Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Glastonbury 2009 - bands, brands and fans*

Yes it really really really did happen - Glastonbury was the best party on the planet for me and the other 170,000 lovely people there.

Everything and anything appeared to happen: sun, rain, thunder and lightening, celebrity rumour and confirmation, beers, tears, freaks, green police, police on bikes.

What was very interesting is how this little community existed for 5 days. Well I say little, I heard/read somewhere that the Glastonbury site becomes the 2nd biggest city in the South West of England for 1 week every year. That gives an idea of the scale of the thing. Its immense but never completely overwhelming - feeling more like 6 villages linked by paths in varying states of mud. To get a real sense of it, a walk to the Stone Circle and up to the fence is perfect.

Anyway in between having an all round great time, I tried to occasionally engage brain to think about the communication possibilities Glasto offers and could offer brands.

The first thing to say is the Evis' - father and daugther - just about seem to have got the balance of a going commercial concern and a legendary ethically based festival just about spot on - no mean feat.

So who's involved? Well here's a good thing to do - after any event like this, try a bit of spontaneous awareness. I remember the Guardian, BBC (presenters everywhere you looked), Orange, Q, Gaymers/Calsberg, and of course the supported charity brands - Greenpeace, WaterAid, Oxfam and Million Mums.

In no particular order then, some thoughts:

I suppose the BBC is the dominant player for me and for everyone watching the round the clock coverage over the weekend and everyone who'll now want to watch Blur's triumphant closing set on I-Player. I geared for the festival listening to BBC 6 music the week prior and now I'm getting all my post-fest reviews from the same place. I thought we'd done quite well seeing as much as we did - sounds like we only scratched the surface. The fantastic BBC coverage also helped to highlight the power and value of the live music market, apparently bands who featured on the TV coverage saw huge surges in i-tunes sales across the weekend, I heard 200% for Pendulum and 800% for Status Quo (clearly coming from a low base)....

...seeing as much as we did across the weekend was certainly aided and facilitated by the Guardian Guide. Firstly I have to say I was a guest of the Guardian - even so, the mini Guide each festival goer was handed on entry was genius. The full line up, some basic maps and some lovely editorial touches - 10 top Glasto facts etc. This was my key media for the 4 days - especially given my phone had little reception all weekend and ran out of juice by Sat am (more of Orange in a sec). So we all went a bit analogue, and the Guide was perfect.

If I had an iphone, some battery and coverage - then this interactive festival maps would have been my app of choice - still it a great way of looking back.


...Q Daily - a 16 page festival newspaper printed and distributed every morning, was also a delicious read - a great place to read about all the secret gigs I missed...

...so to Orange. Ah its tough being a Telco sponsor at big events isn't it? When more than 40,000 gather in one place, your phone is simply a camera again. This despite all the infrastructure Orange put in place. That said, Orange seem to have created a nice utility in the Charge and Chill bars, they looked very inviting but queue deterred me (bands to see and all that). Orange also created a decent app on their Glastonbury site. Looks handy but as I said, impossible to download at the festival. They did draw my attention to it by using each and every Gaymers cider pint cup - so i guess it had an OTS of 40 with me.

But to be frank, the corporate sponsors biggest input is two-fold. Firstly to allow Glastonbury to be so much more than any other festival given the level of content; there is just so much stuff going on - 50 stages, 100s of acts and countless more 'entertainers'. Areas like Thrash City and other late night areas are a case in point - a full size helicopter, demolished buildings, flame throwers, dancers and freak shows, post-apocalyptic burlesque and decedent hideaways. I was staggered by the level of detail.

The other side is a interesting value exchange - the big corporates support (indirectly I should add) the not-for-profits. Meaning the Evis keep the festival rooted and Greenpeace et al get a very decent payday - not least driven by some very hard hitting video content played out between bands on the bigger stages.
All in all - a simply unbeatable event, superbly executed and I'm sure pretty memorable for all bands, brands and fans involved

* - bands, brands and fans - a term I got from the very excellent music marketing newsletter http://www.brandsbandsfans.com/

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Missing the Ambassador

So i didn't get an invite to the British Ambassadors reception yesterday. I found out about it when I signed up to be a HSBC Premier customer here. HSBC sponsored the event - a shindig for the Queens birthday I think - but clearly I didn't quite cut the mustard to get on the guest list.

