Atlantic Records' Dan Curwin on the Covid-19 crisis: "We need to find amazing ways to engage with our artists' audiences"

David Knight - 27th Mar 2020

Like everyone else Dan Curwin is adjusting to a new normal created by the Covid-19 crisis. As Director of Video at Atlantic Records in London, commissioning music videos for some of the UK's biggest artists - Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Rita Ora, and more - he is responsible for some of the biggest and most successful music video content created here. Now, like all video commissioners, Curwin (above, with his dog Spike) is in the market for new solutions, new ways to bring those artists to the screen.

Earlier this week he talked to Promonews about the early days of the crisis from his perspective, and the possible ways forward for creating visual content in the weeks ahead. We discovered that he is acutely aware of the impact of the pandemic on the music video-making community, and also he is also determined to keep the find new ways to make compelling visual content.  

I'm going to do what I can to keep briefs and tracks coming.

PN: What's your current situation: where you are working from, and how is your work being conducted?   

DC: So I’m holed up in Norfolk, by the sea. It's actually very relaxing here and we have been blessed with beautiful spring weather, which is making the whole situation a bit more bearable.

Every morning I wake up early and go on a long walk. It actually inspires me to do a day's work, which initially I was finding very hard, as I thrive on being around people I work with and also seeing the artists, whilst bouncing ideas around with colleagues.

We are all using email and phone calls and we are all using Zoom and Teams to have chats and meetings and we can all see each other whilst also snooping into everyone’s homes! I am old-school though, and I like face-to-face stuff the most, so I am missing that a lot. I think as this goes on we will a get in a rhythm, so I'm staying positive...

Has coronavirus crisis impacted on you beyond the limitation of working from home?

Yes, mainly because of the worry about my mum and dad and in-laws getting sick. I'm also sad because my 18 year old twin daughters have had their final part of school cut short, and that is desperately unfair. Trying to motivate them to do stuff is quite hard as all they want to do is see their friends. We have all volunteered locally but no one has yet taken us up on it.

Has there been a change in strategy at the record label with regard to releasing music?

We are still releasing stuff, but we are all trying to think of different ways of doing it. And also our artists have many concerns, especially the ones in cycle.

Stormzy 'Vossi Bop' - commissioned by Dan Curwin

The artists need the reassurance that we can deliver hits/streams/radio plays and views.

What are your main concerns about the crisis with relation to music videos?

I'm very worried about all the production companies, directors, producers and reps, and all the wider crew and post production people. Most of them are freelance and struggle to make ends meet at the best of times. I am going to do what I can to keep briefs and tracks coming and making sure I do my bit.

Do artists and their teams need convincing that they can change the way they make visual content?

I think they do, as they need the reassurance that we can deliver hits/streams/radio plays and views. In theory this situation should boost the music industry as people are ‘staying at home’, so can spend a lot of time doing all the above.

So creatively we need to find amazing ways to engage with their audiences. We have multiple ways to do it and modern technology should make this relatively simple. Time will tell whether fan engagement is higher or lower in a time of crisis.

There must be tons of existing footage that fans have created that we can tap into.

What ideas do you have (or willing to reveal!) for keeping the ball rolling production-wise?

I feel that this is the perfect opportunity for creatives to find and think of new ways of seeing and creating videos and content without being able to shoot anything.

Maybe we create lots of smaller videos for one track and spread the budgets about a bit more, assuring a broader group is working. We need to persuade artists that they can still be in their music videos by directing them on a Facetime. We can send over simple lighting and rigs to set up their iPhones. We need to assure them that they can still look great. Let's face it most of them are bloody good at filming themselves for social media….

Above: Dan Curwin, Atlantic Records' UK's Director of Video (with döppelgänger)

Artists connecting with their fans is for me one of the most important things they need to keep on doing. Many of them are already doing all sorts of live stuff on Instagram, or live shows with no audience. This is an opportunity to be really creative. We know what we can't do, so it’s putting that aside and creating stuff we can do.

Also there must be tons of existing footage that fans have created that we can tap into. We can create stories out of the zillions of gigabytes of videos and photos that are sitting on peoples phone and hard drives. Also many directors have filmed stuff and never used it. Obviously we have animation too, which if done in the right way can be incredibly effective. We also have incredible post production and editing skill out there that can work from home, they are all itching to work.

We should embrace this period and make some extraordinary video and content. We need astonish each other and our artists. We need to make social statements. This is a moment of inspiration.

We should embrace this period and make some extraordinary video and content.

What positives can we take from the situation, and build upon? Are there any good things that can come out of this?

Situations like this, where there is hardship/death and suffering historically inspires people creatively. Amazing books, music, poems and photography are all things that I think will grow. There is also a lot of love and caring for others that is happening which I feel is generally taken for granted. It's removing the more selfish part of being human that we all have. It’s a levelling and a wake-up call to humanity. Lets use it to change the things which need changing…

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    David Knight - 27th Mar 2020

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