Which world-leading ticket website has NO customer service?

Dear Reader, let me warn you about the dangers of trusting online companies that may offer a real service – but do not back it up with what you or I would regard as being the minimum of actual ‘customer service’ when things go wrong.

I refer in particular to Viagogo, who are (to paraphrase their claims in my terms) the world’s biggest ticket touts. If you want tickets to an otherwise sold-out event, they may have an expensive solution to your problem. Football season ticket holders or corporate ticket owners sell tickets they cannot use back to the club, and people who cannot go to a gig do likewise to the venue. The stadium takes a cut in selling it to Viagogo.

Thus it was that a lifelong Spain-resident Leicester City fan (yours truly) and a long-suffering partner bought tickets to see them play at Sevilla – where the face value of each ticket was €90 and I paid €242. The Viagogo site explains that you will get your tickets no later than 3 days before the event (tickets are often late in being provided to them, so fair enough) – but it does not specify if they mean 3 working days or 3 calendar days. They advise that they will use UPS – who do not actually operate in Spain – and no courier works at the weekend here. So for a Wednesday evening fixture, is the deadline Friday? When the tickets failed to arrive then, our attempts to call the phone number provided were rejected because Viagogo will not take your call until 72 hours before the event, and they do not work on Sunday evening…

Viagogo no address

We were due to leave for the 3-hour drive to Sevilla on Tuesday morning, so this was a major concern. On finally talking to someone on Monday morning, we arranged with them that the tickets would be delivered to our Sevilla hotel.

Viagogo no contact us

Arriving on Tuesday, we found the tickets were not there. Another call to Viagogo – apologies, said the man, they knew there was a problem, their guy was walking round Sevilla that day delivering the tickets. That evening we got a message from our cat-sitter – a courier (not UPS of course) had made an attempt to deliver to our house after we had left.

To cut a long story short, endless phone calls took place, neighbours weighed in to save the day, we had to meet a friend halfway to Sevilla to pick up the tickets, and we just made it to the match. The whole episode was atrociously handled, had cost us a lot of money and spoiled my special treat. I feel we are due some compensation.

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 18.37.02

But as I discovered, backed up by reading posts from a legion of other disgruntled Viagogo users, this ‘leading ticket agency’ has:

  • no customer service email
  • no working link on the website (if you are not within the 72 hour window)
  • no phone number that works (they have changed the numbers frequently)
  • and not even an official address that you can post to

I eventually tracked them down to an address in Holborn Viaduct, London and wrote a letter of complaint. Guess what? No reply and my registered letter was returned… And, since writing this I saw the One Show on TV track down Viagogo to another Cannon Street address which they had vacated months before, leaving all their furniture and a pile of mail including a summons to a House of Commons committee hearing!

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 18.43.36

What sort of company can afford to treat its customers so shabbily? At least I got my tickets (just) but you will find plenty of other cases on the web where they did not receive anything. How are they supposed to be recompensed?

In the course of pursuing Viagogo around the web I read that several football clubs have withdrawn their cooperation with the company. Maybe if enough disgruntled people write like this and make their feelings known, we can force the operation to make itself properly accountable, as any 21st Century business should be to its clients.

 

 

 

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Making Music for Money – can it be done?

Bojingles studio image

Making music with a view to commercial exploitation, and then setting out your stall to sell it, is one of the hardest business challenges you could embark upon. All the more so if, like most musicians and writers, you are not innately business-minded. You do it for the love, of course you do.

But the stark truth is that you cannot afford to spend all, or a large part, of your time creating music that you wish to be heard – if it then gathers dust and nobody plays it. So what do you do? You may be able to play live and take it to the people. To quote the great Michael Flanders of his work with Donald Swann – “We wrote these songs for other people to sing; which they did – but not nearly enough…” So they went out on the road and the rest is history. Sadly most of us do not have the ability, looks, time, money, agent etc. to do this. Which leaves us examining our options.

Entering the Jingle Jungle

At Bojingles, as the name suggests, Rob and I set our caps firmly in the direction of making money from music. Quixotic, maybe – our aim was to rekindle the love that people had once had for sung advertising jingles (For mash, get Smash? Boom boom boom boom, Esso Blue? You do the Shake ’n Vac…) But although we have had successes with our radio jingles, not enough stations or advertisers will pay even our reasonable rates for a job well done.