In a complete act of pleasing coincidence, I was looking at the Innocent Smoothies blog today. Imagine my surprise that that these doyens of healthy living were passing a spare 15 minutes by gorging themselves on Ferrero Roche in a world record attempt. Apparently the record is a mere 7 in 1 minute - I say mere, maybe Ferreros are a bit like Jacobs Crackers - simply impossible to eat more than 3.

Anyway - the Innocent chaps had this timeless piece of advertising. I had to add it - simply as I had a very tenuous reason to do so. Was the British Ambassadors reception at all like this? That would have been really spoiling me.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The hazards of the new music economy

In the week when the 'Digital Britain' report was published - issues around digital piracy are once again making headlines. Record company execs (those that are left) continue to rub their chins and consider how money is to be made by their artists. Artist they have invested considerable sums in mentoring and promoting.

What is clear is that music piracy is unlikely to go away anytime soon, it seems to be a behaviour simply too ingrained into key consumer groups. Whilst pressure maybe brought to bear by the record industry on the ISPs, and a few more BitTorrents may get their wrists slapped. This doesn't solve the immediate issue of how to monetise music.

Clearly one route for bands/music is to partner even closer with brands. Its not my intention to list all good the and the ugly in this area. But a couple of tales of woe come to mind - one from the Wireless Festival last summer and one from about 20 mins ago

So last July, I went along to Wireless in Hyde Park - then still headline sponsored by O2 - an organisation who knows what its doing in this space with their Priority proposition. However, O2 wasn't the only brand to shell out to LiveNation for the chance to grab the attention of 30,000 music hungry consumers. I seem to recall Sony Ericcson were there, Tuburg bought the pouring rights and Tiscali did something neat to get VIP access to bands playing intimately in a tiny tent.

However it was digital storage leaders, SanDisk, who got it all wrong for me. Just consider their proposition - storage, never having to worry about getting your music/photos/video to fit. So please tell why oh why they decided to headline sponsor the 2nd stage - a seemingly huge circus big top yes - but with very limited storage. People simply couldn't get in to see headline acts without restorting to mild acts of violence against their fellow man or bribing the security staff. Madness.

This all came to mind again after hearing an interview with Gallows on BBC 6 just now. Apparently the neo-punksters are off to do a US tour, but these lads have got a clear eye on the bottom line. They have accepted a sponsorship deal with Coke's Relentless energy drink. Seemingly a pretty good match up for both parties. Gallows get to stay liquid and ensure themselves a steady supply of eye-liner. Relentless buys a bit of credibility.

However cracks begin to set in when either one of these parties stop playing by the accpeted rules of engagment in this new music economy.

BBC 6 interviewer: "Do you have any concerns that accepting a brand sponsoring your tour bus is an issue for band of your background"

Gallows member: "Not really, I would never drink that Relentless stuff, but if they want to chuck us 15 grand and a free tour bus, we can't turn our noses up at that"

This is paraphrased but I can't see the Coke PR team being overly chuffed.

If we don't want to buy music anymore, we as consumers have to expect brands to be part of the equation from now on. But there are clearly some lessons to learn and few basic rules to follow for both parties.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The fastest animal on earth...official

Sometimes i might just post stuff that grabs my attention. Here's an example - a fascinating picture in the Guardian today

Hummingbirds are the fastest animals on Earth, relative to their body size. They can cover more body lengths per second than any other vertebrate and for their size can even outpace fighter jets and the space shuttle – while withstanding g-forces that would make a fighter pilot black out.

Christopher James Clark, a zoologist at the University of California, Berkeley, took high-speed pictures of male Anna's hummingbirds performing dives as part of their courtship ritual. He measured them moving at up to 385 body lengths per second (blps), which is around 27.3 metres per second.

This is the highest speed ever recorded for a vertebrate, relative to its size. The only animals that can move faster relative to their body size are insects such as fleas.

"During the dive, the hummingbirds experienced an acceleration force nearly nine times that of gravity, the highest recorded for any vertebrate undergoing a voluntary aerial manoeuvre, with the exception of jet fighter pilots. At 7g, most pilots experience blackouts.

