Derry 2.0 - Digital Ideas for Derry’s Cultural Entrepreneurs

One of the great things about my job within the Digital Derry project is the opportunity it affords to work alongside the the City of Culture team.

Nice folks that they are aside, big ideas around how digital technologies can help distribute, augment and even become part of our culture are what really floats my particular boat.

Culture itself is a pretty wide-ranging term, covering everything from the arts to film to music to language - and a little bit of everything in between. In the simplest sense, digital technology can become an exciting and far reaching delivery platform for any of these. But taking it a step further we can start to ask questions around how those delivery platforms can actually change that culture - and even create new elements.

This is something we should be good at. It’s also something that should become a focus of our entrepreneurial efforts. With that in mind, here are a few business ideas - ripe for adaptation by local entrepreneurs - picked from a few of my favourite blogs and magazines over the last week.

The Indie Music Curator

mySpoonful is a website and daily email newsletter that provides indie music fans with just a spoonful of news and reviews. A few times a week they choose an exciting new artist and offer readers a free song download.

In the longer term, the site intends to make money by offering deals and selling band merchandise. Surely someone should be doing this with Irish / N. Irish or even Derry’s indie music talent. There are sites that serve that market but few, if any, have taken it to the next level and introduced an attractive business model. For other takes on this kind of idea check out DailyCandy, Thrillist, Pitchfork and Stereogum.

New Web Services for Bands

Bands are often the target of interesting new web offerings. One of the latest is www.viinyl.com (two i’s deliberate). The Canadian site lets bands easily create a standalone webpage for each single they produce including lyrics, artwork, sleeve notes, music videos and downloads - replicating elements of the vinyl experience. Behind the scenes bands get access to analytics and user information. This kind of project is well within the capabilities of dozens of local web companies - but our emphasis needs to change from chasing clients to building products, IP and scalable businesses.

Creating Artwork from Digital Voices

It’s often difficult for the ‘artier’ end of the digital spectrum to clearly see where the business opportunities lie. A little creativity is in order. VoicePrints takes the sound of the human voice and turns it into unique works of visual (printed) art - and a unique way of capturing those voices. Users simply choose the colour and size of the print they want and upload an audio file. Examples given on the site include a baby’s first words, a sports team’s chant or a couple’s wedding vows. Prices for the prints start at $120 for an 8.5 x 11 inch print on canvas. Again, something that could easily have come from Derry-based talent.

The Digital Archive

Keeping with the idea of capturing memories, UK-based Sentemental lets users upload and store just about anything - creating a treasure trove of past birthday cards, love letters, photographs and mementos. Using the site is free and the company makes money by helping digitise items that users can’t digitise themselves. Again, we have the skills and technology to launch this kind of idea easily.

Generating Revenues Through Camera Clubs

Professional, semi-pro and amateur photographers have been able to sell and license their work online for sometime - completely remaking the market in the process. Irish startup picturk.com aims to tap into the collective skills, and reach, of camera clubs to do something similar.

Brands and agencies run competitions via the site, outlining their requirements, and then photographers from various clubs upload their entries. ‘Winning’ entries can then be licensed with the photographer retaining the rights, gaining exposure and winning prizes (the site takes a piece of the action too). The current competition is offering €700 in prizes for images that convey ‘coziness’. One to replicate in other markets?

Funding Creative Projects

One of the most successful small websites of the last few years has been Kickstarter - a website that helps creative people raise money to fund their projects from groups of individuals keen to help. FundIt.ie is the Irish-based equivalent which is launching soon. Locally, Derry’s own seedups.com does the same for entrepreneurial ventures.

What all these businesses have in common is that they tick those twin digital / cultural boxes. If Derry is positioning itself to become a leader in both, these are the kind of projects we need to be developing.

Mark Nagurski is Derry’s Digital Champion based at the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. You can contact him via email to digitalderry@gmail.com