So the company diversified, successfully, into video production, scriptwriting, web design and other avenues: but music was still an itch we could not scratch. Rob (using his classical training, pop group background and massive production experience) began to get work from music libraries in the USA and Japan, and that has become a regular revenue stream. (WARNING 1: money will be a long time coming, but eventually quarterly royalty payments should arrive)

Getting onto the Library Shelf

If you are keen to do likewise, you need to have the playing, writing and production skills to create styles of instrumental music to order. Libraries have music-using clients (TV and radio stations, film producers, video game makers, advertisers) who need ‘stabs’ of music to set a mood, evoke a particular era, ape a well-known style, or just to fill a silent space. The library has to build a comprehensive rack of virtual shelves, full of every imaginable type of music. If you are lucky enough and persistent enough, you may get to a point where they commission music from you regularly: or at the least, you may be invited to make some music speculatively for a project, which they may or may not then use (WARNING 2: you will be in a competition with others).

The Sad Song Business

What if you are a writer of songs? Then, to make money from them gets even harder. It hasn’t stopped us trying – but although we have been relatively successful in getting contracts for our pieces, receiving any actual money remains elusive, so we have to treat this as a part-time activity. If you want to have a go anyway, here’s how your songs might be used.

  1. Song Placements: where an artist is looking for new material (many who claim to be writers are only co-writers at best) and you are invited to pitch songs in their style. Usually you will have to share the royalties with the singer and others
  2. TV & Movie usage: the chances are better than for supplying artists, because there is a real and continuing need for extracts from songs and tunes at specific points
  3. Publishing deals: usually where a music supervisor (the person or company that acts as music supplier to agencies and media companies) wants material that they can co-publish with you and then exploit

How do you get to the decision makers? With difficulty. There are directories of music supervisors that you can buy, and you can try email and phone campaigns, but it is likely to be a soul-destroying process. Most will not accept unsolicited submissions because they get deluged. From our British perspective, there are some local targets but mostly the music users are in the USA & Canada. The way they work is, either directly or via song pluggers and publishers (often ex-label A&R people), to put out briefs through various internet sites where hopeful writers can subscribe and pitch their work.

Paying The Man

Don’t expect to pitch without cost – it is harsh for struggling writers, but to act as a quality filter and to pay the rent, music gateway sites charge you one way or another. In my experience, the best of them is Music XRay: no upfront cost but you pay per pitch. They now have mini-videos made by most of their regular music pros, so you can assess what they are like and see that they are real. Over a 2-year period, we have had music accepted and contracts signed with several pros: and we are now in direct contact with some of these, who will check out new songs without having to go through the bidding process because they know our work. (However there is usually still at least one more level of supervisor to go through before your work actually gets selected and used). Second best site in my opinion is Broadjam: you can pay as you go, but it’s better to take annual membership and be able to make a weekly pitch (plus free-pitch weekends with a job every hour, a few times a year). It’s more of a free-for-all because once you’ve joined, you tend to bid regardless of whether you can fit the brief: but I have got one good client from the system. Be careful about other music sites that require payment, and check out user feedback before joining. (WARNING 3: some clients will offer non-exclusive contracts, using your music by changing the title so their use can be identified and paid for: others insist on exclusive use, where your work keeps its name but you will have no other possible outlet – so be sure this operation has a good track record of success)

Both Music XRay and Broadjam offer feedback and comparative ratings from music pros, and you should use and heed this service. If you are getting consistently low figures, you are doing something wrong and you need to work on the problem. Sadly, you will find that the recording of you singing to your solo guitar or piano accompaniment will not cut it. The music gatekeepers mostly expect a finished, polished product, especially if it is for use ‘as is’ in commercial applications. Even when it is for pitching to some new X-Factor winner, the artist and producer will want to hear it more or less as it might sound on record. We therefore go to great lengths with production and hire good demo singers, to create a marketable product. Because that it what it is – the marketing of a product. And if that is too nakedly commercial for you, and you don’t want to be beholden to The Man, then you’re in the wrong business. Sorry…

Growing Old Disgracefully

The majority of people reading this article – especially LinkedIn readers – will surely be in employment, working for a firm. It’s still the dominant employment mode.

