Copy Surgeon Ed. 1 – Analysis of Netflix’s DEVIL at the Crossroads…

Image result for devil at the crossroads
All respective image rights to Netflix Inc.

Welcome to a new segment of my blog called… Copy Surgeon!

Where I dissect and analyze…

  1. the headline
  2. teaser/description
  3. headline (this time, deeper)
  4. lead
  5. lead type (we’ll define these copywriting jargons, don’t worry)
  6. and the big idea (what’s it all about)

Ok… but What are we going to analyze?

Anything from:

  • sales pages
  • VSL (video sales letters)
  • but also less boring and more exciting for you… movies!!! (yes!)

Yes, Movies are included 🙂 So for our first one, we’re gonna start with a…

Netflix documentary

Because who doesn’t love Netflix.

And documentaries.


So Welcome to Copy Surgeon Edition 1… Netflix’s ReMastered: Devil at the CrossRoads..

Since I’m also a movie lover, I’ll also tell you if this is worth watching or not.

So let’s dive in.

CopySurgeon Edition 1. Blastoff.

(Prior to reading this analysis, you should probably watch it on Netflix until timestamp 3:00. Then come back here.)

First… the teaser.

(the little blurb under the headline).

“Cloaked in mystery, bluesman Robert Johnson left his mark on American music. Now family, critics, and fans look for the real man behind the music”

– Teaser blurb from Netflix’s ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads

CRITICISM – The teaser blurb could be better.

The first sentence is good but I think it should have alluded to the devil (like “How did Robert Johnson go from a kid to a blues icon…”).

The 2nd sentence is good because it alludes to what is coming. 

I would have rewritten the blurb like this:

From being laughed at to becoming the greatest blues musician in history, a deal with a devil mystifies his fans and critics to this day.


Could you become great by making a deal with devil? Critics and family discuss the dastardly aura behind Robert Johnson’s blues fame…

Overall, this blurb isn’t a glaring fault as it’s, well… Netflix. I doubt many, if any people at all actually even read that blurb. The ROI on spending a lot of money to fine-tune this blurb is probably not even worth it. (considering the medium, Netflix, and the medium’s users), but we will need metrics to support that claim (Netflix can you help me here?). 

Ok now let’s move on to our headline.

Headline Thoughts…

ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads

Headline: 5 word count

  • this fits under the universal 8 word rule of good copywriting headlines, so check.

Here are my thoughts about the headline…

“ReMastered” – this word implies the visual quality is very, very good. It also implies it was really old so it creates trust in the audience because people believe older things are more authentic. So… Great first word choice. It’s mechanism is very similar to ‘based on a true story.’ ReMastered makes readers want to watch it for that allure itself. However, if the digital quality is not that good, then viewers will feel betrayed for watching it. You are creating a high expectation of stunning visuals when you use that word. 

Headline Score.

Next… we’re gonna score our title.

According to the 4 U’s (uniqueness, usefulness, ultra-specificity, and urgency)

Rated 0 or 1

  • UNIQUE – Very unique headline, so yes – 1pt
  • USEFUL – Not useful. no points – 0pt
  • ULTRA SPECIFIC- Very specific – 1pt
  • URGENT – Tricky because it’s a statement: it implies the devil is waiting right NOW at the crossroads, we’ll give it half a point, barely. – 0.5 pt.s

All together our 4 U score… ——> 2.5/4

Not bad.

Usually, aim for at least 3/4.


(If you don’t know, the lead is the 1st couple of paragraphs in a sales letter. In a video, it’s the first few minutes of the spoken dialogue. For a documentary, if this “lead” isn’t good, exciting, or if it doesn’t pull the viewer in, then the user will stop watching. Netflix has TONS of shows. There’s no commitment for someone to watch if the beginning if boring.)

The lead approximately 90 seconds long (minute 1:00 to 2:45). It starts with testimonials, creates trust with audience, sets up their expectation and finishes with a promise. 

