned in the classroom straight from the industry professionals that would know it best.

One that seems particularly intriguing is titled, “Content Cross Training,” and deals with the best ways for radio stations to bridge their brands and marketing into social media outlets as well as new media platforms. For a younger generation of prospective employees, the perspective of people who have worked in the industry, possibly for decades, provides a healthy contrast to our own everyday use of social media.

Beyond the seminars, the NAB Radio Show will also provide us with networking opportunities on the exhibitor floor and through the career fair. We will explore the exhibitor hall and will have an opportunity to see the newest and best technology that companies have to offer. This also will us will give us a behind-the-scenes peek at where the technology is headed, and what the industry may look like in the next few years.

We will also have the chance to network through the career fair, and interact one-on-one with possible employers from many areas of the media industry. This may lead to future job opportunities, or simply provide helpful insight into what media companies are looking for in their prospective employees.

We are ready and excited for all the experiences that we will have as a result of this trip, and it promises to be a good experience to expand on what we are learning in the classroom. After we return, look for our roundup of some of the highlights from our Austin adventure!

-Taylor Lien

End of Internship Report: Clara at 1650 The Fan

Time flies. These past two and a half months have gone by so fast. It seems like it was only yesterday that I received my first email from my new supervisor Bob Foster, director of 1650 The Fan, radio station at Cedar Valley Broadcasting, asking me if I could start my internship a few weeks early. Since then, I have been involved in (and in most cases, in charge of) the pre-production, production and post production of four videos. While four videos may not seem like a lot, each phase actually took about one week, meaning an average of three weeks per video.

You can see these videos and what else I’ve done through this internship on 1650 The Fan’s YouTube channel and on my web based portfolio.

During my internship, I learned many things. One thing that I learned fairly quickly is that radio isn’t dying. It is a common misconception that “No one listens to the radio” and I have to admit that I had this misconception before my internship. It is true that it’s not growing quickly, however there is still a loyal audience. Over the summer I saw active listeners of Bob Foster’s morning show “Foster on the Fan” recognize him with comments such as “I listen to you every morning man!”

Today’s loyal radio audience listens, “In their car on their way to work,” says Foster. Radio has shifted from being used by families in the home to a form of entertainment and/or information gathering tool in the car.

Clara Internship
Bob Foster greeting fans of his morning show at Sturgis Falls.

Being selfish is human nature. We all think at some point in our lives that the world revolves around us. A good way to catch someone’s attention when it comes to advertising is to personalize what you are saying. Most commercials are only about the company and service, but the real trick is to make it about them instead of you, then your audience will be even more interested. What can your product or service do for them? How can it benefit them? That is what potential clients really care about. Even simply using the word “you” or giving an implied order such as “get maximum sports” makes the listener feel more active and interested in what you have to tell them.

Plan ahead: Pre-production is important. That is something that of course as a digital media double major I already knew, but was greatly highlighted during my internship. My most challenging shoot was my first one, mostly from lack of planning and pre-production. For almost all my shoots, we had about a week of pre-production in which we went location scouting, created a storyboard, and discussed what the client (Cedar Valley Broadcasting) wanted and needed from each project. It’s not always about the what and how: the why is the most important. Why was I creating these videos?

I hadn’t realized before how much location scouting is very important and helpful. It’s even better if it can be done at least one day before the shoot, which gives you time to envision some of the shots. If you cannot go to the location prior to the shoot, ask for layout of the place from someone who has already been there. For my first shoot of the ISU Tailgate Tour, I asked Foster for a layout of the location and he drew me a map which was very helpful, especially considering I didn’t even know this was an inside shoot until the day before!


Clara Internship  Clara Internship

Bob Foster and I creating the storyboard for the Cedar Valley Broadcasting Promotion video.

