This Blog Is a Mess

This won’t change that, but it’ll be a new kind of mess, and I’m fine with that.

Alright, here’s the thing.

The original intention of this website was to function as an online resumé and portfolio, both as a central reference point for myself and (I thought) as something I could quickly and easily send to potential employers as I was completing my undergrad degree a few years back. I have maintained the site in the years since, despite not really using it for either of those purposes, since somewhere in the back of my mind, I keep thinking things like “well, someday I’ll need it, someday I’ll use it for that.”

Until now, I have mainly used this blog to publish my professional work when possible, or to publish blog posts about and around my media work. Quite frankly, as time has gone on, that mostly came to mean that I never posted. Like, ever. (Please don’t go back and check. You’ll be in posts from 2014 in under a minute and they’re embarrassing). Realistically, I am not creating enough professional content on a day-to-day basis to sustain a full, active blog about it.

Basically, this isn’t working for me anymore.

I am beginning to look at this site differently now. Not that I have stopped thinking about my somedays, but that I am also starting to think about how to use this site now. I don’t want it to just be something I keep in my back pocket for those rare transitional moments when I need it, but to use it in an ongoing sense as both a professional space when appropriate, and as a space to have some fun, write out my thoughts and ideas that are too long for a tweet, and engage with the people in my life who are invested enough to read it all. So I’m going to widen the scope of this blog and write about basically whatever the hell I want to.

Media work is a huge part of what I do day-to-day, so there will still be some of that, but I also want to discuss my political ideas, thoughts about new entertainment I’ve been consuming or just life updates for my close friends / literally any person on the internet.

I don’t know what I want to say exactly.

This will probably mean that you’ll see a lot of links to playlists I’ve made, new albums or films I’ve encountered and loved or streams of consciousness posts like this one you’re enduring right now. Maybe some photos every once in a while. I’ll definitely talk a lot about my cat.

At this point, you’re probably wondering if I have any kind of actual plan at all. No. No I do not. I don’t have a fully fleshed out idea of what I want to post about, or how often. But that’s sort of the point of a personal blog, in my mind. To be personal. To reflect my personal moment every time I write and just see what happens.

I don’t expect anyone to read what I post, but if you do, I’m always excited to hear anyone’s thoughts. It’s probably going to be a mess, but we’ll see.

Charli XCX is ‘the pop star of the future’ – and she has the digital marketing strategy to prove it.

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Haven’t you heard?  Charli XCX is the pop star of the future.

So many publications have made this claim over the last few months, it’s almost becoming a joke.  In fact, the claim became so prevalent that The Atlantic published an entire article refuting the idea.  The Atlantic aside, everyone seems to agree that XCX is “the next big thing” in pop music, and there are lots of theories around why.  While most articles cite her futuristic glitch-pop sound, others discuss her avant-garde fashion choices or sci-fi lite music videos.  Those facets of XCX’s artistry are deserving of the attention they are getting, but the array of think pieces devoted to XCX’s supposed futurism are missing a key element:  the forward-thinking nature of Charli XCX, the brand and business.

Art is subjective, but sales are not, and music marketing is a growing industry.  According to Forbes, the music industry saw a more-than-10% increase in revenue from 2017 to 2018 and schools like Berklee and the University of Southern California have begun offering courses in music marketing.

It’s not just music marketing that has exploded recently, either.

“Music has changed more in the last five years than in the last 50,” wrote brand strategist Nidhi Dave in her article 22 Digital Marketing Trends You Can’t Ignore Going Into 2020. (2020 is the future, see?  Dave’s article will be the primary source on current marketing trend analysis for this essay).

Charli XCX and her team took advantage of this trend and rolled out a thoroughly modern digital marketing campaign ahead of the release of her third studio album, Charli.  In order to understand the progressive nature of the Charli release campaign, though, one first needs to take a moment to look backwards.

Charli XCX has a checkered history with promoting her music by traditional means, such as TV appearances and magazine ads.  Promotional efforts for a now-cancelled album, including a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, was poorly received by the general public in 2016/2017.