  • The first 60 seconds are TESTIMONIALS (PROOF) that paint a PICTURE about Robert Johnson (it is overlaid with audio snippets of his actual voice – snippets are more PROOF but it creates INTIMACY and TRUST). Pictures evoked is greatness, supernatural, genius, impact of music, sounds like multiple people playing, intrigue, mastery, Bach, impact to rock n roll, class, prestige, mystery,
  • The final 30 seconds describe the BIG IDEA about what the entire documentary will explore: Exploring the mystery of the devil story. Separating the myth from reality (that’s the PROMISE). 

What is the big idea

  • You could become a Transcendental figure and notoriously famous by selling your soul to the devil. 

Was big idea clear in the lead (the first 3 min)

  • Yes

What is the lead type

Quick note – a lead type is how the writer wants to lead the audience into the letter, promotion, or in this case, the video. There are 2 primary lead types: direct and indirect.

  • The lead type utilized is primarily a story lead (indirect)
  • Most peoples awareness or Robert Johnson are most likely completely unaware or slightly aware
  • Story lead works well for unaware prospects
  • And the proclamation of the devil mythology of the big idea works well for people who are slightly aware
  • Overall I would say the lead type is a combination of the story, proclamation and secret (3 of the indirect lead types revealed in Great Leads by Masterson & Forde)
  • Proclamation – Robert Johnson got insanely good at the guitar with this secret trade with the devil

Are the headline and lead a success

  • Headline could be better
  • I think Combination lead (story & Proclamation) work very well

Play by play action, dictated in REAL TIME…

Here are some thoughts I dictated as I want.

Mostly about storytelling.

In real time. Get ready.

At around minute 18 and 48 seconds is when the narrator finally reaches the point of explaining the big idea – which is that Robert disappeared from the Mississippi Delta for one year.

The big idea in this documentary is that Robert exchanged his soul to the devil so that he can get really good at the guitar. This myth came about because people thought he could not possibly get that good, that fast, in just one year. I find that completely ridiculous. Charlie bird parker was known to practice for hours on end and even disappeared at a time so he can devote 10 to 12 hours a day practicing the saxophone. Why couldn’t Robert Johnson have found a guitar mentor and learned from other blues-style guitarists outside in Mississippi during that year? What if he practiced his butt off? Why wasn’t that a plausible idea?   People can’t comprehend that someone could get that good at music in one year. So they exaggerate that he must’ve sold his soul to the devil. Yeah cause that’s believable…

Minute 23 – they are suggesting Robert used an African magic called HOODOO. This just gets better and better. And yes… I spelled that right. Hoodoo not to be confused with the other african magic, aka ‘voodoo.’

Minute 27 – it’s revealed that Robert learns a lot from a mentor called Ike Zimmerman. He told Robert that the only way you can learn the blues is if you go to the graveyard and sit at a tombstone at midnight. That sounds more likely – robert practiced for a year in cemeteries (he practiced his butt off). But it seems like Robert chose to perpetuate the myth that he sold his soul to the devil. Why? This way he could create an intriguing mystery about his playing that would bedazzle his audience.

Minute 42 – this is very interesting as John Hammond is display is the exact concept that Seth Godin talks about in his book, The Tipping Point. Product will sell fast when the awareness level is at an all time high. When Hammond individually put on a concert at Carnegie Hall highlighting the origins of the Negro blues from the south, the people who attended the concert were only interested in Robert Johnson for a very short time. But in the late 70s and 80s when young college kids would buy 78s (discs), this was a better moment in history to re-introduce Robert Johnson to America. The awareness level reached a tipping point. And practically everyone knew about Robert Johnson there on after…

Minute 45 – introduces the concept of the infamous 27 club. This is the idea that musicians who sold their soul to the devil…. always die at the age 27. This list includes

  • Janis Joplin
  • Jim Morrison
  • Brian Jones
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Kurt Cobain!!

Listen, I don’t believe in superstitions, but damn – that’s one SCARY list.


Overall, I really enjoyed this documentary.

I don’t recommend a lot of the shows on Netflix.

But this has my vote. Watch it.

Hope you enjoyed my copy analysis (maybe boring) but also some of my thoughts on the documentary.

I love talking about these music legends!

If you haven’t done already, please like and follow this blog so you can get updates on my latest posts, no spam – ever.


Albert the copywriter

For any copywriting or consulting needs, visit or email

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