Hidden talent

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This month we have launched a broad digital campaign to recruit volunteers to put on Oxjam gigs in October. The task: to get hundreds of unpaid volunteers to sign up to dedicating precious hours of their time to putting on live music events in aid of Oxfam.

The problem of how best to shape the proposition preoccupied us for a long time before we got as far as creative tactics. It’s a nuanced brief: how to package work as fun? How to reframe the lack of pay as ‘reward’? Oxjam’s not looking for musicians, neither at this stage, for punters. The idea being that if we target the right organisers and get them to promote great local gigs, all of the above should just rock up.

We realised that Oxjam presents an open and participative creative space, and that’s what’s cool about it. We wondered if this might be unique as a national scheme, to crowd-source musical curation in this way. It offers an intriguing kind of limelight that never quite shines on the real star of the show: the organiser – who crucially facilitates the fundraising. We found this to be an interesting hook.

We spent a long time talking about who these people might be, why they’d want to do it, what would pluck their strings. They might love the idea of being known for it amongst their network but they might not be the sort to have their photo taken. They might have a friendship group of axe-wielding extroverts and mic-loving stage junkies but they might, themselves, prefer to observe from the shadows. This idea evolved into the following creative, with a little help from photographer Sam B and a Theme Park gig:

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And then we worked with the Oxjam team to figure out how we could get our concept to work as hard as possible. So, how to find these underground Muso’s*, when they’re less likely to blow their own trumpet? Well, the project team planned a very targeted campaign aimed specifically at where we thought our promoters might hang out online. A combination of analysing insight from last year’s campaign, best guessing, and trial and error with messaging and imagery. The benefit of spreading the budget over a wide spectrum of channels is that we can reallocate media funds on the fly when one tactic outperforms another. We used channels like Facebook, Spotify (thanks to Zane Lowe for the very valuable voiceover), email, and display ads.

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As the creative process wore on Jon and I realised that Oxjam has some natural cool. Music is cool. Arcane artists are cool. The empty stage is cool. Being backstage could be cool. Could Oxjam make fundraising cool? Jon suggested flattery. Lets tell them they’re brilliant and we love them – even before they’ve done it. Thanks in advance. So we did.

But we also tried to convey a flavour of the experience, the exclusive fun of running the show. We named these cool people Gig Makers. The Gig Makers take the credit for the festival. Without them there is no Oxjam. But it remains a kind of personal credit, like karma.

Theme Park are cool too:

*Muso: their record collection will contain music and artists nobody else has heard of, and if they believe that an artist is becoming popular they will deny they ever listened to them and quickly dispose of any evidence”. Urban Dictionary

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