The Cultural Marketplace

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Meshing minds in SIN City

It it has been 'All Quiet on the Western front' mostly due to the fact that I moved East to Singapore in January. I have spent the last couple of months finding my feet on this fair isle and forging ahead with plans for an official launch out of beta for Mesh Minds in both the UK and Singapore later this year. Rock and Roll.

I have already managed to hold a number of meetings with some highly inspirational local and foreign individuals spanning the arts and business worlds, whilst the London team continues to expand on the powerful networks built up over the last two years at Mesh HQ.

A seemingly perennial topic in Singapore is that of the 'brain drain' phenomena. In relation to emerging creative talent, there appears to be a certain sense of disillusionment regarding the effect of 'Singapore, Inc' on creativity, free-thinking and leadership in the arts. Funding for the arts in Singapore comes from a mixture of monies from the National Arts Council, corporate sponsors, and individual patrons. I note that the major advantage that the UK has over Singapore right now is strength and maturity of its creative infrastructure. By that, I mean:

(i) government sponsored training for creative entrepreneurs covering topics like how to set up a business, how to market your business, how to deal with business administration (tax, companies registry filings, accounts etc.);

(ii) free publicity - the UK (and London especially) has a wealth of free newsletters and magazines that offer coverage of all arts-based events from the largest exhibitions at the Tate to the tiniest ten-people-in-the-gallery-at-any-one-time shows. This means that if your show is good, it can attract a lot of publicity without very much effort. See online newsletters like Le Cool, Urban Junkies, Flavor Pill, and Daydream Network. Those publications have a circulation of 30,000+ and all you need to do to get in any of those publications is send in an email - if your event is 'hot' enough, they will holler about you. Simple.

(iii) collectives - there are loads of different collectives in London, like Scrawl Collective and Daydream Network - spanning a variety of art forms. Members of these collectives pull together to share contacts and information so that shows can be organised at very low cost. Huge numbers of favours are done just so that artists can get something innovative and fresh on their CV.

(iv) venues - there are tons of 'alternative' and 'innovative' venues in London because the competition is so heavy. So, bars will offer their space for short theatre performances, like Stand Up Drama, art exhibitions or short film showcases.

In summary, there needs to be better supporting infrastructure in the form of education, creative connections, marketing opportunities and spaces. Given the right set of tools, I believe Singaporeans could fashion a wonderfully vibrant creative industry for Singapore. Without the right tools, however, and only a few hard-to-access grants available, it will be difficult to remove the feeling that creativity is limited here - not only due to criteria placed on the 'right' kinds of shows and exhibitions, but by the distinct lack of creative infrastructure available.

Having said that, it is by no means an insurmountable task. What is required from the grassroots of the local and international talent in Singapore, are individuals prepared to tweet, blog, publish (online and offline) and generally shout locally and globally - thereby providing second-to-none coverage of the movers and shakers in South East Asia. If Singapore really wants to establish itself as a "New Asia Creative Hub" by 2012, it needs to re-invigorate emerging talent and embed the belief that change is coming and they can be part of this Renaissance City 2.0 by becoming thought-leaders and creative innovators. It's time for the Artistic Asian Tigers to come out from their dens and show the world their collective roar.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Rising Stars

What a wonderful accolade to win: an invitation to join the Courvoisier Future 500. I enjoyed a superb evening at the launch party held at the beautiful House of St. Barnabas, where I met a myriad of interesting people, including Philip Levine whose party-trick is to cover his head to suit each and every occasion. With a job title of 'Creative Impresario', he certainly left me very impressed!

I have set up a number of meetings already with exciting and intriguing individuals, and am hoping to get involved in a collaboration involving a number of members from the network to host a showcase of the arts. I'll be sure to let you know who I meet and greet in the run up to Christmas... Plans are afoot! And all thanks to my new friend, Courvoisier:

Yes, that was the morning after.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Don't Bank On It

Mesh - The Cultural Marketplace

Connect :: Invest :: Experience

Friday 28th November

Adam Street - The Whole Club, From 8pm

Economic recovery by Christmas? Don't bank on it. Here's something you can bank on: an exceptional evening of raw talent, rare beats and grooves and even a magic encounter with The Chancellor if you're very lucky.

We have teamed up with the Daydream Network to launch their fifth edition of their publication that has showcased over 350 individuals and collectives, including established names, hidden gems and the talent of tomorrow since its launch in 2006.

We have already been selected by Flavorpill London as a pick of the week and we can't wait to host another storming party. Tickets are selling out fast, so get yours NOW!

See you at the end of the month!

Friday, 22 August 2008

From frustration to funding in 16 days!

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Mesh has recently secured funding from Addidi Angels, a newly formed angels’ network focused on high-profile women investors. As part of the investment, Mesh will be covered in the next four issues of House magazine, the seasonal publication for members of Soho House.