Always have a plan B! If there’s anything my supervisor Bob Foster wanted me to leave having learned, it’s “always have a plan B!” This important tip within the media field has been told to me since day one. What if your tripod doesn’t work? What if your camera runs out of battery? Both of these things actually happened to me on the ISU Waterloo Tailgate Tour shoot. Luckily I had a plan B. For the tripod, I ended up using a tall table and stacked my camera in a stable position on top of its bag for the interviews. The rest were handheld shots. For the battery, I had brought an extra battery, and a battery charger, so I managed to find a plug and alternate between batteries. At our Sturgis Falls shoot, we had difficulties picking up the mic line audio. Our solution? Simply use plan B. This was a two-camera shoot, so we switched cameras and used the second camera to pick up the audio. Foster has also taught me that you can never be too safe and it is always a smart move to go even beyond and have a plan C, D and even E ready. Just in case.

 -Clara Tosi

End of Internship Report: Piper at NRG Media

As the summer is coming to a close, it is interesting to look back on all of my experiences and things I have learned from my internship at NRG Media in Waterloo, Iowa. I have learned everything from community engagement at events to imaging and producing promotions to be aired on the stations.

I would have to say the most important thing I learned about working at a media company is to go with the flow. The creative process is a messy one, and it takes multiple people, each working on their own tasks, to make promotions happen. A good media company, in my opinion, has a very laid back environment in which ideas can flourish, and NRG Media is a prime example of that.

Piper Internship

Having spent a lot of time outdoors with The Party Summer Concert Tour registering people for a chance to win tickets to see various artist, I learned some important lessons and tips.

  1. Sunscreen and water are always a good idea
  2. Rejection is something you get used to
  3. It’s not about what you are trying sell or promote, it’s how you act and present yourself to others

In addition to working with the stations on remote events, I also got to try my hand at the production side of the business. The most important lesson here is to always listen and trust your first instinct. The more you overthink, the worse it will be.

I feel like that goes for most media companies. The more something is analyzed over and over again to reach perfection, the more it slips in the other direction towards destruction.

Before I did this internship, I knew very little about how the radio business worked, but after interning with NRG Media I have a newfound appreciation for all the work that everyone does, not just the radio DJs. Above all, this internship has opened up a new world of possibilities and interests for me to pursue in the future.

-Piper Davis

End of Internship Report: Sam at Cumulus Media

Now that my internship has come to an end, I’ve been able to reflect and think back on all the things I’ve learned at Cumulus Media in Des Moines, Iowa.

I think the most valuable thing I learned was what it was like to work in a serious, professional environment. I’ve had jobs before and interned before as well, but I’ve never worked for a large, national company like Cumulus media. To me, it felt like I really was an adult with a real adult job.

That may sound silly, but I think this is a very important idea. Our experience of the workforce is very different as an adult than as a teenager. It was intimidating to think of what I may have to do once I graduated, as I didn’t feel that I had much to compare it too. Now I feel more comfortable with the idea of graduating and getting a job in my field. It feels like I know what to expect, and that is because I got to work in an environment that was in my field.

Sam InternshipAnother valuable experience I had was in gaining more media production skills. While I was very capable of doing audio work already, I was able to learn more skills and tricks to make production easier. I worked closely with their production people and they helped me a lot.

I had the chance to learn the ins and outs of the radio industry too. There are a lot of secrets I learned, but I obviously can’t spoil them because they are secrets. I can say that I thoroughly understand what “Traffic” means in the radio world. Traffic is basically everything that gets aired on the radio. They have a Traffic department that checks and sorts and decides when and where everything on the radio is broadcast. Working in Traffic takes an incredible amount of skill.

Sales is another area I learned quite a bit about. I think most people do not realize how important sales is in radio. Many people may just think of radio as music, but it really is more like an advertisement company with music sprinkled in. I got to watch and learn how the sales orders were processed and the way Cumulus creates a commercial from beginning to end.

If I had to impart any advice to anyone wanting to work for a media company, it would be to show up on time and listen. In my opinion, those are the biggest things Cumulus wanted. They wanted people who would show up when they were told and were willing to listen when given instructions. It sounds very basic, yet I think those are the best pieces of advice I can give.

-Sam King