Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

From Arthur to Amplify

Guinness reimagines its music strategy. *updated*

Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 12:12


Diageo took a fair auld hammering over Arthur’s Day, after everyone began to realise that the drinks company actually wanted people to drink its stout in large quantities and wasn’t putting on free gigs around cities just to be sound.

But the bad publicity clearly riled the brand enough to rethink how it could continue to attach itself to music, put on a load of events where people can drink Guinness at, and swerve away from the negative vibes Arthur’s Day created.

Enter Guinness Amplify, which will see the brand dole out €1 million in hosting by proxy 500 gigs, giving acts some “expert” advice from people who work in the music industry, and getting all Santa with some studio time. From wandering around the website, it seems like an extended Arthur’s Day with a grassroots “feel” and a competition element seeking to “enable” talent, etc. It’s basically a half glass of what Hard Working Class Heroes already offers (expert panels, one-on-one advice), a splash of Arthur’s Day (loads of gigs), finished off with a creamy head of the Arthur Guinness Fund offered (a prize of studio time and bigger gigs) – a project which was initially championed by those in the arts desperate for funding for their projects, but eventually derided as an irritating social media nagging competition.

The scale of Amplify certainly outdoes Arthur’s Day in Ireland, with gigs taking place over the best part of September and a chunk of October.

Bands will upload their music to the website, and pub owners will book bands from the website. I don’t know if this means bands will get paid, or if somehow pubs have been completely in the dark about booking acts before this, or if music didn’t exist in pubs before the Guinness fairy came along, but that magic word EXPOSURE is very much to the fore, which every freelancer in arts, entertainment and media is familiar with. In February 2015, the “cream of the talent” from the Amplify events will go on to play the Amplify Live Stages events in various venues around Ireland. These acts will be chosen by the bloke-heavy expert panel; Nialler9, David Kitt, Stuart Clark, Jonny from Snow Patrol and Sinead Troy. That panel will also choose which bands get studio time.

There will also be secret gigs featuring  Kodaline and Ellie Goulding according to Spin’s succinct summary of the brand exercise.

Do bands need Guinness to get them gigs? No, but Guinness is obviously keen to continue to embed itself in live music. Bands can pick up advice at HWCH, but I’m not sure to what depth the expert panel will assist acts during these first come first serve “masterclasses”. Free studio time is a big deal for broke musicians, and Guinness has secured loads of studio time for acts who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

Overall, the feel of this is a little clunky, so we’ll see how it pans out.

And some updates from Guinness’ PR:
1. The gigs will take part over five weekends:

Leinster 11th September to 14th September, 2014
Ulster 18th September to 21st September, 2014
Connacht 25th September to 28th September, 2014 
Munster 2nd October to 5th October, 2014
Dublin 9th October to 12th October, 2014

2. 60 studio days have been blocked off for bands as chosen by the panel. Bands can choose to record or rehearse (for god’s sake, record!)

3. The music workshops are being developed and delivered by FMC who have already honed this craft across HWCH and other events.

4. There will be five “showcase events” in Feb 2015 from which the bands chosen by the panel – battle of the bands-like – from the previous rounds will get a chance to play.

5. Continuing the vibe of Arthur’s Day which saw big name acts perform in small venues and pubs, Daithi and Walking On Cars will join Kodaline and Ellie Goulding in this component of the event. More acts will be announced over the summer.

As an aside, although panels picking acts can have its own issues (and of course, inevitable gripes from the musicians not chosen), I’m sure Guinness has learned from the allergic reaction to the pester power system of the Arthur Guinness Projects which meant people behind projects were constantly nagging their “friends” across social media to keep the votes coming. Having a bunch of experienced people choose acts instead will probably get rid of that element of online hassle.