And like younger readers, I was once wedded to my office job, living its day-to-day requirements and being implicitly signed up to the idea that somehow it mattered. If I had been gainfully employed in certain vocations, like medicine or the police, then maybe it would be clearer to see the point of it, and to judge that one was making a small but useful contribution to the quality of society.

There is a justification for private sector jobs, those that have to do with making things and supplying services. They add to the sum of wealth of the firm, which makes profits, pays taxes and makes your country more successful in the world, which in turn pays for the police and health service. Yet at the micro level, it can be hard to see the point. Where’s the lasting value?

For example, I have worked for big British firms – the Woolwich Building Society, Brooke Bond Oxo, Dalgety Spillers and BET plc – and they have one thing in common. They no longer exist. All have been taken over by other firms whose management think that they too have an imperative to succeed and beat the other guy. It’s a playground game for grown-ups; and it’s often a zero sum game.

Unemployability

In my 40s, I came to the conclusion that I was more or less unemployable. I didn’t enjoy the challenge of having staff under my control, and I was told by a headhunter that I didn’t get a new senior position because I didn’t seem to be hungry enough. And she was right – I didn’t want it any more. I think more and more of us feel that way.

By my 50s, I was ready for a change of scene to Spain, and a late-flowering burst of self-employment under the banner of Bojingles. But there wasn’t a grand plan – it developed organically, starting with making radio jingles (which was fun but not nearly enough radio advertisers would pay for a proper song). That developed into scriptwriting and making many thousands of regular radio ads, becoming a voiceover, writing web copy and video scripts for all sorts of companies, and being a sales and marketing manager for hire.

It’s not just me – looking around at old school and university friends, many of them have latterly adopted a similarly ‘portfolio’ approach to business and are consulting, mentoring, working on specific projects for firms and then getting out again.

Men (and women) Dressing Badly

What does that mean to the outlook on life that I, and people like me, have? I think we are freer thinking, we can dress as badly as we did in the 70s, and we are outrageous or iconoclastic when the mood takes us – because we can be. We are growing old disgracefully: and we don’t care.

Alternative models of work such as freelancing have always existed, but they always tended to require a structure involving agencies and consulting firms who promoted the individuals’ skills. The big explosion of home working and true work freedom has of course been sparked by the internet, and latterly the availability of broadband. Without a good connection, we would not be as free in terms of geography or working time: neither of course would we be as free to air our (frequently disgraceful) views on social networks in between our work-related activity.

We hear a lot about the thrusting young things who are busy beavering away in Tech Cities, and it’s great to see them being entrepreneurial and creative. But I would remind you that we are an ageing population and (to quote the clothing retailer) ‘Old Guys Rule’. We’re not ready for carpet slippers and the Daily Mail – we are creating too. “We’re the old generation – and we’ve got something to say” as the Monkees* would now sing.

So when I co-write my first pop hit, and my mate Ian finishes his epic poem, and Richard gets his play put on at the National, we’ll be thumbing our noses at the idea of retirement or that it’s a young peoples’ world. Look out youngsters – we’re coming and we’ve got sharp elbows…

(*Monkees: note to younger readers – like One Direction but with better tunes)

Explainer Videos – The Plot Thickens…

As an ‘old skool’ marketer, I was taught the basics of how to engage an audience when speaking, or when constructing a document with a mission to sell. That could be summarised thus:

Prologue: Tell ‘em what you’re going to say
Content: Say it
Summary: Tell ‘em what you’ve said

Like many simple truths, this still stands the test of time, albeit with a few modifications, as we shall see… (end of Prologue)

Video killed the Copy Star?

(Content begins)
The rise and rise of the explainer video has eclipsed traditional advertising copy in more and more media – and it undeniably adds impact and effectiveness in a number of ways:

• Viewers stay on websites for longer
• Many YouTube viewers then visit the maker’s website
• Click-through rates increase
• Good, short videos are shared widely on social media
• SEO is aided significantly
• Even senior executives prefer to watch video than read text

There are many ways to apply video in Technical Data, How To, and FAQ ways, and these need not be super-expensive productions. But where the high-concept explainer video really comes into its own is in the launch or early growth phase of a business or product. Used as a teaser, and then as a simple introduction to the potential user, this has been spectacularly successful for operations like Dropbox and Airbnb.

But don’t write off the role of copy. It’s critical, and not easy to create well. The optimum length for an explainer is 60-90 seconds, and you should regard 2 minutes as the maximum desirable length. That means, allowing for some breathing space, only 120 to 240 words in order to convey your message.

