Last weekend I was over in Dublin for the very excellent Hard Working Class Heroes event. For those of you that are unfamiliar, HWCH is a 3 day celebration of emerging Irish artists, which this year took in anything from the Warpaint-meets-Joy Division of Kool Thing to the hazy krautrock-style beats of Solar Bears. This was my second year, and HWCH ’13 certainly cemented the event’s position as the #1 music event of the year for me. The music is amazing, the vibe is incredible, the sense of community overwhelming – its just awesome and utterly inspiring. I can’t recommend it enough.
Frankly, I could write essays about the bands I saw and more. However one particular thing stood out to me this year, and has stuck in mind since. As part of the event, HWCH holds “speed sessions”, where bands can come and get advice from a variety of industry professionals across all manner of areas, be it live promotion, radio, management or, in my case, online marketing.
During these speed sessions, I got to meet some of the kids involved in the Beo project, based up in Letterkenny – which, for the geographically unaware (which included me until just now!) is in the north-west of Ireland, to the left of Northern Ireland and is, in a nutshell, quite a remote area in some respects.
Beo is a project organised by a few schools in Letterkenny. Its mission is simple: the schoolchildren are tasked with putting on gigs. They take responsibility for every aspect of the event, from booking the bands to promoting the gig itself. What really caught my ear though, was that they were approaching various bands – including some of those performing at HWCH – with a view to booking them to come and play. In short, they’d created an ecosystem whereby new bands got a chance to gig in front of a new audience (thus developing their live chops), and the schoolkids of Letterkenny got a burgeoning gig scene in which they had every chance of seeing the Next Big Thing, well before most others would.
As a concept, this is simplicity itself – and that is precisely the brilliance of Beo as a project. It is bringing the best new music to an area previously starved of gigs; somewhere definitely not planned into any bands’ routing when touring. For the bands, it is also giving them to chance to win over a slew of new fans – and let’s remember, those 15/16 year-old kids are at that age where if they love your band, you’ve got them for a LONG time to come. That’s a demographic most brands will pay big money to reach – and with Beo, bands can apply to go play and show what they’ve got. To me, that is amazing.
Only recently Songkick were rightly receiving praise for their experiment with Hot Chip, where they used their data to locate three potential new towns for the band to play, then let fans from each town “pledge” to attend. The first to hit the target in order to cover costs won out, and the gig was held in Folkstone.
What the Beo project is doing is not massively different in my view, because these schoolchildren are bringing bands to their area – one that they’d otherwise not visit – and giving them an audience.
So simple, yet potentially very effective. I’m all for technology (and am a longtime fan of Songkick, for what its worth), but Beo proves that sometimes even that isn’t necessary. All you need is organisation, perhaps a bit of funding and a lot of desire to make it happen. All power to them.