Their Second Annual original video series and mini-festival “Welcome Campers” -- for free.
Brooklyn-based buzz blog the Wild Honey Pie, founded by former MTV music supervisor Eric Weiner in 2009, has transformed itself in the past year from an indie-leaning music blog into a bonafide media and event company. Weiner, who quit his job at MTV a year ago to focus full-time on turning the site into a financially viable business, now has his sights set on producing original video series and events, with brand partnerships footing the bill.
The transformation all started with the launch of last summer’s inaugural video series “Welcome Campers,” which the WHP team filmed at Weiner’s parents’ property in Westchester County, NY, on Aug 10, and included sponsors Squarespace, Mailchimp, and was co-hosted by Consequence of Sound. The event featured performances by indie bands Caveman, Yellow Ostrich, Pearl and the Beard, Widowspeak, Belle Mare, and Vensaire.
Out of 1,200 RSVPs to the free event, only 100 fans were selected via a lottery. “Campers” were informed via email to take the 8:50 AM train from Grand Central to Bedford Hills, where a school bus brought them to the property, complete with a pool, lake, and meadow.
With the success of “Welcome Campers,” Weiner & Co began planning their next move, which came in the form of a winter-themed video series titled “On The Mountain,” filmed at Stratton Mountain in Vermont from Jan 27 to 30, with only 10 guests along for the ride. “On The Mountain” featured artists Misterwives, Alex Winston, Snowmine, How Sad, White Sea, and Small Black and included a bevy of sponsors including Grain Audio, Larabar, Nooka, Swiss Army, Stance, Soundcraft, Magic Hat, Cabot and Mailchimp.
“Everything we do, we do in house. We aren’t hiring production companies, we are our own production company,” Weiner explained. “My director of production and COO Jonathan Lurie has been integral to this entire process, as well as our directors Stephen Tonti and Ted Greenberg. We’re together producing original video content, live events and an online publication, that allows us in a very playful, friendly, and accessible way to feature and support the music that we love. We’re not music critics, we’re music supporters, and our goal is to find ways to support the music that we love.”
Wild Honey Pie founder Eric Weiner (Photo: Courtesy of Wild Honey Pie)
Quick to combat that these series are one-offs, Weiner is set to launch the Second Season of the free “Welcome Campers” this weekend (June 6-8), this time set at Camp Lenox in Lenox, Mass, which Lurie used to attend camp as a kid. This year, artists SKATERS, Freelance Whales, The So So Glos, Great Good Fine Ok, Yellerkin, and Younger Me will entertain campers.
“Honestly I just choose the bands that I love. SKATERS is a band that we did a session with recently, so I contacted their team. Freelance Whales is a band that we thought was going to do ‘On The Mountain’ but it didn’t work out timing wise, and Yellertin is a band that played our SXSW party ‘The Beehive,’ and were just incredible. We really wanted to get behind them in a big way, so we’re having them play ‘Welcome Campers’ and also ‘The Beehive’ during the Northside Festival.”
Set right before the upcoming summer camp season begins, the event will include Camp Lenox counselors, security and overall maintenance, with brands Squarespace, Focusrite, Mailchimp, Baked by Melissa, Newcastle Brown Ale, El Buho Mezcal, Mike’s Hot Honey, and lomography behind the costs.
“Integral to our business is that not every company can hire an entire music department. Our company is an unbiased source for branded content, where brands are ingrained in the content we create, but in a way that’s tasteful and organic and authentic – that’s our mantra,” Weiner shared. “Getting free Baked by Melissa at ‘Welcome Campers’ is valuable to Baked by Melissa, but at the end of the day that’s something that I’m proud to do because I fucking love Baked by Melissa! These are brands that allow us to pay artists to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t get paid for, and we can tell those artists how we were able to pull it off very easily, by saying ‘that was Squarespace, that was Mailchimp.’”
When asked how much the sponsors pay, Weiner is evasive. "Our partnerships come in all shapes and sizes," he says. "Each and every one is catered to that brand's budgets and level of involvement. At the end of the day, it's all about finding a way to fund our endeavors, including a budget to pay artists for opportunities they aren't traditionally paid for."
With the launch of Season Two of “Welcome Campers,” and Season Two of “On The Mountain” scheduled for Dec 12-14 once again at Stratton Mountain, Weiner aims to produce a total of seven video series by the end of 2014. New series on the horizon include a partnership with the Newport Folk Festival for a series called “On The Boat,” a partnership with Newcastle Brown Ale for a series called “On The House,” as well as a Halloween-themed series “Spooky Mansion” and a Thanksgiving-themed series “Thanksgiving Land” already in the works. Weiner also shared his plans to bring Season Three of “Welcome Campers’ to Austin’s SXSW this March.
“We’re looking to develop the brands of each and every one of these Interactive series. We’re going to be traveling a lot, over to England and to L.A., and it will allow us to work with a lot of different artists and companies, and just bring fans closer than ever before to the music.”
The WHP blog is certainly reaping the benefits from Weiner’s newfound vision, with the site enjoying a 350% increase in unique monthly traffic, from 15,000 a month to 54,000 a monhth over the past year, as well as a 280% increase in YouTube subscribers (14,000 subscribers). Weiner also dropped the news that he had recently inked a joint-venture deal with publishing house Shapiro Bernstein to develop a joint company dubbed “Bear & Bees,” to sign publishing deals for up-and-coming bands.
“What’s great about [the joint venture] is for all of our artists on our roster, if we’re presenting at an ad agency, we’ll bring the bands with us. If we’re working on a series like ‘Welcome Campers,’ we’ll give those artists the first right of refusal.” Signed artists will also enjoy automatic slots at the Wild Honey Pie’s SXSW, Northside, and CMJ Festival parties, as well as at next year’s Great Escape.
With the fifth anniversary of the blog hitting this November, the Wild Honey Pie has much to celebrate, but thankfully, their desire for fan engagement and fan enjoyment remains paramount, a win-win for brands, bands, and fans alike. “We don’t want to charge for our sessions. We don’t want to charge to be able to access them,” Weiner explained. “Everything we do we want to make sure it’s free to the consumer, that’s our big thing.”