This, paired with a security breach that leaked many of the unreleased songs online, resulted in the entire album being scrapped.  With the exception of a few (frankly excellent) singles quietly published throughout 2017 and 2018, most of that album never saw the light of day.  It hasn’t been all bad news, though.  In 2017, Sandbox listed the release strategy for her single ‘Boys’ as one of the top music marketing campaigns of the year.  With a history of mixed results, though, XCX and co. would need to try something different the next time around.

In early 2019, Charli XCX announced work on a new album, and immediately a huge, primarily web-based marketing campaign began.  The majority of this campaign took place on Instagram and Twitter, with sponsored posts being shown to people who have engaged with her content before, or who fit the target demographics of her audience (primarily gen-z, Europeans and the LGBT community).

https://www.instagram.com/p/B3SehMPHhnH/

Personalized advertising, using AI-assisted ad targeting is becoming more and more commonplace.  Nidhi Dave explains it like this: “AI can analyze consumer behavior and search patterns and use data from social media platforms and blog posts to help businesses understand how customers find their products and services”.  She says that by 2020, 60% of businesses will be using artificial intelligence in increase profits.  In addition, an Epsilon survey found that 90% of surveyed consumers said they find the idea of personalized ad targeting “appealing” as opposed to generic ad blasts.

Leading up the album, most of Charli XCX’s targeted ads focused on creating excitement for the new album, but following the record’s release in September, the focus of these promotional materials has switched to be about the following tour, new videos or merchandise options. There are now sponsored ads geotagged to specific areas, promoting those specific stops of her tour.  Most of these ads (both for the album and the tour) featured video of her performing, or animated versions of the album artwork with clips of her songs playing in the background.  A survey conducted by marketing software development company HubSpot found that over two-thirds of consumers preferred to discover new products or services via a short video than through any other source.

In addition to the sponsored content, XCX has been posting an almost nonstop stream of shareable content and live videos to her personal Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Most of the live videos are behind the scenes videos of her working on music videos or at concerts, or even just her in her hotel room talking about how excited she is about the album and tour.  According to product designer and digital marketer Alexander Bickov, social media stories are one of the top tools for digital marketers due to their cost-effectiveness, ease of engagement with consumers, and access to a younger audience.

In terms of shareable content marketing, XCX is posting lots of memes about her and the album that fans send her to her own account, as well as funny outtakes from the album art photoshoots etc.  According to Julia McCoy at the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing overall and is as much as three times as effective, and Cision PR Newswire reported on a study which claimed user-generated content may influence purchasing decisions for as much as 90% of consumers.  Of course, all of these fun posts are fully shoppable, with users being able to click or swipe from the post to purchase pages for concert tickets, album sales, or links to her music on streaming services.

In addition to content marketing, XCX has been using a music-based form of influencer marketing.  According to Dave, influencer marketing is a system of social media marketing that uses thought-leaders like celebrities or individuals with large social media followings to bring awareness of a brand to a larger audience.  Charli XCX has brought this mentality not just to her marketing, but to her product itself.  Her new album features collaborations with many other alt-pop and electronic artists, who then are also promoting the album on their social media pages.  She also partnered with visual artist Ines Alpha on the artwork for the album and its associated singles.


XCX has resisted the idea that her collaborative efforts exist just for marketing purposes, though.

“For so long, collaboration has been a marketing tool to gain the benefit of both fanbases,” she said in an interview with Celebretainment.  “My collaborations are genuine and personal.”

This ethos may be reflected in the music itself, but the marketing impact remains the same.  Across fifteen tracks, there are thirteen featured artists, all of whom are doing cross-promotion on their own socials to their own fanbases.

All of these digital marketing tactics are in addition to more traditional means of music marketing like scheduled television appearances interviews with radio shows and magazines.

This means that she is addressing her potential audience through the web, television, radio and print advertising simultaneously.  Multi-channel marketing has been a staple of the marketing industry long before the rise of digital-first advertising, but now more than ever, it is necessary to be on the cutting edge of new trends, technologies and strategies to stay on top.

Charli XCX and her team have created a marketing campaign unlike anything they have done before, showing that they have learned from their mistakes and have found how to best reach her unique audience through multiple forms of digital marketing.  The future of music marketing is here now, and she is ready for it.