We have also crystallized our vision and focus for the future:

"Mesh is a cultural marketplace connecting the arts and business worlds. Meshers have one thing in common - a passion for culture, arts & creativity. They love to invest, collaborate and connect with like-minded people who bring them cutting-edge, unusual, and inspirational experiences.

Here's what we mesh them with:

* emerging creative talent for the purposes of investment or collaboration
* cutting-edge cultural experiences and events that may be off the radar
* curators, event organisers and promoters so that ideas can be shared to improve future offerings

Our aim is to encourage growth in the arts as a whole and to nurture emerging talent so that everyone can thrive."

Here's our latest video introducing some of our elite members:

It has taken us over a year's worth of research, over which time we have gathered a mass of over 700 beta testers and over 2,000 individuals waiting to join, to get to where we are today. I cannot say how frustrating it has been, at times, to work on Mesh only as a part-time project away from our day jobs as a lawyers. However, the development of our initial concept has enabled us to attract our first round of funding and the whole process took only 16 days from pitch, through due diligence, to offer!

We are also in the process of entering into some very exciting strategic partnerships, which will further boost our growth and strengthen our concept. More on those in due course!

Our new developer/Python genius, Robert Lofthouse, is fast working on the site and we have plans for mobile applications in the pipeline. Next year, members will be able to call on our cultural concierge wherever they may be. Excellent. I love it when a plan comes together.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Living on the Innovation Edge 2008

After being invited to a sumptuous lunch at the Google UK Headquarters and spotting Larry Page and Eric Schmidt in the lunch queue (no word of a lie - they were in town for the Google Zeitgeist), Jonny and I headed to the Innovation Edge Conference 2008 to add to our quota of multi-millionaires for the day. Lo and behold, Michael Birch, Bebo was wandering around in the auditorium as well as Bob Geldof. Geek-spotting over, we headed to our chosen expert seminars. These are the highlights for you...

Creating Access: How the creative industries are forging new ways to market

Patrick McKenna noted how 'fashionable' the creative industries had become of late thanks, he said, to (i) digital technology, (ii) regulatory change, (iii) consumer behavioural change. Those factors together have allowed the arts world to be more economically relevant which, in turn has caused a major shift in the engagement of the creative sector by the business and finance sector. Gone are the days when the large global media corporations stood as the gate-keepers to the world of creative content. Technology has allowed creative businesses to reach consumers directly.

The overall result: consumer benefit - the unit price of content is at an all time low due to piracy, peer-to-peer sharing and the availability of 'free' content on the internet.

Fred Bolza stepped in and was quick to point out that new access models, such as Facebook and MySpace have signalled a shift in focus to the user. No longer is content unit-based (i.e. based on sales of CDs, DVDs), it is user-based (i.e. how many downloads, how many eyeballs) and that often means that there is very little money passing from consumer to creator. Added to that, consumers have become more sophisticated from a young age, have higher expectation and shorter attention spans (i.e. if it's not available to download onto my new 'cam-fone-player', it's not worth having.) Changes in demand, supply and distribution have caused Sony to consider different monetisation strategies, one of which is to create 'licensed networks'. This would mean fees associated with the content carried by these networks would be paid by the individual internet broadcasting channels, which would be governed by some form of royalty payment rules.

His resounding piece of advice to content suppliers was, "Stay friends with technology". It is foreseeable that offering a better quality of output via a considered approach to the technologies available could spark consumer loyalty. In this game, loyalty = royalty.

Charles Cecil offered a unique insight into the effect of technology on the gaming industry and how it has come full-circle. Charles wrote his first game in 1981 in a time when there was direct communication with the end-user - the biggest market for games was at fairs and shows, at which writers and developers would connect with their audience. Investors then seized the market by buying distribution and publishing licenses, often holding little regard for the quality of the games and concentrating more on marketing to gain attention. This caused a period in which many games did not make it to market due to the huge barriers to entry put in place by the corporate investors. Fast forward to now and game writers are once more able to sell direct to the consumer via services such as Xbox Live Arcade where they can command up to 70% of any sales. The vociferous nature of the consumer borne out in feedback forums and blogs also means that writers have a direct nexus to their audience resulting in more consumer satisfaction and therefore, loyalty.

His key advice: If you are purely a publisher with no rights to the market, you are in a dangerous and short-lived position.

Anthony Lilley placed great emphasis on the importance of focusing on the 'architecture of attention'. Noting that the scarcity of attention is the greatest barrier to overcome now, he advised the audience to re-calibrate their consideration of how value is created for the consumer. Ultimately, we need to focus on creating 'attention experiences' (e.g. an enticing viral) or attention filters (e.g. Google) to succeed in the current market.

Simon Danker gave a good insight into the BBC's strategy for managing an audience that is spending more and more time online. Akin to bringing the mountain to Mohammed, the BBC is focused on delivering quality content to a niche audience (e.g. offering good quality clips of Top Gear on YouTube and creating Dave to offer the show offline to a largely 16-34 male audience.)

During question time, Fred offered the best rundown of the method of innovation: (i) understand your consumer, (ii) offer compelling content, (iii) provide access to your content across multi-platforms, (iv) ensure your consumer has a device on which to access your content.