Now as someone who trained for years on radio scriptwriting, I know the need for artistic compression when your whole message, including the call to action and contact details, may only run to 50-70 words. So my message to clients is, please respect your writer, and allow him or her to craft your script to the optimum length – then resist the desire to add extraneous material to it.

The way that many of my video scripts (and their associated storyboards) go is akin to the construction that I outlined above, but with some variation:

Prologue: Tell ‘em the Problem
Content: Introduce the Hero (your brand)
Then tell ‘em how he or she will solve the Problem
Summary: Give ‘em the Call to Action

Wanna tell you a Story…

It sounds easy, but if you just do it by numbers it can be deeply numbing and will do your brand no favours. To quote Ronnie Bond of the Troggs when they were in the studio and struggling for the want of a producer, “You gotta put a little bit of f***ing fairy dust over the bastard…” If you have the right video producers, they will know how and where to sprinkle the fairy dust – and they will tell a compelling story.

There are explainers that have no script, of course, and that can be an attractive option for multinational brands or for other creative reasons – but it then becomes even more important to weave a coherent, wordless narrative.

It is an inescapable fact that modern time-starved viewers will not stay with you long. Even the most riveting material will suffer audience drop-off, and indifferent videos will have them turning off in droves.

Production and Values

Once you have agreed the script and storyboard, production gets going. What is the best technique? There is no right answer. 2D, 3D, whiteboard animation, live clips, they all have their place and are often mixed in the one film.

More important is that you do not skimp on your budget. Remember that your fee has to pay for professionals in a range of roles:

• Scriptwriter/visualizer
• Voiceover (of the right type)
• Artist/Animator/Producer (one, or often more people)
• Musicians or music library fee

I’m not suggesting that you have to pay the level of fees expected by leading agencies, that often exceed £6000 for the first minute, but neither should you expect the bargain basement prices asked by desperate students doing all the jobs themselves in their bedrooms. Good production is valuable to you – so please value it…(end of Content)

Summary

So my explainer message can be summarised as, “tell an interesting story, tell it well, sprinkle the old fairy dust over it, and keep it short and sweet”.

(Call to action)
Bojingles as a creative video, audio and design house is based on a small but highly-skilled group of experts in their respective fields who can rely on each other to do their jobs really well. By working with clients mostly over the internet, via Skype or phone, we avoid unnecessary overheads and keep our fees reasonable.

Let’s talk about your business needs, and how explainer videos can play a role in your future success.

Chris@bojingles.co.uk
+44 (0)844 307 9138
+44 (0)7976 262862
Skype: chrisbojingles
Soundcloud.com/chrisbojingles
www.bojingles.co.uk

(end of message)

Bad Publicity? What’s That?

An age ago (some 20 years) I ran a company called Rediffusion Music, the last man standing of a once-proud media empire. We had survived and thrived due to our speciality of supplying background music to businesses – and whereas Musak then ruled the USA, we led the way worldwide.

Now of course the playing of music in public places was, and is, controversial – and it polarises opinion. I remember relishing the fact that I was having a business lunch on the next table to Michael Parkinson, in the full knowledge that he was one of our loudest critics.

Because of our high profile within the business, we were the prime target: the first port of call for any TV, press or radio researcher looking to put together a thought piece or a whole programme, usually attacking what we did. What was my reaction? ‘Sure, bring it on’. Thus it was that we had visits from Spike Milligan (for BBC1), Tony Parsons (Daily Telegraph) and John Walters (John Peel’s late producer, doing a Channel 4 documentary), as well as phone interviews with Nicky Campbell (Radio 1) and others.

Why put ourselves in the firing line? Because if any firm was going to be identified and demonised as the home of background (or foreground) music, I wanted it to be ours. Those businesses that knew the power of music would know where to come.

In the 90s we also started building the basis of instore audio advertising, firstly through tape systems and then via satellite. Now, many retail chains have their own ‘FM’ stations with personalised messages, ads and music programming.

The Birth of Bojingles

Although we were acquired by an American competitor, AEI, and I departed, I always hankered after getting back in to audio and advertising, and when my musician friend Rob Benham suggested we set up a company to make jingles, Bojingles was born (in 2006).

