By Sarah Murphy and Hannah Spyksma
A little blue birdie sits on a perch. Occasionally it makes the odd feather-ruffling movement and lays not eggs, but tweets. Welcome to SPOT Interactive Conference in association with Internet Week Denmark, where the digital and physical worlds are colliding, converging and disrupting the way the creative sector operates. At some point during the morning of yesterday’s seminar, moderator Paul Tyler went over to the virtual bird which was housed in what looks like an old TV screen. He picked up a sticker that had been produced by the tweet machine and added it to his list of audience comments to read out.
Holding various bits of paper with the tweet-stickers stuck to them like a fan, he then told the audience that at this conference, making statements online via 160 characters is no longer enough. The audience should be asking questions through the tweets and disrupting the flow of information between online and offline, brands and consumers, content creators and users. In a way, navigating these in between spaces is what SPOT Interactive Conference was all about.
Held in Godsbanen yesterday, the conference was the first event in a comprehensive line up for the wider SPOT Festival which is on in Aarhus until Sunday. Involving a wealth of Danish creatives and drawing on distinguished international keynote speakers, the day-long seminar was the perfect case study into monetising a community when an audience is no longer enough.That’s to say; engaging with an audience, in this case grown from a bunch of existing music fans here in Aarhus for SPOT Festival and Internet Week Denmark. Then harnessing their potential for engagement as a way to create revenue that hopefully benefits not just business but also brings value to the consumer.
But when a festival’s primary aims are to promote and showcase the music, is there need for a seminar based, creative industry conference such as SPOT interactive? If the key challenge for the creative sector is as speaker, Cliff Fluet summarised, how do you monetise a community when all you are used to is an audience? Then the answer could be yes.
More than just a static audience: Engagement is key
You might say that in essence this was exactly what the day’s first keynote speaker David Mattin of Trendwatching.com described as a “disruption of expectation”. He was the first of a range of speakers to address the concerns facing the creative sector in 2014. “What consumers can do and want to do online is mirrored by what they can do and want to do in real life” said Mattin, “digital expectation itself does not stand still”.
With a newly emerging consumer demand and mindset, the role that brands play in consumers lives are changing, as a result we are now seeing a new wave of hungry entrepreneurs and a complete reversal in traditional business models – one that the creative sector is struggling to keep up with. “Online behaviour is affecting consumer expectation across the board. A whole range of startups are closing this expectation gap as we speak, you’ll be swept away if you don’t change,” concluded Mattin.
So how does this play out in the music industry, SPOT Festival’s primary target group of creatives?
As well as drawing on speakers, SPOT Interactive featured a number of Nordic creatives putting the latest world-wide industry thinking into action. Nephew key boardist and Gaffa Magazine founder Rene Thalund contextualises the new creative challenge for his band quite simply. The most asked question his band receives on their social media pages? “Is it really someone from Nephew answering?”
What was clear from the onset of the conference was that as consumers, music fans cherish personalised contact. They’re no longer satisfied by DVD’s that offer little more than one-way communication because after all they are merely a “passive entertainment format”, as Thalund says.
The question for Thor Hampus Bank, product manager of the Re:Mix platform, who presented with Thalund was; “Why was I, as a consumer, looking at what someone else wanted me to look at?” Clearly, creative agencies can no longer rely on one-way communication with their audiences as being enough for consumers. They want to be part of the conversation not just listening to it.
Which is how a new collaboration between Nephew and the team from Re:Mix came about, which is being launched during the weekend at part of SPOT Interactive. The result, they say, addresses the need for the creative sector to interact with their audence. It is the creation of something that people could come back to, stepping away from this “use once” way of consuming and instead creating an all encompassing, immersive and interactive experience. Bank has pinpointed the poignancy of this new model of interaction; “connecting to your audience – creating an experience.”
Harnessing potential: Figuring ways forward for agencies and creatives
So where does the collaboration between artists and their audiences leave business in the creative sector? Should the focus for agencies trying to adapt to these new models of engagement be on content, or on context; on story telling or letting the audience tell stories as SPOT Interactive’s tweet machine does? The middle of the seminar focused on addressing these concerns.
