Cinematech just posted an article about Film Baby, an online DVD distribution outlet that will take anyone's DVDs and offer them up for public consumption. It's a good article/interview about an interesting alternative to get your work out there, but it brings up some fundamental issues about using someone else to perform a task you could easily do yourself, and make more money.
A $39.95 Setup Fee
The first thing required by Film Baby is that you register for an account, and then pay a one-time fee of forty bucks. This sets up your web page on their site which will have information about your movie, the price, artwork, etc. This is a justifiable cost, but considering you can register your own domain name for nine bucks and setup your own unique site, the value is questionable. Adding a shopping cart to any site is easy (and free) if you know how to obtain and insert code, otherwise Film Baby's service might be more appealing.
You Create the DVD, and Send it to Them
They recommend that you send them about 10 ready-to-buy DVDs complete with case and artwork. As customers buy your disc, you send in more stock. They mention that 20 DVDs will fit into a Flat Rate Priority Box for $8.05--a good tip. I question, however, why I wouldn't just ship my stuff directly to customers instead of a middleman. It cuts out a step, and DVDs aren't that much to ship, at just over a buck.
You Set the Price, They Keep $4 a Disc
Film Baby is a business, so they need to turn a profit, which is understandable. Their profit comes in the form of four dollars per DVD sold. To encourage customers to buy my movie, I want a low price--$9.99 at most. Considering it probably costs me about $2.50 for materials (box, artwork, disc, printed label, shipping), another four off the top leaves me with a $3.49 profit. If I sell 1,000 movies through Film Baby, I make $3490. If I sell them myself, I make $7490, which is a $4000 difference. That's a pretty big chunk.
It's Still Your Job to Generate an Audience
The most Film Baby will apparently do to promote your film is to link it to categories. If someone likes horror movies, maybe they'll like yours. You still have to create an audience and let them know where to buy your stuff, whether on Film Baby or your own site. So, if they really can't generate sales for me, why do I need them again?
I'm sure Film Baby meets a need, or they wouldn't be there. I just hope that people who wish to really monetize their work will not sell themselves short by doing all the labor and letting someone else skim money that rightfully belongs to them. This means more elbow grease, but the result could be the difference between a hobby income and a full time job.