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Hub Culture Salon: Los Angeles on Entertainment

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2nd Oct 2008

Tuesday, June 5th 2007

The conversation was actually deeper than the pool at Hub Culture s recent Los Angeles salon, a brisk evening swim through the shallow waters of modern entertainment.

Held in a private poolside roof cabana overlooking the twinkling lights of Hollywood, Century City and downtown LA, the latest Hub salon was hosted at the Chamberlain Hotel, a discreet boutique hotel situated at the edge of West Hollywood and nestled between iconic Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. The hotel features a relaxed rooftop pool with sexy views and gracious service in a private atmosphere, setting the tone for one of Hub Culture s most interesting discussions yet.

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Rooftop pool cabanas at The Chamberlain West Hollywood
The group represented a wide cross section of modern entertainment:

Adam Pergamont, Niche Studios

Josh Levine, Rebel Industries

Sharon Leddel, The Box Girls

Conn Fishburn, Yahoo Social Media

Andrea Memenas, Lightswitch

Mike Caren, Atlantic Records

Victoria O Young, Niche Studios

Jeffrey Hobgood, Sotheby s Real Estate

Mary Margaret, People Magazine

Conversation seemed to settle on the blurring lines between entertainment and life, what constitutes entertainment, the role of design, and topped with a stiff debate about intellectual property and web based entertainment some of the issues that keep studio executives awake at night.

Andrea opened, and her background doing entertainment and marketing work for a range of partners including Ford, AMD and others backed her comment that brands have become a form of media owner. Josh expanded, stating that marketing needs to be entertainment and has become just that with everything from Charmin branded bathrooms to youth activation campaigns for Scion. His company, Rebel Industries, played a key role in the launch of Scion in the US, and he uses marketing entertainment not advertising - as a primary vehicle for communication.

Josh also touched on a big subject with the group declining returns for work in the entertainment and creative media fields, and the fact that as a result, everybody wants a stake no one wants to work for hire anymore, a reflection of today s obsession with ownership and assets in a diverging world of haves and have-nots. Adds Adam: Talent fees are dropping across the board. It s a huge issue for everyone in the industry.

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Perez Hilton, LA gossip blogger extraordinaire
Mary examined the cycle between blogs, community and television, noting how they feed each other, and create stars like Perez Hilton, who everybody in LA seems to love to hate (until you see him in action on his laptop in a hoodie in his local West Hollywood Coffee Bean from where he holds court). In LA, the group chimes in, it s all Perez, TMZ, and x17. When People added blogging to its site, it went from 500,000 users to 4 million in a period of six months.

The line between news and entertainment is gone, continues Adam with someone else adding: News is now a profit center. When I visit my sister-in-law Fox is the only thing on is it news all day? It sure is popular.

Jeff grew up down the street from Michael Landon of Bonanza fame, the Brad Pitt of his day , and has worked his way from the mailroom at CAA to the inner offices of today s entertainment elite. Notoriety sells, and Jeff sells the Beverly Hills houses the industry love to buy. He still sees the money of entertainment driving residential real estate in Los Angeles but he adds: Entertainment people still make their real money off real estate just like anyone else.

Adam clicked over to the web and his company s design work for modeling agencies and the entertainment industry, from CMS (content management systems) to graphic design. You can t be an agent or agency and not be digital anymore, you ll be dead in a moment. He and Victoria see entertainment ecosystems developing that include multichannel storytelling, and highlights ABC and NBC, who are trying to add web viewership into their ratings. Web clips are helping network TV by providing bite size show samples, and no one sees this cannibalizing regular TV. It s like e-commerce versus commerce, says Adam, It s just more.

Is shopping entertainment? He and Sharon operate on ROBO Research Online Buy Offline, as a primary driver of sales, while others, like Conn, do the opposite, buying online after real life research.

For Conn I m a design junkee Fishburn, who works the social media strategy of Yahoo and is involved with the new Yahoo 360, the emerging world presents opportunity for participation and an improvement in the social aesthetic. I believe in Capital D design the idea that design should lead the user experience from communications, to entertainment, to presumably, boutique hotel architecture.

Victoria chimed in here the designer s designer, on the idea that design can and should be entertainment. Groundbreakers like Michael Graves and Martha Stewart at Kmart saw this, and the public response to their form of entertainment proved it.

Conn had some smart observations. Entertainment is compressing the factor between creation and enjoyment, and he pointed out that we are witnessing the collapse of the skill set of creation meaning that in today s world anyone and everyone can and should be a producer.

(Speaking of producers, and thus actors, shortly after this it was discovered that acting school is a prime recruiting ground for Scientology, which led to the role of Scientology in the LA scene, but that s another story)

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Truth or Dare? The Box Girls communication entertainment
Mike s role at Atlantic Records is to find talent for the label (A&R means artist + repertoire, oh) and he has eight artists with over 1 million sales. The CD is dying, wasn t news, but Atlantic s push into massive multiplayer games is interesting. Atlantic and other music firms now see themselves as a content play, and a context company, so they are pushing into MMOPGS to capture a piece of the $9 million a month in virtual merchandise sales popping out all over the net. Atlantic sees these new entertainment worlds creating virtual peer pressure and a digital velvet rope that is affecting the entire experience of the internet and creating arbitrage opportunities.

Back in the real world, Sharon held the biggest surprise her super simple company, The Box Girls, seemed to capture the most excitement from the group. The Box Girls create sets of questions and conversation starters around key themes such as holidays, slumber parties, and edgier fare that help families, friends or couples build the most simple form of entertainment: talking. The boxes are a hit in high end department stores around the US and are slowly moving into wider distribution as people snap up an idea that could only have arrived from LA: packaged conversation. People want simplicity, and this helps people reconnect with the people most important with them, and gives us a chance to find out about the people around us. They have already moved 100,000 boxes this year.

And that, funnily enough, sums up why these Salons are so much fun. Put a great group of people in a beautiful setting, announce a topic the way others strike a match, and watch the flame of conversation grow. For much of human existence, that WAS entertainment the verbal story, interaction. Our definitions have changed a lot recently, but even in LA, it is this connection that drives entertainment.