Have you ever heard of Bandslam?
Probably not. Or if you have, you likely haven’t thought about it in years. Bandslam is a 2009 teen movie that stars Vanessa Hudgens, Aly Michalka, and Gaelan Connell. It’s somewhat of a musical, in that a lot of songs are featured in it due to the plot. The movie’s centered on Connell’s character, Will Burton, who helps create and manage a band for a sort-of Battle of the Bands competition, aptly named (you guessed it) “Bandslam.”
It’s a great movie, and you should watch it when you have the time. But that’s not why Bandslam is relevant today, nearly twelve years later.
Rather, it’s the obscurity of the movie that’s the fascinating part–by all accounts, it should’ve been much more successful than it was. So, by examining its failures, maybe we can learn and grow ourselves.
Bandslam Is Great, But a Victim of Poor Marketing
So what’s so special about Bandslam, you might be wondering. If it’s similar to a bunch of other, well-known movies, and no one’s ever really heard of it, then why does it matter?
Well, for one thing, it’s got a cameo by David Bowie. It’s actually his final film appearance, and if that isn’t enough to get you to watch Bandslam, I don’t know what is. It’s got an upbeat cover of Bread’s “Everything I Own,” sung by Vanessa Hudgens, who clearly can’t hit all of the notes (there is a great deal of Auto-Tune that’s pretty evident when she tries to go to her lower register), but she still has a grand old time while performing. It’s got heart—Lisa Kudrow and Aly Michalka’s performances are very sympathetic and so fun to watch on screen. It’s also got an 82 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so even most film critics enjoyed the movie.
But for all its virtues, Bandslam is labeled as a commercial failure—a bit harsh, but seeing as it raised $12 million dollars at the box office versus the $20 million it cost to produce, it’s not unfair.
The movie’s failure in theaters was attributed to its advertisement, even during its initial debut. “Death by marketing” became a phrase attached to Bandslam as an explanation for its falterings at the box office.
Bandslam’s failure, and its relative obscurity, aren’t related to its content at all. If its developers knew how to advertise the movie correctly, and play to its strengths, it could’ve been a much bigger movie than it was.
The same may apply to you, and your personal or professional life.
How to Learn from Bandslam’s Mistakes
In a Deadline article about Bandslam, an insider for film development notably criticizes the film’s advertising for not playing to its strengths, and instead of caving to popular trends and a safer targeted audience. The anonymous source argues that Bandslam was unique, quirky, and edgy, and should’ve been treated as such in its promotional materials.
Maybe the same kind of thing has happened to you. Not to say that you’re a commercial failure—but maybe you feel overlooked in your personal or professional life. Maybe you feel like people don’t see your strengths or your talents, and it’s frustrating.
All of us feel this way, to a certain degree; the need to feel understood is a common one, and without it, people can feel demonstrably less happy, which can lead to loneliness and even depression.
Part of this may be caused by the people you’re surrounded by—finding the right kind of friends, who love and accept you, is always a challenge that everyone faces at some point in their lives. But, much like Bandslam, it may have to deal with the way that you’re marketing yourself.
If you think that you’re funny, then play up that part of yourself when you can, especially when you meet new people. If you’re at a job interview and you want the interviewer to know how resilient you are, then talk about it. If you’re kind, then show that kindness to others. Psychology and studies have proven how important first impressions and social image are, so make sure that you’re branding yourself correctly, and the way that you want to be seen by others.
Don’t make Bandslam’s mistakes—assess your strengths, play to them, and don’t try hiding behind a façade just because you believe it’ll make you more successful. True success should derive from your own personality, wants, and needs, and if you play your cards right, you’ll be all the more happy and successful for staying true to yourself even while building your social image.
The Legacy of You versus the Legacy of Bandslam
This all isn’t to say that your inherent value is determined by your marketability. Unlike Bandslam, you’re not a capitalist product; you’re a human being who has value, and you should also treat yourself as such.
But learning from Bandslam’s mistakes could help you grow a larger network of connections. Maybe it could even help you make new friends, or get a promotion.
When I first watched Bandslam, I expected something completely different from what I ended up watching. I thought I was going to watch another mindless B-rated movie, and instead, I ended up watching one of my favorite movies of all time. While that kind of shock was a good one, I also wish that Bandslam was more well-known, and got the kind of recognition that it deserved all the way back in 2009.
And I hope that for you, you get the kind of recognition that you deserve. Because you’re special, and you have good things in store.
And if you have the time on your hands, I highly recommend watching Bandslam.