The success of the Ealing Tweetup

ronanmacmanusIf you’ve been to a tweetup, you know the kind of thing it typically is: an informal get-together of like-minded people, usually in a pub or other social venue, who sign up on Twtvite to say ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ they’d be there. It’s advertised and promoted by the organizer and anyone who tweets or retweets about it. And there’s a hashtag. Usually, a tremendous time is had by all.

So it was last Tuesday at the sixth Ealing Tweetup organized by Mark Hillary, hashtag #ealingtu. This one, though, had three significant differences from your average tweetup – a food-and-drink sponsor, a recording artist, and a strong mainstream media presence in the form of BBC Radio 6 (listen to their event report) and the Ealing Gazette. Plus a local politician or two.

Along with more than 80 others, I took part and thoroughly enjoyed it. I met a handful of familiar faces including Kerry Bridge, Jonny Ashton and Tom Raftery, the latter visiting London from his base in Spain for a conference. (Tom ended up being co-opted by the Ealing Gazette as the official press photographer – nice camera, Tom! – and I imagine Tom’s photos have appeared in the print edition; not yet online.)

The evening’s sponsor was Xerox UK represented at the tweetup by Darrell Minards, Head of Communications Xerox Europe, and Sonia Panchal, European PR and AR Manager. This is the same company who is the sponsor of Technology of Business, a new online TV series from the BBC comprising 24 short features around the role of technology in the world of business, that launched earlier this month.

The star, though, was the recording artist – Ronan MacManus. You might not yet be familiar with his name but you’ll undoubtedly have heard of his elder brother, Elvis Costello. Ronan describes himself modestly as a "Singer/Guitarist from West London." He creates great music. What especially interests me about Ronan are his clear views on social media.

Take a look at this Ealing Tweetup promo video Mark Hillary created and listen to what Ronan has to say about social media and what it can do for musicians.

Some further thoughts about the event:

  • Like most things, you have to get the word out. While attractions like a sponsor and a recording artist undoubtedly help, you have to proactively communicate your event especially if you want to bring it to the attention of  a wide audience. Mark did a good job with that, discreetly and regularly tweeting which many people including me were happy to retweet to our followers. Twtvite, too: I liked the reminder tweets that came now and again.
  • I had a brief chat with Ronan but no time for a proper conversation: he was popular with participants and with the media grabbing his attention. Hope to get a chance for a chat soon.
  • When I asked Xerox’ Darrell Minards what his goal was in sponsoring the tweetup, I very much liked his reply: he wasn’t totally sure. It was an experiment, he said, to see what happened and what it might lead to in the future. He said being part of it was the important thing and he and his colleagues will learn from the experience that will help him understand what next steps might be. A refreshing and open attitude – a leaf for the taking for communicators and marketers in other companies.

Finally, check out Ronan’s music – you might find something you like – and video on YouTube.

(Photo above of Ronan MacManus by London location portrait photographer Quoc-Huy Nguyen Dinh.)

Just two strikes and Ping’s out for me

itunes10icon Like many other people, I’ve joined Ping, Apple’s new social network integrated into the latest iTunes 10 release that the company launched last week.

Reaction by critics and pundits hasn’t been particularly positive even though Apple says over a million people joined Ping within the first couple of days following its release. I’ve already seen the word ‘Ping’ spelled out as ‘Ping Is No Good.’

So what is Ping exactly? Apple says:

[… Ping is] a new music-oriented social network for following your favorite artists and friends to discover what music they’re talking about, listening to and downloading. iTunes Ping lets you post your thoughts and opinions, your favorite albums and songs, the music you’ve downloaded from iTunes, plus view concert listings and tell your friends which concerts you plan to attend.

Straightforward: a niche social network for music fans. I like music and I do use iTunes but I’m not the kind of person who would simply sign up for this because it’s there or because it comes from Apple or for some other auto-reason. There would have to be a strong compulsion for me to actively participate in Ping.

Unfortunately, it just doesn’t offer that from my perspective. For instance, take a look at my Ping home page within iTunes.

welcometoping

The first thing I see are recommendations by Apple on artists and people to follow. I’ve never heard of any of the artists. I’d like to know why Apple makes these recommendations, or at least give me a way to find out some meaningful information to discover about them that isn’t just Ping profiles.

So there’s the first strike for me. More importantly, though, is that iTunes says that the first band I search for myself in order to follow them can’t be found. That band is Calexico and they’re definitely in iTunes, in the iTunes Store, as I’ve bought their music before.

So that’s two strikes.

Unfortunately, I’m just not that interested in Ping to press on or find the third strike. They lost me: as far as I’m concerned it’s two strikes and I’m out.

I’ll stick with Twitter as my social network that often includes discussion about artists and music – like this one last night: #vivaldigate – and Blip.fm as my music-sharing and -recommendation engine that I’ve been using for the past couple of years. As for purchasing music, I’ll continue doing that on iTunes from time to time although I tends to buy more online these days from Amazon: cheaper and none of Apple’s proprietary restrictions nonsense.

How about you? Are you using or planning to use Ping?

