Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fight Like Apes and The Mystery of Social Media Marketing

I occassionally get sent stuff from marketing agencies/labels who ask me to write about such and such and this and that. One such piece was some info on Vodafone 360 and their work with Fight Like Apes.

I don't use Vodafone myself (this is already a huge fail as a puff piece isn't it? There goes my hefty marketing sponsored cheque) but I love the idea of the 360 service. Alot of artists harp on about doing interactive content but that usually consists of one crap webchat and a few tweets.

This program offers up some pretty nice content and has a strong mix of international artists who don't always get the press they might need. It basically offers a profile on a web version of a fancy phone that lets you look at videos and info each act has posted. The stuff is actually very well made, the kind of high quality content you'd see on a decent music TV show if such things were still getting made these days.

So when I was perusing the press material I was sent I immediately seized on was a video of FLA learning how to wrestle (!) for their new video "Do You Karate". This is only a snippet of the full video but it gets the gist across. The reason it works so well for me is how they've picked an act with a genuinely quirky sensibility and worked with it.

So much of the current Web 3.0 bandwagon jumping doesn't work because it feels like people being forced to engage with content they don't understand. Its a point recently discussed in the Sunday Tribune by Una Mullally with regards to politicians (who when they get it wrong with interactive content get it really wrong) and as the Guardian noted one that becomes increasingly important for acts (Cheryl Cole in this piece). This kind of marketing is not going anywhere it seems at least not for the moment.

But in a way maybe thats no bad thing. New methods of getting an audience are needed particularly with music. Everybody knows that sales are disappearing but very few seem to be offering new ways to reach fans and new listeners. A campaign like this is a step in the right direction.

And ulimately its hard to argue with mini videos like this isn't it?

Here is the final video, for "Do You Karate" one of my favourite tracks from the Fight Like Apes album (which was recently packaged with a load of bonus stuff, check out the website, in either form its an essential listen). I like the way these guys have taken their love of pro wrestling into a video and their forthcoming in the ring shows (which sound amazing, more info on their website). Its a bit like how Madonna works a certain look and theme through each album. Honestly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Six Pack: Six Blogs Worth Your Time

Its hard to move for blogs these days. Blogging has gone from being a buzz word in the mainstream media (remember the first time you read the word "blogosphere" in a broadsheet newspaper? Shudder) to another standard method for established writers,publishers, organisations to spread their work and for the newbies (like myself) to find a voice, get involved in discussions and kill time. But reading other blogs is ten times more fun than writing your own.

So with that in mind here are six of my favourites, that I think are fun, fresh and exciting. A big bunch of blogging goodness makes up this six pack. It was a tad strange writing this as I know some of the people on this list and I didn't want to seem like I was being an ass kisser but my logic is that a good blog is a good blog and deserves praise. And if it makes one new person read one of the blogs here then it'll be worth my time.

This is the online home of stylist, interior designer and all round lovely lady Blanaid Hennessy. Posts on this blog are short, to the point and always entertaining. Blanaid has also taken that fashion blog cliche of photographing outfits/fashion finds and a made it in to something fresh with sharp, stark portraits of effortless looks. Whatever your style you'll find her eye and nose for fashion inspiring. Her work on interiors is equally good. This blog is a feast for the eyes and the mind and one of my favourite places to visit online.

I read lots of various types of music blogs but this is easily one of the best. With a pop/indie/electro perspective and a healthy sense of humour MuuMuse gives you the latest goings on around Planet Britney (important) but also lets you know what remixes are worth checking and upcoming acts worth noticing. The tone is perfect, it looks slick and is updated regularly with interviews, gossip and pithy commentary. A great read.

Irish Times journo Rosemary MacCabe has got herself one hell of a blog. Updated regularly with sharp insight into fashion, entertainment, news and everything in between MacCabe is quite obviously a great writer. Not only that but the wide range of topics covered keeps things fresh. From her obvious fashion love to her analysis of various issues its a blog that frequently gives you something new to think about.

The one blog on this list that I'm completely addicted to. Dublin drag legend Panti's daily blogging is a treat. From right on the button gay rights/current affairs discussion, hilarious YouTube clips/oddities, design articles and adorable pictures of Panti's dog Penny its always got something to keep me entertained. There's real passion in this blog, with a real love of finding and sharing new things with the audience which is infectious. An essential read.

