Announcing the Secret Sessions Creative Talent Network
Secret Sessions. More than Music…
‘Humans can’t help it, we need to belong. One of the most powerful survival mechanisms is to be part of a Tribe, to contribute to and take from a group of like-minded people…’ (Seth Godin, Tribes)
a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
By 2015, Secret Sessions had spent four years building its online community. In the beginning, there was never a plan. Like most people experimenting on the internet, we were finding our way as we went. It felt groundbreaking and exciting. Yet with each video and each tweet, the following grew and the effort was rewarded with attention and engagement. We worked hard to get to 50,000 – all of which was genuine, uninflated, organic. What’s more, it always felt that there was a person behind each of our hits and subscribers.
But as the battle of the internet began to intensify, a multitude of suspect, unethical behaviours proliferated. ‘Attention’ started to pay. Digital ad dollars could be earned irrespective of standards or reliability. And so began the race to the bottomless bottom. OMG, WTF, LOL became the content currencies and the network’s algorithms kept us there, giving us more of what we ‘loved’.
Cutting through the ever-increasing mass became harder and harder. And the relentless publishing schedules and quest for volume started to burn us out. Was it us… or was the internet starting to make things… a bit… crap?
A report in the New York Magazine recently introduced us to the concept of ‘The Inversion’; the point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They say, “The “fakeness” of the post-Inversion internet is the uncanny sense that what you encounter online is not “real” but is also undeniably not “fake,” and indeed maybe both at once.
Our project started because we wanted to help people and create a space for talented artists and their ideas. We were starting to build a business but the idea of playing the click bait game or buying attention to keep the ROI (return on investment) armies happy felt wrong.
So, we decided to stop building and start connecting. We headed out into the real world and spent the next three years assembling a real-life network, person by person, one by one. Secret Sessions put on shows, we met our audience, we got to know their names and shook their hands. We organised intimate get-togethers where we could talk to creatives, understand their challenges and try to find solutions. We started a radio show to celebrate the work and give our community a voice.
All this internet bashing might seem a little clichéd now especially if you have been following the story closely over the last 18 months. But a reset is necessary. The evidence and understanding we now have should inspire us to re-learn how to use the tools that have been using us of late. We can start to enjoy our digital life again by placing the people who are genuinely good at things at the centre. If nothing else the sheer amount of fraud – with brands and advertisers paying billions, collectively, to have their ads viewed and clicked on by ‘non-humans’ needs to be reclaimed for projects that contribute meaningfully to human flourishing.
If you have spent any time online in the last 5 years you will know that the world and his wife claim to have built an ‘online community’. Most of these weren’t or aren’t communities. Clicking the ‘Follow’ button (or god forbid ‘smashing the Like button’) does not a community member make. Most of the time all you’ve done is register a passing interest and tweaked your algorithm slightly. Where we’re from, if you want to be a community member, you have to leave the house.
By doing what we do IRL (in real life), Secret Sessions has built a space which showcases the finest talent in front of clued-up, culturally curious, attentive people. We seek out locations with the highest levels of production and work with skilled technical partners to create the optimum conditions for performers to do their very best work. And we’ve steadily assembled an audience that trusts us and will leave the comfort of their screens to honour the effort of the artists we find.
We are so confident in the level of talent we showcase, we don’t even release our line-up. And still every month 300 people turn up to our show without knowing who or what they are going to see. We say hello, we look each other in the eye, we applaud, we feel.
Sounds good. Now what?
Secret Sessions’ objective has always been about giving a platform to the finest creative talent. It’s about surfacing quality and spreading the message, which needs to happen in the real world AND online.
Since its inception, Secret Sessions has devoted its energy to music almost exclusively. But the more artists we meet and get to know, the more we recognise their multidisciplinary nature – they are not just making music, they’re often producers, filmmakers, designers, and dancers. The self-starter culture is creating an abundance of expertise and talent that we know is valuable, especially to others in the creative industries. Musicians need great filmmakers to help visualize their ambition… and filmmakers often need great music for their films. Musicians need outstanding design for, say, their cover art… and designers need interesting clients with good online followings to help grow their portfolio. Finding and accessing new collaborators of an equally high standard can be challenging.
In February 2019, Secret Sessions opened up its talent network and is now accepting applications from creative disciplines that compliment music. It’s a move that will allow expertise to be shared, knowledge gaps filled, contacts to be made. A broadening of the talent network is reflective of the current digital landscape and the industries that oxygenate it… and will make the work better.
By being part of the Secret Sessions talent network, selected artists will be connected with hundreds of other vetted creatives – to meet, collaborate, and find mutual support. They will gain opportunities to feature on the Secret Sessions platform and be part of our immersive live format. They will if they choose to, become part of our creative services solution for brands and can feature in meaningful partnerships.
Brands have a massive opportunity to reclaim power as cultural creators. The smart brands understand they have to help. And, in doing so, they grow goodwill, advocacy, cultural collateral, awareness and reach – the effects of which will have compound interest effect over time. If you run a brand, watching what the mass is doing in the digital space and passively following in its wake, aping what you see, might not be the best use of your resources. Show some leadership. Tap into new experiences and work with people who are genuinely good at something. These people have influence, ability, and credibility and are the ones your marketing budgets should be supporting if you are looking to build deep, positive associations.
2018 was a year of reckoning for the internet, with many of us waking up to the scale and nature of the problems. Perhaps, as users, we are also waking up to our own misuse of the digital tools with which we have been spell-bound. We can’t go back. We don’t want to go back. Collectively, we need to turn the page and place a renewed emphasis on dignity, quality, ideas, purpose, and collaborations.
The global creative democracy that the internet has enabled brings both opportunities and challenges. The choices are endless so now we live in a time where most people haven’t heard of most people. New ideas need longer to take root and those who combine their creativity, audiences, and influence to celebrate the connection and relationships are the ones who’ll succeed.
If you’ve seen The Defiant Ones on Netflix, you’ll know that at the heart of the story is the connection and relationship between Jimmy and Dr. Dre; the innovator and the levitator. It’s a hymn to the power of collaboration.
Secret Sessions understands this and is committed to fostering collaboration across the disciplines, to create a space that can be the tip of the spear culturally and creatively and trusted by audiences and brands alike.
Creative people might have their ideas in isolation but success never came from working alone. It’s time to turn the page and celebrate collaboration and connection.
How does that sound?
Harriet and Andy
If you would like to join Secret Sessions’ Creative Talent Network please apply here.