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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Content and Interpretation

Content and interpretation are the two primary components of a presentation or performance.

The best performances incorporate both. The mediocre contains one but not both. The worst have neither.

Content also requires context.

Interpretation also requires passion.

Both require relevance.

Both need to create a connection.

Both are subjective.

At this moment of reflection, I would grade a selection of the artists I witnessed at the two All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals as the following:

ATP vs FansATP Breeders

To give a few specific examples:

  • When David Yow ripped off his shirt and jumped into the crowd as the first bars of the first song were hit, you knew you The Jesus Lizard were back, and back properly
  • Holy Fuck were my act of the two weekends. Their most recent album is fantastic, and 1.30am on the Saturday night was the perfect slot for them
  • Playing in a well lit Pavilion with Burger King and family amusements on show took away some of the atmosphere, but the quality of Beirut and Deerhunter’s material shone through
  • Andrew WK only has one song, and that song isn’t particulary good. But he is passionate, earnest and really makes the effort to create that party environment
  • !!! are one of my favourite bands and have some great tracks. They blew me away at Glastonbury in 2005, but this performance fell flat in comparison
  • I only saw the first half of Tricky’s set, and hear it got better. But the 30 minutes contained all ambient material that I really wasn’t in the mood for
  • Madlib closed the second weekend, but only produced a couple of pedestrian raps and complained about people not buying his records
  • I may be being hard on some acts. But for acts like Grouper, who play but don’t perform, sets can be quite dull

Ensuring the quality of both content and interpretation is obviously not just restricted to the music stage – it is something to consider next time you are “performing” on any stage, whether a boardroom, conference or park.

I’m going to my third festival of the month this coming weekend (well, at least some of it). After that, I plan to catch up on my reading and writing

sk

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ATP – always in beta

The Nightmare Before Christmas, co-curated by Melvins and Mike Patton was fantastic. Musically, it was the best of the 7 All Tomorrow’s Parties weekenders I’ve been to. There are few places where you could find a bill diverse enough to incorporate Mastodon, Squarepusher, Rahzel, Os Mutantes, James Blood Ulmer, Junior Brown and Monotonix (pictured below)

See my Flickr for some more photos from the weekend

Aside from the music, I came away hugely impressed by the organisation. Past events have come in for criticism, but by and large these have been addressed.

  • The venue was a bit small and tatty – so they moved to a larger one
  • This venue initially restricted alcohol to the room it was bought in – a “zone” of free movement and consumption was introduced
  • Some acts attracted big queues – a new stage was created in the pavilion with a larger capacity, and second performances were introduced
  • This venue wasn’t optimised for a good sound – the stage was dismantled and the overall event capacity was reduced
  • Security had been accused of being heavy handed – virtually all the security I saw were pleasant and approachable (they even let a chalet gig go on until 5am before shutting it down)

Now if only they could improve the road links to Minehead…

This is the idea of business as a service. This harks back to Russell Davies’ post on the lines getting blurry. Organisations should accept their mistakes but work with their stakeholders to continually evolve and improve.

This isn’t a new concept. Back when Japanification was en vogue, kaizen – continuous improvement – was the big buzzword. As epitomised by companies such as Toyota, a stream of small changes was the key to incremental performance gains. Success would be borne out by evolution and not revolution.

I believe that this notion is so crucial because it empowers all of us – whether chief executive, event organiser or researcher. ATP have shown what can be achieved with humility and dialogue. We should all keep the following question in mind.

How can we improve today?

sk

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Three lessons from ATP: Explosions in the Sky

ATP Explosions in the Sky flyer

Lesson #1: Pick the right environment

The environment is a hugely important factor in consumer enjoyment. Design, location, time and atmosphere all affect our consumption and they should be managed as closely as possible to maximise the experience. 

Good practice: Scheduling Jens Lekman‘s sunny, infectious indie-pop to open the afternoon on a glorious day (admittedly, the weather can’t be predicted)

Bad practice: Scheduling Stars of the Lid‘s neo-classical orchestrations at midnight while a room of inebriated patrons restlessly await the opportunity to dance to Battles

Lesson #2: Accurately gauge demand

Too much of something and you have wasted resources on surplus inventory. Too little and you alienate potential advocates. Supply needs to be accurately forecast, or at least flexible enough to meet any unanticipated changes.

Good practice: The bar staff – seeing the number of people getting hot at the front of the audience – preparing a load of glasses of water in preparation for the onslaught of dehydrated fans at the end of the set

Bad practice: Not having a coloured wristband system in place for Battles (where a different colour signifies which set you can go and see). The resultant debacle meant that on Saturday, demand far outstripped capacity. Priority wristbands for the Sunday performance were handed out to those that failed to get in but this then meant the entire venue had to be emptied in advance of the second performance, and people without wristbands could not be admitted until the set started

Lesson #3: Over-deliver on expectations

Experience dictates expectations to an extent. But they can still be managed through providing the customer with additional, up-to-date information. Making a realistic promise and then exceeding it will stand you in good stead for repeat business

Good practice: Our car broke down on the journey back to London. The repair service said a technician would be with us in 30 minutes. He showed up in 20. We were impressed.

Bad practice: The problem with the car was critical, and we needed to be towed. We were told a tow truck would be with us within the hour. Three calls and two hours later, it showed up. Our goodwill had completely evaporated.

A fourth – personal – lesson would be to extend forward planning from the immediate to the longer term. With particular reference to the amount of sleep required to sustain oneself for the week ahead.

sk