I thought the seminar was highly informative and interesting. The panelists provided a lot of food for thought and different perspectives on the CONTENT : TECHNOLOGY : AUDIENCE debate. It will be very interesting to see which of the strategies outlined will succeed in today's consumer-driven market. For now, I'm off to flag down the free fun bus to Enjoyment via Experience on the information super-highway.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Delay delays delays...

So, you wait ages for a new developer and two come along at once! Hello and welcome to 2008! It sure has been a while since I last tapped any characters out here and I can honestly say that it is great to be back.

To update date you, the reason why Jonny and I have been so silent is because we have been so disheartened with the state of the Mesh website. At times over the last three months, we have even considered throwing in the towel due to the unbelievable amounts of stress that the Mesh venture was causing us. Imagine the scenario of dealing with a developer who never returns your calls (the worst stint being ten straight days of no contact and us having to turn up at his door to confront him) whilst trying to build your community, add value to your members and organise events at exclusive venues to "celebrate" the release of the website out of its beta phase. On top of all that, having increasingly stressful day jobs as lawyers in the beautiful rat-race centre of the world, London, has made for a pretty sticky start to the year.

Of course, some may cry that it is partly our fault for hatching such an idiotic plan as to build a trusted collaborative network whilst attempting to hold down intense day jobs. However, this just shows how much we are completely dedicated to the cause and the concept and we believe (even despite the dark days of doubt that we have lived through) more than ever that we can make a difference to the way that the arts and business worlds connect, communicate and collaborate.

Whilst the online angst has been at terrorising our souls, we have been hard at work meeting a range of deeply cool and eclectically inspiring Mesh members who are keen to help us move Mesh forward. Just a small selection of the highlights...

  • Director of the Rochelle School, Anthony Bennett has provided much support and inspiration to us and even invited the Mesh Executive Committee to host its monthly meetings at the beautiful venue.
  • Seasoned promoter of club night, Mulletover, Rob Star fascinated me with his move from a career with a pharmaceutical company to a promoter and now to a public house landlord. His new venue, The Star of Bethnal Green throws open its doors this weekend and it looks set to breathe new life into the area.
  • Multi-talented hedge fund analyst manager Suneil Setiya had me reaching for my air guitar just last month when he launched his rock edged menswear collection, Rococo along with designer Angel Nokonoka.
  • Director of Eudemonic, a unique company pioneering creativity, play and imagination, Andres Roberts, set my mind racing when he described the concept of developing 'Creative Change' - the use of creativity to make deeper and better change happen. It was wonderful to hear Andres explain that creative fields provide the tools, the language and the mediums that truly inspire people and organisations.
  • Professional connecter and Director of the Word of Mouse network, Andy Lopata, has been a superb supporter of Mesh and we have been meeting to discuss the ups and downs of starting up networks.
  • Truly talented and impressive professional photographers, Mark McEvoy, Simon Warren, Fiona Campbell and Toby Smith have been knocking my creative socks off with their beautiful images. They span a range of different focuses, subject matters and projects so it has been a real journey for my eyes to discover their work.
  • Speaking all night long with the beautiful Mak Gilchrist (amongst other brilliant accolades, the lip licking 'bass player' in the Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" video and previously, the face of Yves Saint Laurent make-up), allowed me to go on a magical journey through her life as a young model in the 1980's up to now as a keen promoter of the artwork of her talented husband, Agamemnon Otero.
  • Working with us on our next event on 17th April 2008 at Shoreditch House is Ric Blackshaw – Director of the Scrawl Collective. Having started out writing a book about street art, Ric started the Collective in 1998 to represent three upcoming artists - Steff Plaetz, Will Barras and Mr Jago – and it has now grown to more than eight-fold and has worked with clients as diverse as Sony Music, Levi’s and Virgin Mobile. Amazing.

Join requests keep flooding in but we have not been able to let anyone onto the site since January due to the development issues. We cannot wait to re-open the floodgates to get new members meshed with the current highly inspirational crowd. Waiting in the wings are award-winning fashion designers, film makers, writers and a wealth of creatively passionate lawyers, bankers and accountants who are all keen to collaborate and share their creative or commercial advice. Once we are out of beta, I think I might intoxicate myself with the coolness of it all.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Mesh :: Esquire Magazine January 2008


It gives me great pleasure to inform you that Mesh was recently covered in Esquire Magazine's January edition (out now at page 124). Mesh was chosen as one of the three finalists for the Esquire / Philips New Business Challenge Award 2007. In particular, Mesh beat a host of online entries to be chosen as the online representation of the final three!

Kay and I are really excited about the future enhancements we're adding to Mesh: Events and Mesh Magazine. Soon our members will be able to promote and publicise their events to the Mesh community and contribute and read content showcasing the talents of the network on Mesh Magazine.

Look out for our next big event at Adam Street private members' club on Friday, 25 January 2008.

Happy Meshing!