Stamps for collecting not for posting

The Royal Mail has a terrific series of stamp designs it plans to release on January 7 that features the covers of some iconic British rock music albums over the last 40 years.

rockstamps

The Classic Album Covers collection features album covers from these bands: from left to right, top row – Pink Floyd: The Division Bell, Coldplay: A Rush Of Blood To The Head, Blur: Parklife, New Order: Power Corruption And Lies, Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed; bottom row – The Clash: London Calling, Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells, Led Zeppelin: IV, Primal Scream: Screamadelica, David Bowie: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars.

Special stamps are something the Royal Mail has been doing for years and no doubt is a nice earner albeit perhaps a drop in the overall revenue bucket.

In the current climate of confrontational workplace relationships – remember those postal strikes last autumn: the issue’s not resolved, just on hold – it makes you wonder just who would buy such stamps apart from collectors.

I thought perhaps that the Royal Mail’s goal with stamps like these is to appeal to younger members of society to take up letter-writing and posting. But no, I think it’s too late for that.

Collectors’ items they are, then. And it will take up to 5 days to receive your purchase in the mail, according to the Royal Mail website.

That says it all, really.

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Do they know it’s Christmas?

A blast from the past that’s as relevant today as it was when “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was first recorded a quarter of a century ago.

This is a song in which a real A-list of musical talent and influence came together to record for Band Aid, a charity supergroup featuring British and Irish musicians and recording artists. It was founded in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.

Something still to think about in many places around the world as we tuck in to our Christmas lunches and dinners during the next 24 hours.

Merry Christmas!

Add your voice to the illegal file-sharing debate

downloading News today that the government is pledging to combat internet piracy in the UK with a series of new measures, including £50,000 fines for those found guilty of illegal file-sharing.

The Guardian says that the move is being pushed through by Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, in a bid to deter the estimated seven million people who illegally share films, music and games online in the UK.

[…] It has been reported that the new measures, which include severing the internet connection of anyone suspected of illegal filesharing, came after Mandelson dined with record and film executive David Geffen earlier this month. A spokesperson for the Department of Business denied that Geffen, a vocal critic of internet piracy, had influenced the proposals […]

Call me cynical but Geffen represents an entire global industry whose interests would be served very nicely indeed by actions such as the government is proposing; undoubtedly no harm was done to those interests in the purely-casual-of-course conversation(s) he and Mandelson would have had.

You can read the governments intent in a PDF file you can download from the Consultation on Legislation to Address Illicit P2P File-Sharing page on the Department’s website. This was published in June.

Among the many reports, commentaries and opinions I’ve seen out there about today’s announcement , the most thought-provoking comes from Tom Watson, the MP and former Cabinet Office Minister, who proposes a course of action that seems to be to be quite novel.

Let’s openly ask citizens for their opinions!

[…] Instead of consulting on the best way to criminalise 6 million UK citizens, wouldn’t it be better if civil servants in the Department for Business spent its time asking these questions? Then we might have more chance of coming up with interventions that will nurture 21st century creative talent in the UK, and not just restore 20th century incumbents to their position of power.

Leaving a comment on Watson’s post is one way to say what you think: there are some great opinions there already.

Another way is to tell the government by sending in your views after you’ve read that PDF I mentioned earlier.

It’s not the clearest of texts to help you quickly grasp the issues, though. Luckily, there’s a wiki that can help you.

[…] These official documents are often complicated, which means only large companies and organisations tend to respond – the public’s views can easily be ignored.

To make it easier for all of us to respond, this webpage lists all the questions the government is consulting on and, where relevant, gives some suggested responses setting out some concerns about the proposals.

If you agree with the suggested responses, please feel free to copy them and send your responses to the officials who are dealing with them.

A final word from MP Watson:

[…] We’re at a stage where attempts to bring all-you-can-eat digital services to music fans might just be about to pay off. Civil servants might better serve the nation if they were to establish what conditions drive these Internet success stories.

If you do want to add your voice to this issue, act soon – the closing date for responses to the government’s consultation doc is September 15.

[Image from The Guardian and tweaked in PSP X2 to give it a glowing edges distortion effect .]

Gearing up for a Michael Jackson bonanza

jacksonskyiphone At various times during the weekend when I was out and about, I was checking the latest news on my iPhone, usually with the excellent Sky News app.

It did amaze me at one point on Saturday to note that every major news story I saw was something about Michael Jackson.

That’s almost all there’s been on TV news since the entertainer died unexpectedly last Thursday.

But if you thought the news every which-way angle about what happened last week was overwhelming, and wondered when (or even if) your favourite radio station would again play music other than Michael Jackson tracks, get ready for what’s coming from the entertainment industry as the marketing machine gears up to maximize revenue opportunities from a huge re-issue of Jackson’s music catalogue.

First, take a look at what’s starting on eBay as increasing amounts of Michael Jackson content appears for sale. (Hmm, I have an original 1982 copy of the Thriller CD. I love the music but I wonder…)

thriller-cover thriller-cd

Some of the signals in the mainstream media:

Sales of Jackson music, videos climbs online – Yahoo News US/ Associated Press

Michael Jackson’s death has led to skyrocketing sales of his music and videos, with major retailers like Amazon.com Inc. and Barnes and Noble Inc. selling out of products that have regained immense popularity overnight.

