I don’t usually get particularly emotional on my blog but something happened this evening that has fundamentally changed my outlook and enthusiasm for the future.
From a chance phone call with a friend, through a chance Tweet from someone in Australia, a sequence of events unfolded this evening that resulted in the most thrilling and exciting experience I’ve had in as long as I can remember.
Tonight on WorldTV we broadcast the only live Internet video coverage of U2’s secret rooftop gig in London, to an audience around the world.
It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t scripted, it… just… happened.
Through the power of Twitter and the serendipitous events that followed, I was able, from my office in West London, to be swept along in a chain of events that resulted in something thrilling, a little anarchic, and tremendously exciting.
It all kicked off late this afternoon with a phone call from a friend of mine who works in the music business. He told me about a surprise U2 gig that was about to take place at the BBC building on Regent Street.
Ironically my friend was at the very venue where another live broadcast event we’re involved in will be taking place next Friday. He’d got his dates mixed up and thought I was calling to apologize for being late.
A silly conversation ensued with him saying “where are you?” and me replying “where are you?” which continued repeatedly until we realized he was 7 days ahead of himself.
But I digress…
I’d heard rumblings about this U2 gig a week ago but hadn’t paid much attention. I decided to tweet the confirmed information since it seemed nobody else was doing so. Later I learned that even the major U2 fan websites weren’t 100% sure this gig was going on.
A few moments later a guy from Australia asked if I knew whether it was being streamed live on the Internet. I didn’t. But his tweet, and the fact I’d spent all week experimenting with live broadcasting in preparation for next week’s event, got me thinking I might be able to do something for him. Rebroadcasting stuff to friends live over the Internet has been something I’ve been doing since the mid 90’s.
Common sense told me that if the gig was supposed to be on the rooftop of the BBC Radio building, then, probably, it would be broadcast on BBC radio. With the setup I’d built this week, it was a cinch for me to rebroadcast any of the BBC radio stations. Previous discussions with the BBC had indicated this would probably be ok to do. I worked out it was the Chris Evans show on Radio 2 and I began rebroadcasting it at worldtv.com/live.
I tweeted this back to the guy in Australia and sent a couple of other messages to people who seemed interested in the subject, including a U2 blogger. For the best part of an hour Chris Evans interviewed the band, and although I don’t consider myself a U2 fan, I found the interview pretty interesting. Interesting enough that I remember thinking that if I was a U2 fan I’d be sharing this high and low with friends. But for nearly an hour less than 10 people were tuning in. Frankly I was a little disappointed and went back to what I was doing before, keeping the radio on at half volume.
Quite by chance I caught a mention by Chris Evans that there would be some video of the event on the hardly ever used BBC interactive channel. This is a channel where you have to go through a series of menus on your TV to get to.
By this time maybe 16 people were tuning in (it was now just a couple of minutes before the actual gig) and the video could have been on any number of BBC channels. I didn’t know which.
I didn’t want to lose the audio for the people tuning in, but decided to take a chance just seconds before the gig was due to start. I struck gold first time and in just 15 seconds a live audio broadcast became a live global video broadcast. And what a broadcast it turned out to be.
The effect on numbers was immediate.
Within seconds, the number of people watching quickly began rising. It didn’t stop. Within two minutes there were 100 people watching and this quickly hit 150… 200… 250 without me able to blink. I was transfixed. At its peak (the gig was 15 mins long) there were over 500 people watching the event live on WorldTV. This might not sound like many for those outside of the business, but for a live internet broadcast with zero planning or publicity, just a couple of tweets, and on a previously unknown URL, this was pretty astonishing.
It’s hard to convey the feelings I had during all this. In so many ways what happened tonight was the realization of a 25 year dream. As a young lad I often fantasized about running my own pirate TV station. Tonight that dream happened and in the most beautifully serendipitous way.
I’m not sure where it’s all going to lead but my creative energies are running rampant right now, which as anyone who knows me would be serious cause for concern. I’m locking back into ideas I had two decades ago, and they’re getting spun, mashed up and remixed like crazy. Watch this space…
If you like food or drink, you should definitely tune in next Friday afternoon to the same URL, for our first ever scheduled live broadcast event on WorldTV. There’s details in this PDF here and if you’d like a reminder on the day, simply follow me on Twitter. It’s a great venue (another rooftop!) and there’s some great people involved. Should be fun…
I shall now return to the original scheduled programming.