Monday, April 22, 2013

nottingham’s new tourism campaign in london is the finest advertising i have ever seen

Dear fellow Londoners,

I imagine, like me, you’ve already spent much of 2013 gazing at the bare summer months in your calendar app, painfully aware of how most years this season passes unfilled, each of us lonely and imprisoned in our respective dwelling-houses. Perhaps also like me then, you sensed a great weight lift from your shoulders recently, as posters went up across our city’s transport network (two spotted so far!) showcasing events forthcoming not here, but up the country a little bit, in my home county of Nottinghamshire.

Please, at this juncture, take a moment to admire the above poster. The more astute observers amongst you will by now have realised that it appears to be advertising some manner of medium sized outdoor concert. And so let us linger in order to further admire the impeccable timing of this poster campaign. For as only the canniest of Nottingham’s marketing brains will have noticed, London has been cruelly starved of medium sized music events in recent years. Quality entertainers simply don’t gravitate to this city. The situation has become quite dire, with people being spotted wandering around various London parks, listening to Smooth Radio, and trying to imagine a way of seeing such hits performed by the people that wrote them.

But puzzle no longer, wandering citizens of England’s capital! A plucky city in the North has rushed to our aid. The less cool-headed Londoner might slap their head in embarrassment, that none of their own had hit upon such a winning event formula. Although I know it will take a degree of swallowing our pride to depart our city for Nottinghamshire, I hope my fellow Londoners will be as commendably mature as I am, and join me on that journey.

If that seems impossible, and you tire of gazing North with your thinly veiled jealousy, let us instead examine our advertisement in question with the appropriately mature admiration that it deserves. Alongside the totemic headliners the London music industry have been kicking and screaming in its attempts to book for years – Blondie and Paloma Faith – we see a number of other borderline arrogant claims. Aside from the brash assertion to hold 12 of some fantastical creation called ‘music venues’ (
presumably 11 now), one also notes that apparently, (and please fellow Londoner, steady yourself before reading on) Nottingham has given birth to “one top album artist”.

Well, I can only assume you are also in stunned silence. The only course of action remaining appears to be damage limitation, and so I issue a critical warning to my fellow capital dwellers, not yet versed in the beauty of England’s green and pleasant county: book those train tickets early. Once summer finally rolls around St. Pancras will verge on riotous scenes for the hordes of culture starved capital-dwellers fighting for a place on a train to get to a city where a person has produced a successful album. Let alone
a person as admirably refined as Jake Bugg.

In closing, I can only enter a plea to the Gatekeepers of Nottingham: act with greater delicacy in future! Be sensitive to our already blindly jealous eyes! Did NBC advertise their US presidential election coverage across Syria? London life is a daily struggle as it is. I just ask for our plight not to be rubbed in our faces. Many, many thanks, and obviously, see you in June.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

india goes indie at the nh7 weekender - guardian article

This article was originally published on here.

The Raghu Dixit Project  
The big Weekender … The Raghu Dixit Project perform onstage at NH7 in India. Photograph: Stephen Budd

It can be difficult when travelling by train in India to ensure you disembark at the correct city. Especially when it's 5am, and everybody around you is busy giggling at your pronunciation. We're in Pune (pronounced Poo-nay, apparently) for the second year of the NH7 Weekender. India has a smattering of music festivals, but these are mostly traditional events or trance affairs aimed at tourists unable to wait for their Ibiza kicks. NH7 is an attempt to create a Glastonbury, or perhaps more precisely, Lovebox-style event in India.

India's middle class is now estimated at more than 300 million people – that's a lot of folk with disposable income, internet access, and perhaps an interest in exploring non-traditional culture.

"There aren't any Indian festivals that concentrate on non-Bollywood music," NH7 co-organiser Stephen Budd explains. "The view was Indian audiences would never want to go." A few years ago Budd's business partner, Vijay Nair, was struggling to fill a five-band bill in Mumbai, now they're both filling festival schedules. Understandably perhaps, Budd says they faced skepticism. "The industry view was there's not enough interest in things that aren't Bollywood led. [Myself and Vijay] lamented that the only British acts visiting India then were the Stings and Simply Reds of the world, when kids wanted to see Mumford and Sons and Basement Jaxx, but no one was bringing them over."

Fans desperate to see the few western acts playing India have lately encountered a second problem: this year has been disastrous for gig cancellations, including Bryan Adams, Akon and Metallica.

This organisational chaos is something NH7 wants to put right. Arriving on site, the event feels clean and well mapped out, in a country with a reputation for the opposite. We never wait more than 60 seconds for one of the (regularly cleaned) Portaloos. There's a buzz in the air – none of the acts are received poorly. "Has anybody heard of grime music?" London's Riz MC asks the crowd. Three people cheer. But no one is standing still once introductions have been made.

The festival programme advises "getting from one stage to another will require a fair amount of walking". But it took us less than four minutes to get from one end of the site to the other. Not exactly Glastonbury, then.

There's corporate branding. For most of ex-Radio 1 DJ Bobby Friction's set, a vodka logo is dragged around the screen like a four-year-old playing Etch A Sketch. India is a fan of brash marketing, and here it is overwhelming. As are the lineup changes, which seem to occur throughout the day. Thankfully, everybody on site is tweeting so it's easy to keep them updated. And aside from the music, there's plenty going on. There's a convention of 30 tattoo artists on site. Fans can pay for food, drinks and merchandise via an impressive system of RFID cards and micropayments. With the same cards they can also choose to log performances they watch and have the story of their weekend automatically updated on Facebook. Well, that was the idea – the system collapses minutes after the gates open and stays down all weekend.

Indian acts get the biggest reception. The audience for the secret set by Mumbai rockers Zero is easily the most frenzied of the weekend. The mass singalongs when the Raghu Dixit Project play Mysore Se Aayi and Indian Ocean play Bandeh rival the most euphoric Glastonbury moments.

An almighty party closes the festival on Sunday night, as artists from across the bill collaborate on covering western hits (Blur and Metallica ) and Indian folk classics. Finishing with a rave, Indian Ocean singer Rahul Ram freestyles in Hindi over Underworld's Born Slippy. It's a brilliant set to close the festival.

Afterwards, nobody is disappointed. The festival sells all 7,000 tickets for the Saturday and Sunday, and says it has made a profit in its second year, something "unheard of in the UK festival market", claims Budd. "Next year I expect we'll get some really high-end younger artists willing to take the leap. I'd love to see Chase and Status, Dry the River, even the Vaccines come and play with their Indian counterparts." NH7 has certainly proved there is an appetite for it.