TMV’s Laura G Thorne was in London taking the collective temperature at Internet Week Europe. Here’s the upshot:
The streets were alive in London as the pied pipers of tech arrived on November 7th for Internet Week Europe, a one-week-long celebration of innovation and everything web. Headquartered in Covent Garden’s swish Hospital Club and across dozens of satellite sites in the whimsically named “Silicon Roundabout,” 150 events were presented by sponsors including Yahoo, LinkedIn, Wildfire, Sapient Nitro and Skype, culminating in Friday’s Closing Night Blowout Party-slash-Awards show, The Lovies.
Some IWE events considered the big-picture philosophical and creative aspects of the Internet revolution, while many others focused on practical aspects related to apps, internet marketing and advertising. Indeed, though the “World Wide Web” sprang from relatively humble origins as an internal communications channel developed by academics, it is now so dominant in business that everyone from the mom-and-pop corner store to the local bin boy feels compelled to maintain a Facebook page and LinkedIn profile if they are to be competitive. If there was any doubt that this was so, the large number of ad agency creatives and strategists who were IWE panelists would make this point quite well: virtually all business of whatever kind resides to one extent or another in the digital space.
Of course the music industry understands this story more than most. We all know the history – digital represented piracy, the scarlet letter, the harbinger of doom – rather than an opportunity. Now however the creators of technology, the Apples & Spotify’s, are seen as the guiding light.
Whether this is true or not however may depend on your position as we’ve seen by recent events. If you are a tech company, you are well-positioned and the value of your company shares are growing. If you are a major label, you aren’t as pleased as the digital revenue is still not enough compared to the glory days of multi-platinum selling albums and CD’s. However if you are an emerging artist, you may be Oliver Twist, pleading in vain to have some more while you live in the poorhouse.
On the other hand, you may find that the tools now available to you are immensely useful. Applications recognised by The Lovie Awards – produced by IADAS (International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences) – included Tweetdeck (Breakout of the Year) and Soundcloud (Gold, Best Web Services and Applications and Silver, Mobile Innovation), with Shazam receiving a silver (Integrated Mobile Experience). (Here’s a complete list of winners and short-listed nominees.)
Let’s face it, though some of the apps developed and campaigns created are frippery and amuse only a select group who delight in art for art’s sake, others have been game changers that genuinely enrich our lives. How did people know what song was playing before Shazam? (Yes, there were DJ’s on the radio that announced what was on and TV shows like American Bandstand and Top of the Pops and teenagers listened to each other’s records in the comfort of their own homes and ate too many chocolate digestives or Hostess Twinkies and smoked and had sex illicitly and…hmmmm. But I digress.)
The Lovies – which pay homage in their name to British Ada Lovelace, who is credited with writing the first algorithm to be processed by a machine in 1842 – celebrate excellence of content created for the Internet by the European community. Co-chaired by digital media agency Poke London’s Exec Creative Director Nicholas Roope (along with David Michel Davies, ED of the IADAS), Roope introduced the evening, making reference to Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s recent statements criticising Britain’s educational system for not placing sufficient emphasis on technology and the sciences and its “you’re either a lovie or a boffin” mentality. Roope noted the Lovies recognise accomplishments on the “robust, scientific side” of the equation, as well as the “(slightly tongue-in-cheek) creative indulgent side.”
As far as the many panels, presentations, workshops, parties and gatherings that happened under the IWE banner, obviously there were key themes: social media, start ups/technology, and digital advertising. Lead sponsor Yahoo hosted “Yahoo Academy,” a free series of how-to’s that also served up generous helpings of advertorial content. However that is where the quid in the quid-pro-quo stops these days, and is standard fare; even though conferences of this kind may be a bit short on substantive detail, they do offer a whistlestop tour of best practices and the latest bright shiny objects capturing the collective imagination.
Yahoo also sponsored discussions such as “Digital Storytelling” (led by author of “The Real Mad Men” Andrew Cracknell), which debated whether storytelling has suffered in the digital age. That wasn’t really sorted out, but by way of contrast take a look at one of Cracknell’s advertising references, the VW “Think Small” campaign and compare it to the Stella Artois campaign spot directed by director Anrick Bregman, one of the panelists. (BTW I enjoyed watching this VW ad more than either of those.)
Social media was examined from a variety of angles with panels such as “Beyond the Like: Turn A Prospect Into A Customer with Social Media Engagement,” “Facebook Advertising for Marketing Professionals” and “LinkedIn Profiles.” If you were a startup looking for advice, you might have attended “The Lean Startup Workshop: Practical Ways to Turn your Idea into a Successful Product” or “Investing in Music Technology.”
In terms of analysing the ultimate effect of the Internet on business and culture in general and on the music industry in particular, perhaps it will turn out to be a bit like the parable of the blind men and the elephant: they all had it somewhat right, but failed to see the big picture. What we do know now however is that the Internet has transformed our world, and it will never be the same.