Its very easy to be cynical about gossip blogs particularly ones like Perez Hilton that are poorly written, poorly researched and bad for the soul. But PITNB is genuinely sweet in its approach. Its all the usual celeb muck, pap photos, baby pics the lot. But its Trent, the site runner, who is clearly a sci fi/popculture nerd that gives it a heart that many other blogs lack. He is not spiteful or rude about celebs and sounds like that super witty best friend you always go to for the latest gossip.

Joey Kavanagh's blog of musical delights (among other things). A great place to get a rundown/overview of the latest pop/indie sounds and on the button remixes. For artists that have broke through this year like Ellie Goulding, Amanda Blank and The XX this is a great place to get more info and I look forward to seeing what new acts tip of his radar next year. One of the best Irish music blogs around.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Six Pack: Six Songs I Love Right Now

I hit on the six pack idea and kinda love it for its cheesy quality so its my new device to share things I like, in this case music. Here are six songs I'm truly loving right now

While going through posts over at Hard Candy Music I stumbled on this gorgeous slice of disco/house pop. Upbeat, shimmery and the kind of the song of that is impossible to resist, it is a must listen. Not only that but HCM have a download so you can see for yourself. Rockets are a new act apparently but this track is a fantastic start. The rest of the blog is an essential read too.

This song is slowly getting more and more hype and looks set to be one of the biggest dance tracks of the next 6 months. Duck Sauce is the combo of Armand Van Helden and A-Trak who are both formidable forces in their own right. Its infectious house with a fantastic hook like a jumped up Daft Punk tune. This one will put a smile on your face and at the risk of sounding like a proper cliche head this will set pretty much every party off for awhile to come.

Lady Gaga - Bad Romance

Say what you want but this is another brilliantly catchy and unique pop track to these ears. A bit more demented and twisted than say Just Dance this is ballsy and fresh and awfully easy to dance too. And lets face it the video is one of the years best, an audacious slice of visual madness that only Gaga could pull off. The Chew Fu and Starsmith remixes are also rather brilliant.

Slinky, sexy and sultry are all words I'd use to describe this one. The debut single from the Gossip Girl star, it lodges in your head on first listen and if given a chance at radio here could be a sizeable hit. Until then the rather beautiful video is a nice watch.

The obvious standout on her debut solo album. A thumping house beat bounces off of the vocals of Cheryl and Will as it builds up until its eventful final minute. A subtle and offbeat track for such a mainstream popstar and one that sounds a damn sight fresher than Fight For This Love and likely to stand up better to repeat listens. Expect to hear this everywhere, its already doing respectable traffic on the charts and radio and will probably be the first big pop hit of the 2010.

As I work my way through 101 Disco Anthems (honestly) this track, a favourite of mine for years, has been on repeat. So simple and joyous this is a song that has aged very well. Odd that this hasn't been reswizzed into a new era dance tune but maybe in this case we're better off.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

LA to NY or Why The City is trouncing The Hills

As a true marker of how intellectual I am my very first entry on this blog was about The Hills and the departure of Miss Lauren Conrad. You can't buy blogging class like that you can just hope to read it. Ahem.

Anyway it seems timely now to check in with The Hills now that its Lauren-less and paired with its spin off sibling The City on MTV here and Stateside. Putting the two shows together is obviously a triumph of scheduling for both MTV and for us reality drama nutjobs. But its also a neat reminder of how The Hills is becoming harder and harder to watch and The City is finally finding its feet as pacy, juicy and fun reality TV.

So why doesn't this new look Hills work? There a couple of reasons. Reason number one is the lack of focus. Kristin Cavallari, bad girl and firecracker, is back but its not really clear why. She doesn't want to be friends with the other girls (who are lost without Lauren to orbit pointlessly around) and she doesn't really want to be with Justin Bobby either. She is supposed to be the star but instead she cuts this rather lonely figure while the original cast gripe about her and have uninteresting drama all of their own.