Article written by Andrew W. Henderson for andrewhendersonmedia.com

Final Project

For my final project, I want to create a series examining “Old Pittsburgh vs. New Pittsburgh”. I live in Pittsburgh’s East End (Lawrenceville, specifically), and in the few years I’ve lived there, the gentrification that I have observed is stunning. I want to create a series of photos that explores that idea. I want to create a series of 8 images from 4 neighborhoods. Each neighborhood will have two photographs, one of something very old and one of something very new. For example, in East Liberty, a photograph of the old cathedral will be paired with a photo featuring the new apartment buildings. I am fascinated by the intricacies of the evolving city, and change through time. I love looking at vintage photographs of areas with which I am familiar and being stunned by how differently they looked even 50 years ago. I think that Pittsburgh is in a crucial time of redevelopment, which is wonderful in some ways, but can be very damaging in others. Since I experience this change most in the East End where I live, I wanted to focus on those neighborhoods. I was thinking of doing Lawrenceville, East Liberty, Oakland and Downtown. Each photograph will be accompanied by a brief description of what the thing is and how long it has been there. In this way, the viewer will be able to see the changing face of Pittsburgh’s East End, and therefore, a piece of my personal existence as well. The photographs will be framed so as to best emphasize the lighting and dramatic architecture for which Pittsburgh is so well known. I am planning to try and keep the photographs as uncluttered as possible without people or street level distractions as much as possible to keep the narrative clear.

Carnegie Art Response

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‘Migration (empire) – linear version’ was created by artist Doug Aitkan in 2008. The work is a looped video in which wild animals wander through the rooms and hallways of modern hotels and motels. The piece was created for the Carnegie Museum. It was originally projected on the side of the museum exterior, to be watched by anyone passing on the street.

The film tackles the often-negative impact of humanity on nature, as human establishments like the hotels featured here have replaced the natural environment, and therefore the habitats of the creatures filmed.

Obviously, as a film, light plays a huge role, as the work itself is, essentially, light. However, light is also used in the film to represent the stark contrasts between the natural and the man-made. Shots of sunlight glinting off of river water is cut directly before a night shot with a glowing neon sign flashing irritatingly. One of the creatures knocks over an electric lamp, shattering it.

The piece is particularly striking to me because of the mood that it creates. It is infused with a surrealist sense of discomfort, and that unsettling emotion is, if not alluring exactly, then at the very least it is gripping.

The environmental lessons presented hit home for me, since I know that I don’t always do my part to protect our earth. Seeing these beautiful animals explore the corporate and cold interiors of these run down motels built on their former habitats is chilling.

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My favorite thing about “Measurement: Plant (Palm)” is that it doesn’t exist. Let me explain. The work is simple. A live potted plant grows in front of a taped grid, measuring its height and width. When the artwork is not on display, the tape is thrown away, and the plant is, well, just a plant. The artwork is either on display, or it doesn’t exist at all. The placard next to the work declares that it truly only exists “as a set of instructions”.

The work was created by Mal Bochner in 1963, and has elements of the Dadaist movement – a group of artists who chose to challenge the conventional ideas of what art might be considered to be. The point of the piece is to challenge the viewer about their preconceived notions. It dares the viewer to say that it isn’t really art.

The use of light in the piece is ambiguous, of course. The work could be built on any wall large enough, and so would look completely different depending on the lights that it was under. Lower lighting might make it look more serious, almost criminal. The white fluorescent lights of the Carnegie reveal the comedy. Also, I guess you would need a light to read the instructions.

I love the sarcasm of the piece, and I love that its rebellious nose-thumbing attitude spoke to enough people that the work has survived over half a century to remain in the Carnegie museum to this day.   Bochner worked so hard to scorn the art world elite, and wound up blowing them away.

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These other photographs represent my trip to the Carnegie Museum of Art and the use of light. Here, natural light creates stark contrasts in the museum garden.

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White fluorescent lights shine through blue plastic, in this walk through installation piece.

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This room has video of Jimi Hendrix projected on all four walls in a psychedelic display.

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Natural light pours through the ceiling in this chamber of statues.