So what do you do when Canada's party hungry city is ready to rock? We've celebrated the Olympics, we've celebrated the 1st anniversary of the Olympics, we have hockey playoffs going on, we have Vancouver's 125th coming up, - but then what, thumb twiddling while we await the holiday season? I think not.
Jesse Chase and Adrian Eden have an idea; why not celebrate the people, places and ideas that have helped Vancouver evolve into 'VanCity', one of the coolest places to be?
I caught up with Jesse, to find out just how he and his partner came up with this idea, and how the ride has been so far.
Urban Culture Conference & Awards: Jesse Chase (Director of Digital Media & Design)
•Before we get into the Conference stuff, can you tell me about your backgrounds - are you promoters?
Sure! I own and operate a web design agency called Vitamin J Design and my partner Adrian Eden owns and operates a SEO agency called Yaletown SEO. I have been creating websites for the music industry, and specialize in big, bold creative styles. Adrian is an SEO ninja, knowing the deep, dark secrets of Search Engine Optimization. He is known for taking a domain to the top of Google Search results overnight. Literally! Professionally, we both offer social media services, and know how to utilize social media to create buzz on an agency level. That said, we handle our design, development, social strategy, and marketing completely in-house.
So no, we are not promoters or event-planners; we are entrepreneurs with a need satisfy a citywide hunger for an event of this stature and due in part to our entrepreneurial backgrounds, we feel that we have the tools required to start any successful business. We have brought brand.LIVE on board and they are supporting us from a logistical standpoint. They ensure that the event is executed smoothly, professionally, and timely. Things such as event permits, insurance, tenting, fencing, security, beer garden, etc are handled by brand.LIVE. brand.LIVE brings the event-planning side of things to the table, while we work on the high-level concepts, marketing, promotion, and artist management.
•How did you initially come up with the UCC idea - did you see some sort of need or?
The 2011 Urban Culture Conference + Awards was inspired by the talented athletes, artists, and musicians that live in Vancouver, BC. This city is busting at the seams with talent and opportunity, and there is no good outlet for them to showcase this. We feel that the mainstream has not nearly recognized all of the talent that our city has to offer, so we wanted to create an event to give the artists exposure to both the media and to the people of Vancouver.
In addition, we felt that there are so many businesses that need to be recognized for their tasty fare or their hip clothing, or their fresh roasted coffee and locally brewed beer. There are currently other “best of Vancouver” competitions, but a panel typically chooses the winners. That's not fair! Why not let the people of the city contribute their opinion! So the Awards show was born. We created the voting system on our website to let every person vote on who they truly think is the best of Vancouver. From craft beers, to local magazines, to social media agencies, we have got Vancouver covered in every category. And we owe that to the public for emailing us hundreds of emails each day, requesting we add more and more talented people to the list of nominations. We owe so much to the people of Vancouver for helping us round out the voting system, and accurately depicting what THE PEOPLE'S favorites truly are. In just two weeks, we have received over 75,000 votes!
•Are you surprised by how the UCC has taken off - from what I have seen it seems to have evolved into something huge, is it still manageable?
At first we were beyond surprised. We woke up to see thousands of hits on our site! But after much thought, it made complete sense. Not only are we trying to organize a really fun summer event with over 50 of Vancouver's favorite artists, but also we are trying to recognize the talent and culture that Vancouver has to offer. All of the hip underground shops, unfound food carts, and local athletes and musicians should be put in the spotlight, and we hope that the awards aspect of the conference does just that.
Our goal was to create an online voting system that allows the people to vote on their favorites so we can accurately depict the best of Vancouver. Sure, some businesses have way more social promotion power than others, which lends a hand to their voting success, but this day in age, we believe that it is a distinct advantage to capitalize on social media...and if you own a business and do not actively promote your brand through social media, it’s time to jump on it!
•What are your long-term goals, do you see this as a template for an event that can happen in any city?
Our long-term goals are to build upon the Urban Culture Conference and make it bigger and better each year. We want to create a weekend every single summer in downtown Vancouver that showcases our beautiful city's talent, and provides an awesome time for everyone attending. Just a peak at this years goals: Two days full of great music, dance performances, skate competitions, and speaking seminars, followed by an evening of light shows, loud music, and one giant party. We will have a beer garden, vendors throwing their own fun competitions, and local street food served from their food carts. Our goal is to create an experience for Vancouver to look forward to year after year.
•Have you guys learned anything huge so far?
Yes, three major things:
- The Power of social media is immense, assuming you can achieve the “human effect”
- You must always be realistic...being able to differentiate dreams from pipe dreams is very important
- Welcome feedback and input from the community is a really great idea and all businesses should openly welcome feedback in order to evolve their offering
•Do you feel Vancouver is more receptive to something of this sort in the wake of our successful 'party' Olympics?
We think Vancouver is chomping at the bit for an event like this. Again, there is no such thing that showcases all aspects of urban culture in a conference/festival format. The combination of music, performances, and recognition of LOCAL talent is a recipe for a great time. We have received so much support from local businesses, artists, and the people of Vancouver. This constant feedback is a testament to the need for an event of this stature.
Vote for me!
•About the voting process you spoke about earlier - I have read a few notes on FaceBook where people are talking about the fact that it seems everything has to be 'voted on' to be the 'best' etc. and that the voting process itself is degrading artists, can I get your thoughts on that?
The voting process on the website is partly used to discover new bands who have an underground following, and might not yet be considered “mainstream”. It is also used to get an idea of what the local population thinks are the best bands, which helps these bands get publicity and perhaps bookings. If a band is not getting any votes or much less then they thought they would, that might mean they have to create more music or perhaps actively promote their involvement in the UCC+A. If we were to set up the voting system in a “traditional” format, then there would be a panel internally deciding what the “best of Vancouver is.” That is the exact idea that we are trying to get away from – we wanted a voting system that allows the community to vote, and see the results in real-time, while also limiting the number of votes (one per person, per poll).
As far as (degrading them), I do not think that is the case. Many of the artists and musicians on the polls are very talented; they may just not have a good idea of how to promote themselves online, across various social media channels. There has been a huge movement in grassroots promotion within the music industry, thanks to the invaluable tools that social media provides us. Our marketing approach heavily utilizes social media to gain exposure and publicity, so we expect the bands and businesses involved to do the same. This day in age, a strong online presence is expected, and taking advantage of marketing opportunities like the UCC+A is to us, a no-brainer.
•Thanks Jesse and party on Vancouver ~
( **Vancouver Olympic street party photo courtesy of Lincoln Clarkes