Aerial dives are part of the courtship behaviour of many birds, including nighthawks, snipes and other hummingbirds. Falcons, kingfishers and many seabirds use dives to attack prey. By diving, birds can achieve extremely high speeds.

Clark wrote that maximising speed is an important component of the courtship display of Anna's hummingbirds, because of the loud sound generated as they dive. In previous research, Clark showed that male Anna's hummingbirds spread their outer tail feathers during dives and these vibrate like the reed in a clarinet. The dive produces a loud, brief chirping sound.
Its maximum dive speed of 385blps is faster than peregrine falcons (200blps) and swallows (350blps) diving in pursuit of prey.

"Incidentally," wrote Clark, "it is also greater than the top speed of a fighter jet with its afterburners on, 150blps (885 metres per second), or the space shuttle during atmospheric re-entry, 207blps (7,700metres per second)."

Isn't nature wonderful....

Friday, 5 June 2009

How to build a social network

This move to a new city and workplace got me thinking last night (over herring and vodka incidentally). This is the first time since leaving home to go to university (in the days pre abundant access to internet) that I have been forced to build a social network, a real live one, from scratch.

Less of the typical Uni chat of where are you from, what A Levels did you do and what halls are you staying in maybe, but this is a very novel situation to be in. Not just novel, also pretty daunting at times when you consider it - I don't know the place, i know nobody here and to cap it all - Polish is the 3rd hardest language for a Brit to learn (behind Vietnamese and Korean I am reliably informed by the Brit/Pole expert, Michael Moran in "A country in the moon').

So how the hell do I go about it?

Well, when something appears that difficult you cheat a bit dont you. I'm not talking 'buying in' friends and favours. More using what wasn't there for me in Leeds 1991 - yes, da internet.

A few weeks ago, after finding the majority of web forums/blogs re being an Expat in Warsaw to be very limited or horrendously out of date - I stumbled upon http://www.internations.org/

A site for expats and 'global minds'. Now I'm not professing to posses a global mind, but I thought i'd give it a go. So far so good - you sign up, they assess your 'globalness' (i passed happily) and you get put in touch with other Expats in your city of choice.

The big test comes tomorrow night - when virtual becomes real - there is a gathering in a high-end Warsaw bar/club. So no more messaging and poking, creating and adding to forums (loads of v helpful info for me about opening bank accounts and other highly practical stuff). No its time to meet and talk for real. Lets hope I'm global enough for 'em. I'll report back on the fun.

I guess the comms point of this - yes thats what I do so I'd better make an intelligent observation - is another great segmentation opportunity. Hence thats why The Economist and Allianz and Skype appear to be partners - global brands for global folks. I say appear, as I'm kind of waiting for the payback. This is a value exchange, they have put me in touch with some new (hopefully nice) people - surely they will want my attention as a result. Nothing obvious yet, I'm interested to see how it works and how Internations monetise what is a pretty impressive site.

Anyway lets see how it goes - I am a notoriously bad networker (tend to talk to my friends only) but as I said, its like Leeds in October '91 - there's only one way to enjoy this, time to get out of the comfort zone.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

20 years of democracy in Poland - do they still love politicans this much?

Day 2 in Warsaw so I thought I'd go and explore in between rain showers. I was drawn to the sound of live music. I walked past a fashionista bar called CONfashion - awful name and bizarre papping going on outside, to the opera house. A huge Glasto scale stage has been erected and a local band were mid-sound check. I had no idea what was going on, no one in the office had mentioned a festival. It was only as I strolled on and found an outdoor photo gallery that all became clear.

Its 20 years since free democratic elections in Poland - and there's going to be something of a party tonight. CNN also helped me grasp this (my only English language channel) with a Poland Week.

I love this pic of Lech Wavensa - taken in 1981 when he was leading the ship workers of Gdansk against the might of the Soviet Bloc and Marshall Law. So I asked myself - could politicians be as popular now?

Well of course not - he was a freedom fighter, a revolutionary then. I need to research more his record as President and see how it went. What I do know is that according to the Independent, Poles as so content with the EU, the turnout on Sunday could be as low as 15-17%. Not a sign of utter apathy or, in the UKs case, disgust. Simply a sign of basic satisfaction.