Brands & Merch Business Interviews

Q&A: Michael Boaler on Jack Rocks The Macbeth

By | Published on Wednesday 10 September 2014

Michael Boaler

Drinks brand Jack Daniel’s has staged numerous music initiatives over the years, though its latest is perhaps the most ambitious.

Kicking off a programme called Jack Rocks, the brand announced yesterday that it is moving into the East London music venue The Macbeth for four months, staging a series of gigs and other music events, and documenting the whole thing via partnerships with NME and Spotify, who will have their own base in the venue for the duration.

CMU’s Chris Cooke spoke to Jack Daniel’s Senior Brand Manager Michael Boaler to find out more.

CC: So, it looks like you guys are completely taking over The Macbeth pub in Hoxton for four whole months. Is that what’s happening?
MB: Pretty much, we’re working closely with the guys there, as well as NME and Spotify, to curate a series of gigs, seminars and Q&As over the next four months. The Macbeth will still be running their own nights on top of these, as it’s still fundamentally The Macbeth and a thriving music venue, and we don’t want to take anything away from that.

CC: The space has been slightly revamped for the initiative, what changes have been made?
MB: You’ll have to go and have a look to find out! We’ve given the place a touch of Jack whilst being respectful to the integrity of the uniqueness of The Macbeth’s decor and history. On top of that, and outside of the boring structural improvements and painting, we’ve created an exciting space on the top floor for journalists to work out of and to host intimate acoustic sessions, seminars and Q&A’s.

CC: Why did you decide to take over a whole venue as part of the Jack Rocks venture?
MB: Pop ups aren’t a new thing, but I feel it’s the way you do it that’s important. Our ambition is that Jack Rocks The Macbeth is more than a gig space for Jack Daniel’s and music fans, but it’s also a place that music industry folk and budding legends of the future can go to learn more about the industry. The essence and aura of a real venue, rather than an event space or disused shop chimes with what Jack Daniel’s has been doing for years. Small venues are vital for developing artists to learn their craft so anything we can do to shine a light on them is fine by us.

CC: And why The Macbeth?
MB: We felt for first project of this venture needed to be in London and we looked at a number of iconic venues which were all worthy, but felt the layout of the Macbeth and the infectious enthusiasm of the guys down there were best suited to what we’re trying to achieve. This isn’t just about the Macbeth however, but small UK venues in general

CC: Given it’s already a venue that hosts music, what else is Jack Daniels’ involvement adding?
MB: Unique curation and amplification. Our brand equity, budgets and media partnerships allow us to put on unique shows that we can put out to a wider audience through NME, Spotify and Jack Daniel’s huge social media following. Ultimately we’re trying to communicate that unforgettable moments happen in small venues so get yourself down to your local venue and watch a gig!

CC: How will the programme of events being staged at Jack Rocks The Macbeth compare to what locals are used to seeing at the venue?
MB: We’re working closely with the promoters at The Macbeth to ensure everything works in harmony, so there will continue to be gigs programmed specifically by the venue. Jack Rocks The Macbeth events will add something extra to what already happens there as we don’t want to detract from what has made the place famous.

CC: You mentioned that there’ll be more than gigs. What other stuff have you got planned?
MB: This is a moving feast but we’re planning seminars, demonstrations from equipment manufacturers, Q&As with artists and industry insiders, after show parties, album launch parties – the list goes on.

CC: Who is programming and booking the shows? Is the whole four months programmed, or are you still considering acts and events?
MB: We are still considering artists and events (get in touch if you fancy getting involved!) as we want the project to be flexible and fluid. The programming is done by a combination of Jack Daniel’s, NME, Spotify and, of course, The Macbeth

CC: What’s the tie-up with NME and Spotify about?
MB: Broadly speaking – amplification of the gigs, both of our media partners help us secure artists and put the content out, which is also of benefit to the venue and the artists playing (established and new). Not everyone can be there so we want to ensure all folks get to see the great gigs happen at Jack Rocks The Macbeth

CC: This is part of a wider music programme I think, what else have you got planned?
MB: Jack Rocks is a campaign focused on getting people out there to watch a gig – that’s where ‘real’ great music moments happen. Small venues are fundamental to that, which is why The Macbeth are just one of the small venues we’ll be working with. We also have further gigs and partnerships planned over the next twelve months all over the UK.