Mass MoCA does Wilco: How a Band Curated a Museum Experience

Mass MoCA

Shifting to the customer point of view is more than writing content that is benefit-driven. Although that helps. This past weekend, NPR had a story that got my juices going. You'll see in a minute why it matters to the conversation on value and execution.

North Adams is quiet town in the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. Mass MoCA is 200,000-square-foot museum carved out of a 1999 restored electric factory, with a 14-acre campus. It is dedicated to new art. Wilco is a popular Chicago rock band and the curator of a special experience at Mass MoCA.

Conversions from Conversation

The town was humming with activity in the last couple of days, attracting visitors to the local economy. I do like the counter intuitive idea of a band curating an experience in a museum. It found more ways to exhibit its different creative aspects in a space made for just that. 

Live events are the places where the actual conversion happens. The museum as well as the band built some buzz among locals and fans, respectively. Then people (hopefully) showed up to enjoy the experience and support the local economy at the same time.

Digital media helped spread the word about the event, with a light touch of social sharing on the MySpace page and the blog. Alone, this is a good combination. The conversion phase is where people click through, sign up, download, and buy.

Solid Sound Festival Poster by Nicole Blauw Design Social Presence

Of course, the offline event was preceded by the band's and the museum's social presences — a MySpace page with thousands of fans, and a blog complete with Facebook like button, and orchestrated with a site dedicated to the event.

[Poster credit: Nicole Blauw Design]

Social presences allow a band and a museum — and your company, too when you think about the experience as your content — to earn media (the NPR story, and the nice review of the show), gain insights (Facebook and Twitter activity), get engagement (live and online) from fans.

All while building an audience.

The direct nature of social media makes it possible to mobilize a fan base to help promote an event, get to a quiet town, engage in activities once there, and opt-in for follow ups.

The event Twitter stream was used to get the word out and answer questions alongside the museum and band's accounts. 

Social Sharing

The difference between content that gets you to click and opt-in and experience engages starts when fans talk to other fans and convince them to buy the music, attend, and in turn talk about it with their friends. Now you've moved up to peer-to-peer sampling and tell-a-friend dynamics.

Someone who was there and loved the experience will tell several friends about it, encouraging them to buy the music, check out Mass MoCA, etc. This is the point in time where if you were to offer an affiliate program for something, people would opt in to spread the word and get additional benefit back.

Branded communities work this way as well. Customer evangelists talk about the brand, enroll friends, provide feedback, and so on. This action that many brands covet still happens at the individual level — peer to peer.

It is a stepping stone to a far more interesting stage, one that may replace mass media with its scale: mass propagation. Only this is not spray and see what sticks, this is voluntary attraction. Yes, we know it happens because people see others do it — social proofing works.


I heard about the event thanks to NPR and now anyone who didn't know them before can follow them on Twitter and on MySpace to find out where they will be staging the next experience. Traditional media still lends scale to getting the word out. Caring is all about social sharing.

Providing an experience is top notch content in my book.

How do you shift to the customer point of view? How do you go about igniting mass propagation? Do you?

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