Category Archives: Proper Discord Ltd

The Ultimate Selfie

A question that often comes up is “how can we take advantage of the exposure surrounding this event to create a lasting relationship with our fans?”

Sometimes the answer is very simple.

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Converting an audience into Twitter/Facebook followers or email list subscribers is not always easy. It takes sustained activity to have a really successful presence on social media, but once in a while viral content requires little more than a photo with 6,000 of your closest friends.

Gustavo Dudamel / Ode to Joy Promotion

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While consulting on the LA Phil’s strategic plan for media, I was asked to help out with a promotion the orchestra were running with the LA Times. Continue reading

Uncovering Classics: Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem

On Remembrance Sunday 2014, Southbank Centre hosted a day-long event culminating in a performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem with students from the Royal Academy of Music alongside the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and a specially formed Voicelab Children’s Choir.

This was a huge event requiring years of planning. I worked to deliver Marin’s vision for the media components of the project, devising a way to bring the education element into the live performance, creating a permanent record of the full concert, and developing a set of digital resources for schools studying subject matter related to the War Requiem.

This project won the 2015 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Learning and Participation.

Fauré Requiem

Fauré Requiem

Recordings strategy at King’s College has several guiding principles. In addition to embodying the choir’s traditions of religion, scholarship and excellence, we aim to record the choir’s core repertoire, and to make definitive recordings of every work we approach. Continue reading

Strategy: Berlin Philharmonic

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The Berliner Philharmoniker approached me for help with their recording strategy. Sir Simon Rattle’s exclusive contract with EMI was nearing the end of its term, and the orchestra were exploring their options for recording. My brief was to help the orchestra decide what form a successful own-label might take by giving them a better understanding of the sales potential of the orchestra’s recordings in each territory and likely future trends as well the economics of conventional distribution vs. a variety of direct-to-consumer models.

I provided the orchestra with international sales data and case studies of sales trends for other artists leaving major labels to sell their own recordings. I supplied sample deal terms for third-party fulfilment services and example margin breakdowns for a variety of scenarios, along with a huge amount of supporting reference material. This helped the orchestra make an informed decision about the best way to move forward.

In April 2014, the orchestra launched Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings, becoming the first major orchestra to launch a label primarily distributing products direct to consumers around the world.

Viral Marketing: Webcasts

With the help of a generous donor, King’s College installed a system to make very high quality audio recordings of chapel services. Each week, a new service is posted on the choir’s website, available to stream free of charge.

We soft-launched the service in 2013, and without any major promotion it quickly established an audience outnumbering the congregation in the chapel. To spread the word about our webcasts, we devised a simple viral marketing campaign for April Fool’s Day 2014.

The audio was captured using the chapel recording system (the very high notes aided by melodyne, not helium, which wouldn’t really work). The video was shot to playback using a borrowed camcorder. Everybody involved generously gave their time. The total cost of the campaign was £3 (for the balloon). A spoof press release  (containing the video) was emailed to  200 people, and the video was shared on the choir’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The campaign was a dramatic success, viewed 250,000 times in the first 24 hours, and 500,000 times in the first week. It was featured in April Fools roundups by news outlets including the Guardian, Telegraph, NBC News, Huffington Post and Daily Mail. It was shared more than 67,000 times on Facebook and 1,200 times on Twitter.

The immediate result was a tenfold increase in listening on the webcasts page. In the long term it more than doubled the regular audience for streaming webcasts.

Commentary: The New Yorker

Will Robin asked me to contribute an illustration to his New Yorker blog post “The Fat Lady is Still Singing” on the persistent myth of decline in classical music.

Stories about “the death of x” are link-bait. They get widely shared because they present a scandalous picture. We wanted to ensure that our rebuttal got as much traction as the original, by making an ultimately undramatic argument (“the reality is much less exciting than it appears”) in a dramatic way.

We liked the idea of an infographic to illustrate the central premise of the piece, but wanted to avoid the common situation in which the rhetorical flourish (the graphic) gets utterly divorced from the factual source material. We felt we had a better chance of changing peoples’ minds if they could easily check every citation.

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We settled on the idea of something absurdly big, which allows the user to see the overall picture at a glance, but also to zoom in on the sources of specific details. The graphic contains almost as many words as the article it illustrates.

The story immediately went viral (17,000 shares on Facebook and counting) and became (for a time) the most popular article on The New Yorker’s website.

Strategy: Kronos Quartet

Kronos photographed in San Francisco, CA March 26, 2013©Jay Blakesberg

Photo: Jay Blakesberg

Clients often come to me for help with their broader recording strategy. A common question is “Our exclusive major label contract is up for renewal, and we’re not sure what to do next. Other artists are starting their own labels, doing digital releases or selling direct to consumers. How do we choose the right options for our future projects?”

As part of a larger strategic review in their 40th anniversary year, the Kronos Performing Arts Association (the non-profit organisation of the Kronos Quartet) asked me to help them survey the range of options for releasing Kronos’ future recordings. I researched the sales of their previous recordings and provided budgets, costings, projections, and typical deal terms for a number of options, enabling them to make informed decisions about matching each recording project with the ideal avenue of production and distribution.

Mozart Requiem

The second release from the King’s College is a unique recording of Mozart’s Requiem. This release beautifully showcases the branding we created for the label, and establishes its credentials as a producer of the highest quality recordings.

Mozart Cover

Disc one includes the full Süssmayr version of the Mozart Requiem along with excerpts of completions by Finnissy, Maunder, Beyer, Druce and Levin.

To compliment this, I produced a second disc, narrated by soprano soloist Elin Manahan Thomas, exploring the origins, composition, completion and mythology of the Requiem through a documentary written by the noted Mozart scholar, Cliff Eisen.

We also created a video about the album, which is included with the iTunes version of the record.

Continue reading

Label Launch

Nine Lessons & Carols

In 2012, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge had reached the end of its contract with EMI, and decided to take artistic and economic control of its recorded output with a new media initiative. I joined the project in May 2012 to oversee the commercial side of the choir’s media activities, including the launch and ongoing management of their new label. Continue reading