Bill Carr, Amazon’s vice president of music and video, said Friday that once the world learned that the pop icon had died Thursday, the Web site sold out within minutes all CDs by Michael Jackson and by the Jackson 5 — the group Jackson and his four older brothers formed out of Gary, Ind., in the late ’60s.

Sixty percent of Amazon’s CD orders Thursday were for Michael Jackson music, something Carr called "stunning." He said he’d "never seen anything like this" before at Amazon after the death of a pop culture icon.

As of Friday afternoon, Jackson’s albums accounted for all 10 of Amazon’s "Bestsellers in Music" list, with the 25th anniversary edition of the celebrated "Thriller" album taking the top spot.

Michael Jackson Catalog Sales Soar on iTunes, Amazon – Rolling Stone

As the entire world mourns the death of Michael Jackson, many are celebrating the King of Pop’s unparalleled musical legacy. Following the news of Jackson’s sudden passing, Jackson songs and albums immediately begin climbing the sales charts at digital music stores. Over on iTunes, the current top five albums, and seven of the Top 10, are all Jackson releases, with The Essential Michael Jackson, Thriller and Off the Wall all leading the charge. The same goes for the Amazon MP3 store, where Jackson is listed as the service’s top-selling artist of the day. Last.fm also documented the incredible jump in people on their service listening to Michael Jackson in the moments following Jackson’s death, with a peak of roughly 42,000 MJ songs being played on the service between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET yesterday [June 25].

Michael Jackson tops UK album charts as sales surge – The Guardian

[…] Jackson’s Number Ones album, that features many of his biggest hits, reached the top spot and four other albums made it into the top 20.

In total 11 Michael Jackson or Jackson Five albums made it into this week’s top 200 and 43 out of the top 200 singles featured the singer.

Music retailers said demand for his music had been overwhelming since his death on Thursday. HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo said the music store had seen sales rise 80 times over in the 24 hours after Jackson’s death – the biggest one day increase for any artist in the store’s history.

"There’s been huge demand for Michael’s recordings over the past few days – so it’s really no surprise that Number Ones has gone to the top of the official UK album charts, which pretty much has all his greatest hits on, and is the CD most people have been going for," Castaldo said.

Jackson ‘album sales massively increase’ – Digital Spy UK

[…] Eight of Jackson’s albums now dominate the iTunes Top 10, with his recent ‘Number Ones’ collection claiming the top spot.

The iTunes Top 100 singles currently include thirty-one of his solo songs and three by the Jackson 5. 1988 single ‘Man In The Middle’ is leading the pack at number ten.

According to Jackson’s record label Sony Music, the star has sold an estimated 750 million records worldwide.

Demand soars for Jackson music after singer’s death – Yahoo News UK / Reuters

[…] His death has sparked renewed interest in his albums and videos. Everyone from the labels that produced his albums to media outlets, retailers and street vendors selling Jackson T-shirts is set to cash in to the tune of millions of dollars.

"Michael pulled an Elvis. It’s probably the best thing that happened to them this year," Wayne Rosso, a music industry consultant and publicity executive, said of various Sony record labels that own Jackson’s music.

Jacko’s Dad: Michael Will Be Bigger In Death – Sky News

[In a statement from the family, father Joe Jackson] told fans: "Michael would not want us to give up now. Please do not despair, because Michael will continue to live on in each and every one of you.

"Continue to spread his message, because that is what he would want you to do. Carry on, so his legacy will live forever."

The family is believed to be planning a series of simultaneous global celebrations to honour the star.

Wealth of Michael Jackson could be boosted by death – The Times

He conquered the pop world and created sales records that could remain unchallenged, but Michael Jackson may have another number one position waiting for him: the highest-earning dead celebrity.

The annual Forbes magazine list of big earners that are deceased tells the story of death’s ability to boost a brand. Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain, Johnny Cash and Tupac Shakur are all on it, each making millions every year and in some cases more than living singers such as Madonna.

For the past two years, Elvis Presley has held the top position with annual earnings of about $50 million (£30.3 million). If the Neverland Ranch is opened to the public and the current frenzy for his music continues, Jackson could find his earnings hitting twice those of Presley. The figure could be even higher if, along with the untangling of his finances and some clever management, a rumoured album of unreleased songs emerges quick enough for sales to be driven by what some music industry figures are referring to as “grief momentum”.

These are just signals: the marketing machine hasn’t moved out of first gear yet.

A morbid thought perhaps, but this looks like only the start of a process that could see more sales of Michael Jackson’s music and memorabilia than when he was alive.

Not only by and for the family and the music industry, and not just about obvious products, either – just take a look at this imaginative fan site, Billie Tweets, that plays Billie Jean and pulls in tweets that sync key words in each tweet to the music.

The site is liberally sprinkled with affiliate links to places on Amazon.com where you can buy Michael Jackson’s music.

An opportunity for everyone, then.

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