The speed and rate of change within the industry is breathtaking and as Fluet points out, the hot topic for about the 10th year running in the creative sector is still this idea of convergence. The dark irony, he says, is that convergence leads to divergence. If CEO’s are asking themselves whether or not their company has been hit by divergence the answer, he says, is simple; “If where you used to make money is no longer where you make money” then you’ve been hit.
It seems as though much of the business world has been hit hard and for some it is clear that the time is now, adapt or die. Fluet says that changing business models is key to staying afloat, and industries need to come up with “new strategies to deal with these issues.” But as he drilled in to the audience it’s not just about changing business models but about “a complete reversal of their business model.” After all going backwards is the new going forwards he says.
“How are you going to be part of a conversation thats going on?” asks Victor Pineiro, who followed up Fluet as the second keynote speaker of the day, adding that; “it always comes back to voice, voice is the key that unlocks everything else. There are five decisions creatives must be making as storytellers; who is our story for, where do we tell our story, how will we tell our story, when will the audience experience our story and finally how are you going to part of a broader conversation thats going on?”
Beyond understanding how business is changing, the seminar explored what strategies the creative sector needs to harness in order to keep afloat. Pinero, who is the social media guru for Youtube and Skittles says that in order to become part of a broader conversation, the creative sector needs to be in tune with where the audience is at in their journey. This involves taking risks, another key theme of the day. Sometimes risk means the opposite of what you think says Pinero and that’s in telling stories that relate to the audience without specifically selling products. As all of the speakers throughout the day said and as the creatives showed this comes back to not just knowing your audience but engaging them.
Does working together create new business models for the creative sector?
Like the tweeting bird in the seminar that aimed to enhance the guests’ experience at the at SPOT Interactive Conference, both the thinkers and the doers who spoke aimed at connecting creators and users. But despite the numerous ways of conceptualising what’s going on in the industry, where does all of this leave the creative sector which is still struggling to turn innovation and interactivity into profit?
Final keynote speaker Agathe Gurrier of BBH Labs London attempted to sum this up. “Creativity helps to sell more,” she said, and as such it’s “a tool to make more money”. This could hardly be seen as a new thought though. Musicians and artists and film makers throughout history have struggled to pay rent through harnessing the monetary potential of their artistic practices.
Keeping with the theme of the day, Gurrier concluded that the relevancy and currency of the creative sector right now is in using connectivity as a new frame work for creative businesses. The in between space, it seems, characterises everything that the SPOT Interactive festival aimed to talk about but also what the festival itself stands for. “The main aim is that in the new digital landscape, musicians as well as film makers, and the interactive part, they need to reach out to the audience,” event organiser Mette Marcussen of Shareplay told us after the conference.
The value of this to SPOT’s original target group, up and coming Scandinavian bands who hope to get signed at the festival, is debatable. But perhaps focusing on them is missing the point of the seminar. As Marcussen went on to tell us; “We think [the interactive components] are the glue that sticks the music and the film industry together.” And in this way, the conference was indeed a case study into how creative minds and businesses are doing as the speakers suggest: using connectivity as a framework to propel SPOT Festival forward and give it relevancy in today’s digital environment when simply hosting music concerns may not be enough to survive.
But just as connecting the in between spaces and filling gaps in the creative sector is a somewhat intangible process – so too is seeing monetary value and sustainability result from these connections. It seems that as it is has always been for the creative sector, money was still the elephant in the room at the end of the day.
Jutland Station is an official media partner of Internet Week Denmark, and will be covering the event in English. Look out for pictures, interviews and features, every day of the week on Twitter @JutlandStation.
For our final piece on Internet Week Denmark, on Saturday morning, we’ll chart the journey the next generation of Danish IT successes will have to make, to provide inspiration for the Internet Weeks of the future.
Follow Jutland Station’s coverage of SPOT Festival including our live blog, for the latest news and views from our roving reporters who are covering the four days of music, film and interactive events.