Thursday, March 26, 2015

Perhaps I'm Just Not Cool, and This Won't Help (or) My Thoughts on Meerkat & Periscope

I’m not anti-Periscope or Meerkat. I think it offers amazing branding opportunities and chances to see different viewpoints and even parts of the world that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. This is a great real time marketing opportunity for brands to showcase what they are working on, help with consumer education, bring their community along to events they are unable to join in person…it’s hard to stop my marketing brain from coming up with more and more instances where this will be enter into my strategic planning. I do sometimes like to be a voyeur and get an inside peek into certain people’s lives and this is just the thing to quench that thirst. It’s only been a few hours since the arrival of Periscope (oddly released before it was meant to be, or was saying that just to make us feel even more cutting edge for having adopted it even earlier?) and I’m already a fan, where I wasn’t of Meerkat.

I just have some questions. And concerns.

People like to be “famous.” It’s a sad part of our culture and with the new attention on apps such as Meerkat and Periscope, the opportunities to have million of eyeballs on anything and everything you do at any point of the day, makes this “insta-fame” even easier. There’s the saying “it’s like a train wreck, you just can’t look away” – will we feel the same watching a live stream of crime happening? Suicide in real time? Look at how famous serial killers become. Part of some peoples human nature is drawn to and obsessed with people who do bad things – will we make live streaming killers just as famous?

There is never a lack of news and trials about date rape, hazing, people passing out in college dorms and being taken advantage of while unconscious, only to find out through Instagram pictures that an incident occurred. How long til these acts are live streamed and simultaneously posted on Twitter streams across the world?

I recently brought up some of my concerns on the growing popularity of these new apps, and was quickly reminded that “live streaming on the internet is nothing new.” While that’s true, the attention it is now getting is new. And when people see that something is hip or popular, they want to be a part of it. Admittedly, I am drawn to it as well. Both good and bad, I suffer from “FOMO” quite often, and like most people in my online communities, always want to be an early adopter of new digital trends. I also have choices to make. And morals. And beliefs. And goals of who I want to be and the person I strive to become every day. And part of who I am is inherently curious and questioning (and more often than I’d like to admit even to myself, opinionated, generally loudly). Because of this, I have concerns.

When people do reality shows, there is a long involved screening process and many releases to sign. As more people are publicly live streaming, we are in a way, cast into their reality show with no release and quite possibly no knowledge that we are even involved. I can have live stream without anyone I can be filming knowing I am doing it depending on where my phone’s camera is placed. And while the people around me that are being filmed might never want to be included, they have no say in being distributed to anyone anywhere around the world.

I am also finding that watching unedited versions of people I know online and have long respected are losing a bit of my respect (or a lot, depending on what point of their streams I tune into) for their lack of humility. Ego is one thing I work hard at keeping out of my life, both personally and professionally. When someone mentions their “fans” in a live stream, I’m immediately turned off (and so is their stream). Why would you think I want to turn into you driving to work? Or walking your dog, streaming your inner monologues? Perhaps I need to vet who I follow and whose streams I watch more deeply, and weed out those that I’m not interested in. Perhaps my writing this blog is me being just as bad as some of the streams I’m discussing here – thinking anyone cares what my thoughts are on this topic.

Points of difference I’m enjoying on Periscope over Meerkat:

·        Replay – unlike Meerkat, Periscope saves live streams once they’re completed, and allows you to play them back later or keep them saved (streamers are also given the option to NOT have their streams saved)

·        Upon sign in, you are brought to a screen that shows you what streams are currently live, from both people you follow and those you don’t yet follow, as well as a list of recent streams. This is huge, IMO, as you can literally browse through streams to find what speaks most to you

·        Hearts – while you are watching a live stream, if you tap the screen, you send out a heart. You can send an infinite number of hearts, to show your appreciation to the streamer that you enjoy what they are doing. Both the person doing the stream can see this, as well as anyone else signed onto the stream with you

·        Comments do not post directly to Twitter – this was my biggest annoyance with Meerkat. There would be all these tweets in my feed that didn’t make any sense, there was no conversation to view around them, and no auto-hashtag to give them context. While I suspect this may change with Periscope, comments do not auto publish to Twitter and I love that.

