All posts tagged elefant

  • SMH IT Pro story: “‘Larger technical issue’ in Facebook ad system”, December 2011

    A short feature for the Sydney Morning Herald’s IT Pro section. It’s my first work published under the SMH masthead. Excerpt below.

    ‘Larger technical issue’ in Facebook ad system

    Self-service ad platform gives advertiser grief.

    A Facebook employee has suggested the dramatic shifts in advertising rates on the company’s self-serve ad platform may be due to a “larger technical issue”, in an email to an Australian customer.

    The customer, Tim Levinson [pictured], manager of Sydney-based hip-hop music label Elefant Traks, claims to have experienced price hikes of up to 1000 per cent on the social network’s self-serve ad platform.

    Levinson has spent around $10,000 on Facebook advertisements in the last two years; roughly $100 per week, using the site’s pay-per-click model.

    In late July, he wrote a concerned email to Facebook’s ad sales team, noting that the pay-per-click rates had gone “inexplicably through the roof” – from $0.50 per click to as much as $5. The Elefant Traks manager – who performs under the MC name Urthboy, and is also a founding member of popular Sydney hip-hop group The Herd – noticed in July that the estimated cost-per-click suggested by Facebook’s self-serve ad system wouldn’t budge on its ‘suggested bid’ amount, regardless of whether he was bidding on popular – and therefore, more competitive and expensive – keywords such as ‘triple j’ and ‘bliss n eso’, or significantly less popular terms such as ‘sydney underground rap’.

    “I run a music business where a click results in an actual ‘sale’ only a certain percentage of the time,” he wrote in the email. “This is consistent across the board. The art is increasing that percentage through clever targeting. There is no way that $2 per click is value for money, let alone $3 or $4. There is no way that I gain useful information about the best keywords for targeting people who actually buy our product when the fee per click is the same, regardless of the targeted groups.”

    It took two weeks for a Facebook employee to respond. In the month of July, Levinson had been charged between $25 and $71 each day. On August 5, “Josie” from Facebook’s ‘Online Sales Operations’ team wrote back and explained how the pay-per-click system worked, despite Levinson having used the ad platform without problems for two years. His concerns remained, so the email conversation continued.

    For the full story, visit SMH IT Pro.

  • The Vine interview: Kenny Sabir of The Herd, April 2011

    An interview for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    Interview – The Herd

    After spending ten years at the forefront of Australian hip-hop, you could forgive The Herd if they became complacent. Ten years in anything is a long time, let alone the music business. Yet complacency is the furthest thing from the minds of this Sydney collective, whose eight members have earned a reputation for both their energetic live shows – owing equally to the live instrumentation and sheer number of bodies on stage – and their want to challenge Australian society and politics thereof. See: ‘77%’, whose chorus call of “These cunts need a shake-up” was directed at the ‘77%’ of Australians who (according to a poll) supported the then-Howard government’s response to refusing to allow a distressed fishing vessel, the Tampa, to enter Australian waters. See also: ‘The King Is Dead’, which celebrated Howard’s removal from office.

    This overt politicisation wasn’t always apparent in The Herd’s musical output, though. Their first single to achieve triple j attention, for instance, was an ode to ordering food at a take-away store (‘Scallops’). During their career, they’ve released four albums; over time, the quality of songwriting and production has steadily increased. Though they’ve got their eyes on release #5 later this year, The Herd are currently embarking on a short run of shows to celebrate their 10th anniversary (or birthday, depending on which way you look at it).

    The morning after the tour’s first show in Newcastle, TheVine connected with Kenny Sabir (a.k.a. Traksewt, who plays accordion, clarinet, and beats), a founding member of both The Herd and their associated label Elefant Traks.

    First things first, Kenny. How’d last night go?

    Last night was great. After not playing for two years, there was that nervous excitement of, “Oh, do the crowd still remember us?” But when you’re up on stage, it comes back to you about how it feels to be playing. The crowd were into it. We got to try out the new single (‘The Sum Of It All’; TheVine review here). It went down well.

    I take it you’re playing something similar to a ‘greatest hits’ set for these shows, since you don’t have a new record to promote.

    Yeah. We’ve got the new single, and we’ve got lots of new tracks, but we’re not thinking about [playing them] on this tour. We’re doing a new beat, but we might use it as an instrumental for freestyles. There’s a lot of stuff we’d love to play, but they’re not fully finished yet.

    I’m interested to know some of the differences between touring Australia now, versus when the band started in 2001.

    One thing is that, when we started, we were very Sydney-centric. The label wasn’t purely hip-hop back then; we were doing electronic stuff as well. Back then, a lot of the focus was on the label itself, The Herd were more unknown. We started to get dedicated fans. You’d see the same faces quite often. Once we started getting more radio play, we started venturing [outside Sydney]. The first gigs in other cities were hard. We started gigging around before the radio [play] really took off, too. But after that, it was a constant groundswell. We’d get a lot of love from Brisbane and Melbourne, and it kept ramping up. Some of our craziest shows have been in the other cities.

    It’s changed a lot. Getting into the festival circuit was very hard initially, as we were independent and we didn’t have the arrays of contacts that you need to get into that circuit. But it’s always been fun, and they’re great guys to be touring with. We still have the same problems that we had 10 years ago, of trying to organise eight or nine people to leave somewhere for breakfast [laughs].

    I’m guessing you take better care of your physical health nowadays, too.

    [Laughs] Yeah. It’s pretty diverse in the band, you could say. There are more things we’re aware of, that we have to worry about now. We’d like to think that we take better care of ourselves now, but when you’re in the mode of touring, you switch on your ‘touring brain’ and you start living how you used to live.

    For the full interview, visit The Vine. For more of The Herd, visit their label’s website. The audio for their new single, ‘The Sum Of It All‘, is embedded below.