Heidi and Spencer have now become even more cartoonish and ridiculous. Living in their ridiculous new house and talking about babies is all they do. If that wasn't bad enough they now a have a "cute kid" next door neighbour who regularly pops over. Anyone who knows their US telly will note that the cute kid is always always ALWAYS the death knell of a show. And you never quite shake the feel that Heidi is not only acting but acting badly in every scene. Honestly.

I also have severe problems with Stephanie Pratts new plastic surgery face (ridiculous), the inclusion of Stacey The Bartender (who is referred to as such in every scene) as a cast member and the amount of screen time given to Brody's girlfriend who obviously stumbled in from a Rock of Love audition and refuses to go away.

There are rumours that the show is up for the axe and with dwindling ratings and huge costs (Miss Cavallari is reportedly picking up a tidy sum for her "work" on the show) it wouldn't surprise me. Its a shame to see a once enjoyable piece of fluff become so dull but at least we have The City to look forward too.

So why does The City now work so well? The second season benefits from the lessons learned in the first. Less time spent on ridiculous supporting characters the audience have no relationship with and more time on Whitney and the pouty, bitchy but brilliantly entertaining Olivia. The addition of Roxy Olin, Whitney's childhood friend helps matters.

The show is now much more streamlined and fast paced. The episodes are split with Whitney and Roxy at work in People's Revolution where the fabulous Kelly Cutrone dishes advice and bitchy comments in equal measure. And then we follow Olivia as she workes (I use the term loosely) at Elle magazine and seems unphased by her complete lack of apitude at her job.

The focus on work and career is what made The Hills so interesting in the first place and its a forumla thats beens replicated with great success in this run of The City. More importantly it stills feels relatively off the cuff with things happening that look like they weren't planned (even if they were). And it looks gorgeous, the vibrant backdrop of New York providing a perfect setting for all that unfolds. This feels like a production that is being developed and honed and you can't help but feel that MTV are waiting for this to really kick into high gear and have it take over from The Hills sooner rather than later.

If this is a battle of the overly edited, heavily soundtracked faux reality shows then The City is coming out on top. And lets face Olivia is TV gold and shows Kristin how its done.

A Theory About The X Factor

Well I'll just start with a quick mention (and huge blogging cliche) of how sorry I am that the blog has not been updated for so long. As I didn't have my own laptop I didn't feel comfortable logging on elsewhere to write. A strange but true admission and one that pretty much sets me apart from those who are much more disciplined about their blogging sadly!

As if that wasn't cliched enough I now want to talk about The X Factor. Because since I last wrote it has taken all hold of popular culture yet again, the only TV show left that genuinely has everybody talking. Of course its mostly Jedward that have tongues wagging and rightly so. Popjustice has had a number of very succint and interesting posts about how quickly the boys have been taken into the current pop culture climate and to say any more would be just repeating far better writing. But I did want to post a slightly geeky but possibly plausible theory I have about the show that I haven't seen talked about elsewhere.

A huge change to this years show was not only the live auditions but running the program over two nights. Of course this means extra money for ITV/Simon Cowell/all involved as more votes flood in and it seems more viewers (recent episodes have hit peak numbers for the series, unheard of in age where everybody is watching less TV at an alloted time). But surely this change to voting could drastically change how somebody would win the competition?

Think about it. Last year there was a 2 or so hours window for the public to vote which to me would work off people's immediate impressions and what the buzz in sitting room about who sang best was. But with 24 hours so I have to wonder how much the votes swing back and forth. Does one act soar ahead at first but then people start to talk about it somebody else and they surge ahead? Does this in fact make the competition much harder to win? I'm genuinely curious because technically there are way more votes to win to keep ahead of the pack. I wonder whether or not figures will be released at the end of the season and if there will be a noticeable difference. I can't help but feel that the intensity of backlash towards act like Danyl and Jedward is because of this new period where the public opinion and discussion and the press coverage have a direct effect on the votes. Maybe its not a difference but its worth thinking about.

I also want to point out that my favourite part of the show each week is always Dannii. She is effortless, glamourous, stylish and utterly fabulous. She also handles herself with a degree of class that the rest of the judges could do with taking note of. A look at her interview with Piers Morgan recently is a good example. Intelligent, charming and witty its an interesting piece not least for how she is unfraid to answer some of the big questions. Well worth a look, particularly how she handles Sharon Osbourne's treatment of her (its in part 4)