Neither app currently allows you to preschedule broadcasts further out than 24 hours and I think for brands, that will be a game changer for whichever platform makes that available first. To be able to tweet out a date that you will be giving a talk or live streaming an event will definitely help experiential marketing.

I look forward to your thoughts on this. In the meantime, I’ll be delving in and joining people at home, at work, in their cars, at the store….

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: Twin Shadow - Eclipse

Twin Shadow

Label: Warner Music Canada
Release Date: February 11, 2015
3 out of 5 stars
Listen to: "To The Top & I’m Ready"


Born in the Dominican Republic, raised in Florida and New York, George Lewis Jr., who we call Twin Shadow, has recently left his east coast roots behind for Los Angeles. With two previous albums under his belt, it was time to sign with a major label (Warner Bros) for promotion of his most recent offering, Eclipse.

If you've listened to Twin Shadow's previous two albums, you know Lewis isn't one to shy away from his feelings, and Eclipse is no different. Past that, it is harder to draw comparisons to the Twin Shadow we have known. Eclipse is more of an anthemic album, about coming out of the darkness and being brought back into the light, using less guitar than in prior material and more booming large sound. It's continuing along the road, as Lewis himself is, moving from an artist that releases his own material to an artist signed to quite a major label, moving across the country, moving towards more of a pop sound than we've heard from him, moving towards what's to come...

Eclipse is an 11-track album, coming out of the gate with deep emotion in "Flatliners." In the album's opening song, Lewis laments promises broken, using a dark haunting melody that allows you to feel his pain. Fittingly, and perhaps even more haunting, Lewis and his band keyboardist Wynne Bennett, bassist Spencer Zahn and drummer Andy Bauer, recorded this album in a small chapel on the grounds of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Each song continues the theme of extreme feelings of love and love lost. Meaningful? Yes. Emotional? Very. Easy listening? No. This is not an album you sit down with and listen to from start to finish. I tried. It's mentally exhausting. The anguish and loneliness is felt in "Half Life's" lyrics: "Do you know why I stumble? Why I'm way down on my knees/ I've been racing through a half-life/ and it's taking its toll on me." This also isn't the album that you put on in the background while you work or attempt to accomplish other large tasks. It would be better suited for a large amphitheater or outdoor arena.

Listening to Eclipse in entirety, you can't help but feel Lewis is trying to tell us he's not one to be pigeon-holed into a specific genre. All Twin Shadow songs are full of introspection, each word and beat carefully created to instill meaning and feeling in the listener - Lewis knows just what he's saying to us. While his previous albums were constructed with more guitar and more synth, Eclipse lends itself more to power pop ballad. This is definitely his most refined album. Singles "Turn Me Up" and "To The Top" (I date you not to fist pump at least once while this song plays) are radio ready and "Old Love/New Love" begs to be presented to a dance floor.

One can only hope that Eclipse provides the catharsis Lewis seems to have been searching for while writing this album, and that he has left whatever demons still remained behind in NYC. If "Locked and Loaded" is any indication, there's still a lot more to come from Twin Shadow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

REVIEW: Bob Dylan - Shadows in the Night

Shadows in the Night is Bob Dylan’s thirty-sixth studio album. It was released by Columbia Records on February 3, 2015 and contains 10 songs originally made famous by Frank Sinatra, though Dylan chose these songs and put together this arrangement himself for this album.

From the first song “I’m a Fool To Want You,” Dylan set the tone for the entire set, evoking feelings of lost love, sadness and melancholy made even more emotional by his gravelly (though less ragged than we have recently heard) tone and wistful tempo. For those that gave up trying to understand the Dylan of late, straining to make sense of mumbled lyrics, I implore you to give him one last chance. His voice on this album evokes the Dylan we came to love way back when. Song after song, Dylan’s enunciation is clear as he sings each word with purposeful meaning. Dylan proves that at 73, he is still a singer - strong of voice and just as able to stay one step ahead of all who try to pigeon-hole him or believe he’s nearing the end of what his voice can handle as ever.

