Updated on October 5th, 2015.
David Burd, also known as Lil’ Dicky, grew up in an upper middle-class family in the suburbs of Philadelphia, graduated at the top of his class with a business marketing degree and spent nearly two years planning out the debut of his music career. The robust monetary support from his loyal fan base has allowed him the rare luxury to dictate the pacing of release dates and maintain complete creative control over the content, which is anything but corporate friendly. Subsequently, the decision to self impose a budget of $0 on his latest music video is an intriguing one, riddled with takeaways for anyone trying to build a product while bootstrapping.
The song title, “$ave Dat Money,” explains the concept of the video, which shows Lil’ Dicky trying to shoot a music video for free. With the exception of some over the top product placement towards the end, we get a glimpse behind the scenes of how this up and coming 27-year-old artist manages to wrangle in one favor after the next, resulting in a not-so-shabby end product.
Admittedly, Lil’ Dicky is able to use his past body of work to demonstrate a certain level of authority and further sweetens the deal when he offers some of the participants onscreen mentions. In today’s world of digital video and YouTube publishing, his offers cost him exactly nothing and the undeniable belief in the quality of his work and resulting perseverance in getting freebies is inspiring for any startup founder.
L-D, who openly highlights the shared initials with Seinfeld creator Larry David, knows how to make his rhymes universal. He sculpts comedy out of standard operating procedures in the business sector with references to the try-before-you-buy model of the hottest subscription services, sharing of Netflix credentials amongst family members, and the disproportionate number of incorporations in Delaware. Most of us can’t help but relate to his message and that makes it much easier to press the share button.
Pause this but I'm rockin to that lil Dicky-Russell Westbrook on a farm. He put good flame to that pound cake beat— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) September 20, 2014
As a video producer, the single biggest lesson I took away from watching the interwoven pseudo documentary is from Mr. Burd’s struggle with and willingness to ask for the participation of celebrities through cold calls. Thanks to the clip, which shows him composing an email to Kevin Durant, we can extrapolate how he cajoled a large cast of a-listers such as Sarah Silverman and Mark Cuban to not only appear in the video but even sing his lyrics. With this fearless attitude and the branding mastery it’s not too difficult to imagine Lil’ Dicky as a new heavyweight in mainstream entertainment before long. For now, we can all afford to learn a little something from this experiment.
Nearly two weeks after the music video went live, Lil’ Dicky delivered on the promise of a true documentary dissecting the creative process behind bringing this idea to reality. It’s a deeper look into his conviction and hustle (note the 40 million predicted views he offers the nightclub manager as a bargaining chip). This meatier, 20-minute video is a must-see for anyone interested in the journey as much as the destination. If the above analysis of his thought process can be compared to an appetizer of sorts, then prepare yourselves for a proper main course, straight from the architect’s mouth.