This is not a Rediffusion-style operation with over 100 people, this is a small, agile group made up of dedicated professionals, now specialising in –

  • Scriptwriting and storyboarding
  • Musical composition and production
  • Radio commercials and sung jingles
  • Themes for film, TV, games, hold music, etc.
  • Design for logos, brochures, websites and more

So we will probably never achieve the level of fame/notoriety (delete as desired) as the purveyors of ‘musak’, we still aspire – don’t we all – to at least be legends in our own lunchtime.

We most enjoy writing and creating music that people will want to actively hear and pay money for – see how we are doing on our Soundcloud and judge for yourself. And if you happen to be a music supervisor looking for theme music or a massive pop song, we’re always up for the challenge…

 

 

 

 

Come ON England…

Having not watched England’s football matches lately (I always believe I bring them bad luck when I do), and having no expectations of them emerging victorious from the forthcoming little matter in Brazil, I was amazed to accidentally tune into them having put 3 goals past Peru.

Having just completed a World Cup-themed radio ad for a client, and knowing it would run through the tournament, I was conscious that it had to allow for the possibility/likelihood/certainty (delete as you see fit) that England’s interest in the affair may not go the distance. We dropped that suggestion in early, just in case people thought that we were being a jinx, like so many sports advertisers – virtually all of Nike’s loudly sponsored players came a cropper in some fashion, last time around…

But now we have emerged victorious (In a friendly) – well, maybe, just maybe, the soundtrack from Brazil will be less like the plaintive cry from Henman Hill – ‘come ON, Tim…’ and more like the sung chant – ‘COME ON ENGLAND!’

Then again, just as you had a sinking feeling when Tim went to a tie break, every England fan knows what happens when we go to a penalty shoot-out (‘out’ being the operative word in our case). To quote the great Flanders and Swann, in ‘A Song of Patriotic Prejudice’ when referring to foreign teams – “they practice beforehand, which ruins the fun!”

Designers can’t spel, KO?

In the dim and distant past when I was an impressionable Brand Manager learning how to do Marketing, I would be mightily impressed by the expertise of our advertising agencies and their creative teams, who expensively concocted carefully-honed TV ad storyboards, or press visuals, and would come up with the mot juste to sell our product or service.

In those lavish days they would always wheel out two Creative Directors – seemingly the theory was that like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, they needed to tell each other when their ideas were rubbish, and act as a Quality Control mechanism and a spur to the other to buck their ideas up. For like the Beatles, when apart they were never as good as together.

The other reason for the arrangement is that in the human brain, the visual sense is divorced from the cortex that controls speech and writing skills. How many great artists have also been first-class writers, or vice versa?

So it was that when I used smaller design agencies, there would only be one Art Director/Copywriter, and I soon coined a new Rule of Advertising – Designers Can’t Spell.  One could be more unkind and say that they can’t write good copy at all; but that would be going too far. Sometimes one word will say it all, and it’s hard to get that wrong…

But if it wasn’t the spelling, it would be the grammatical construction or the punctuation that would be at fault. Long before Lynn Truss lambasted the world’s sloppy writers in Eats Shoots and Leaves (required reading for any aspiring communicator), I found myself either inserting or removing errant apostrophes before the agency’s copy reached and aggravated my customers.

This is why, when I receive a request at Bojingles Towers for a creative solution to a marketing problem, I am always careful to establish whether the client wants a wordsmith or an artist. If he or she wants both skills in one body, for one low fee, I politely decline.  I will be delighted to paint a word picture and express it correctly (and for the most part free of errors): while for the visuals, I will call in my designer colleagues who can draw and manipulate Illustrator in ways that I can barely comprehend.

They of course have a different perspective (and they can draw in perspective, unlike me). Their rejoinder to my Rule would be – Writers Can’t Draw. And my answer would be, “guilty as charged”.

Making a noise…

At Bojingles we are used to interesting challenges, so when we were asked to help out the organisers of an F1 Grand Prix we were only too pleased.

They had a soundtrack for a TV commercial and thought they had the rights to use it for radio and their website – but it turned out they didn’t (memo to clients – do the homework in advance…). Cue panic attack, but in no time we had accelerated the process (sorry) and delivered an exciting piece of audio, complete with high-octane effects, and rights cleared as needed.

And the moral of the story? If you’re in a hole and need to sound your way out – give Bojingles a shout.