Although over 30 years have gone by, I still remember where I was when first introduced to Bob Dylan, and I imagine this is true for all of us true Dylan fans. The songs on this album are not his, yet they are. Having never heard Frank Sinatra sing any of the songs showcased on Shadows in the Night, one wouldn’t think twice if told these songs came from Dylan’s own writing. Bob Dylan has made a career of pining for women he once loved, writing about some of them with biting lyrics ruing the day he met them, and regretting parts of his past. When a despondent man asks “What’ll I do with just a photograph to tell my troubles to?” in “What’ll I Do,” you see this as easily something Dylan would have written in a song fit for Blood on the Tracks.

Unlike the Dylan we have come to love, this album is short – 10 songs lasting less than 40 minutes played all the way through. An homage for sure to Frank Sinatra’s time, when albums were shorter and didn’t include those Dylan-esque songs that can last over 10 minutes. It would be easy to brush over this record and stick it in the tribute album category, but this is not that. Dylan is paying tribute to Sinatra by choosing these songs, but taking them and becoming one with them, making each one his own. In doing so, in a way only few can, the listener is drawn in, carefully listening to the story he spins for us, feeling as you imagine the man in each song felt as these times in his life were occurring. In the first notes of the first song you immediately your attention is called to the sharp difference between Dylan and Sinatra, as there is not the sweeping production Frank Sinatra used, but rather Dylans usual five piece touring and studio band. For those of us that have literally followed Bob Dylan, you recognize the precision and mastery of Charlie Sexton on guitar. Making up the rest of the band is bassist Tony Garnier, guitarist Stu Kimball, percussionist George G. Receli and perhaps the most notable of all, the sound of Donny Herron on pedal steel guitar.

Esteemed and experienced are the members of the band. On this album their sound is raw, almost as if you were listening to them play at an intimate gathering of their closest friends. The production, or lack thereof on this latest release also bolsters that feel, adding to the realism. Recorded live, listeners are drawn even closer as we pick up on paper rustling and the light catch of Dylan’s breath.

Worth exploring, is the marketing route Dylan embarked upon for this albums release. Personally, with over 25 years of professional background in marketing, I have to admit that I honestly have not yet solidified my thoughts on this. Rather, I (at least at time of writing this article) prefer to pose questions, both to myself to ponder and to you all, to crowdsource your thoughts. The premise began with Bob Dylan (and?) Columbia Records choosing 40,000 AARP members at random to send this album to, free of charge. The sole interview Dylan took the time to give, went to AARP, rather than the obvious Rolling Stone. This begs a few questions:

1.      Does Bob Dylan not believe these songs are as timeless as they truly are, and that his target market falls solely with the AARP crowd?

2.      Is Dylan finding (or subconsciously believing) that millennials are no longer fans or discovering his music?

3.      Have we all really gotten this old?!

As a lifetime Bob Dylan fan, I loved this album. I loved hearing Dylan SING and I will always love songs that tell a story. At the same time, this album evokes deep feelings of woe, the songs are slow and inherently sorrowful. I kept waiting for the next song to lift us up, to give us a short break from feeling all the feelings, the next “Like a Rolling Stone,” but that song never came. This is a heavy album.

Buy this CD. Seriously. If you’re still on the fence, download these three songs first: "I'm a Fool to Want You," "That Lucky Old Sun," "Some Enchanted Evening." (THEN go buy the CD)

Twitter: @lucyrk78


Track Listing

1.      I’m a Fool To Want You

2.      The Night We Called It A Day

3.      Stay With Me

4.      Autumn Leaves

5.      Why Try To Change Me Now

6.      Some Enchanted Evening

7.      Full Moon and Empty Arms

8.      Where Are You

9.      What’ll I Do

10.   That Lucky Old Sun