This year, the Coachella Music and Arts Festival will take place for the 11th time, and as usual, the lineup is incredible, the Creators Project-facilitated installations and lights figure to be insane, and there has been a whole lot of promoting going on. On Twitter, on Facebook, and on the wires, Coachella is being pushed, and pushed hard.
But one of the most effective pieces of publicity took another form: the Coachella Conversations.
The Conversations might not sound particularly sexy at face value: Chromeo’s Dave Macklovitch interviewing art director Eric Haze? Pseudo-celebrity Santino Rice interviewing pseudo-rappers Die Antwoord? But it’s a lot easier to make terrible video interviews (more on those in a second) than it is to make good ones, and most of the Coachella Conversations succeed for the following reasons.
They Stray Off Topic
Thanks to pre-rolls, water-marking, or drops that can be added to the beginning, middle, and end of video content, interview segments no longer have to fixate on (or even mention) the brand or event that’s paying for everything. The most recent video, which features Josh Davis (a.k.a. DJ Shadow) and Oliver Wang, lasts almost half an hour and features no mention of Coachella whatsoever.
Instead, Wang and Davis have an interesting, open-ended conversation that touches on a lot of things, including parenting, celebrity, and how the digitization of media affects the valuation of physical media (read: why MP3s make rare funk records more valuable to collectors). It is fascinating, and sure-fire linkbait for anybody interested in Davis, Wang, vinyl, or digital technology.
They Are Very Well-Researched
Too often, promotional content is superficial. Interviewers, who sometimes seem like they’ve just stepped out of molds, ask questions that anybody could ask – this is what Rice spends 90% of his interview doing (he spends the remaining 10% trying to hide his troubles with Antwoord member Yolandi’s South African accent).
But the deepest passions that people have for music (and art in general) tend to be long-standing, and the conversation that Dave Macklovitch has with Eric Haze reflects that. Though probably an unknown figure to most, Haze figures prominently in hip-hop’s cultural history: he designed the logos for Public Enemy, LL Cool J and EPMD, created album covers for the Beastie Boys albums Check Your Head and Paul’s Boutique, and his graffiti writing style is still imitated to this day.
As a young, hip-hop-obsessed kid, Macklovitch absorbed this information by poring over liner notes and trying to imagine and chart hip hop’s vast cultural universe. And as he speaks with Haze about his changing relationship to hip hop, it’s hard not to feel like Chromeo and Haze (and, maybe, Coachella in general) are all part of the saga and history of hip hop, if only because of how much of its history seeped into and influenced what both men did. That’s probably not what either party was going for when they sat down to chat (“We’re just going to rap a little bit together,” Macklovitch says modestly at the beginning of the conversation), but it imbues Coachella with a mystique that any festival entering its 11th year of existence would be jealous of.
They Are Not Press Releases
When companies dream up branded entertainment ideas, they often try to reduce the concept to a single sentence or a single phrase. In one way, this is tremendously important – it helps the creative team maintain its focus and draw out its parameters – but in another it tends to be very constrictive.
The most consistent failing of the Creators Project interviews, for example, is they all seem hell-bent on discussing innovation and technology. In the case of UVA, who have created jaw-dropping stage light shows for artists like Massive Attack, this kind of conversation makes sense. In the case of Gang Gang Dance or Interpol, it really doesn’t. Not many artists have deep relationships with the technology they use, and devoting a bloc of questions in each interview to how important their Mac books are just winds up detracting from everything.
People don’t flock to Coachella every April because it’s Coachella. They flock to Coachella because they have deep, powerful feelings for several of the artists that perform at Coachella every year, and this year’s Conversations focus purely on those artists.
Next time you create something to promote an event, make sure you remember to focus on the part that’s most important to the audience.