Case study: Red Bull Music Academy

The Red Bull Music Academy accelerates the development process with Contentful

In a typical year, RBMA hosts a hundred plus live events and musical launches that are heavily promoted on campaign micro-sites. Often, the sites need to be launched at a short notice and with custom requirements in mind, which encouraged Yadastar to experiment with lightweight, flexible publishing tools. Contentful was used in a successful pilot project and, soon thereafter, became the default choice for building promotional micro-sites.

A Modern Suite of Development Tools

RBMA musical acts run the gamut of genres and styles resulting in very diverse specifications for promotional websites. “While we use a very versatile front-end framework (AngularJS), our legacy CMS imposed hard constraints on the type of features we could develop,” explains James Singleton, the web developer at Yadastar, “forcing us to build mostly static sites”. The team experimented with a number of strategies, for example, building a custom Rails back-end, but these alternatives came at a high price and were hard to replicate.

Adopting Contentful has altered the equation in two profound ways. Ready-to-use REST API simplified the process of building a custom website. Meanwhile, the strict separation of content and presentational elements opened the possibility of using AngularJS framework for adding interactive features and mashing content up in innovative ways. Product manager Niklas Jansen sums up the impact Contentful had in the following way: “Today, we launch a site in a third of the time it used to take and we can afford to be bold, to come up with designs that have a distinctive personality.”

Bringing Editors Back into the Creative Process

A typical campaign website is maintained by a diverse crowd of professionals - from artists and content producers to PR managers and event coordinators. All these people expect there to be a simple way to share concert footage or publish a last-minute announcement. Yet, with RBMA websites increasingly serving content in a JSON-encoded format, the contributors had to turn to developers for assistance, no matter how trivial the task. “Truth be told, even tech savvy editors found it frustrating to work on lengthy passages or format text in spreadsheet cells,” admits Mr.Singleton.

RBMA Diggin in the Carts & NYC Festival

Promotional sites for Diggin in the Carts & NYC Festival were launched atop of Contentful

Enlisting Contentful allowed editors and developers breathe a collective sigh of relief. On the input side, it offers a familiar user interface consisting of standard fields, asset galleries, and inline tips. On the output end, it encodes content in JSON, ready to be consumed by a variety of platforms and frameworks.

I don’t think defining content structure can get any easier than it is now. Make a few clicks, label the fields, select an extra option and, presto, there’s a new entry type ready for use.

James Singleton, Web Developer

Straightforward user interface also simplified the content modeling flow. Previously, developers would define content structure in code, thus excluding content producers from the process and slowing down the pace of a project. “I don’t think defining content structure can get any easier than it is now,” summarizes the change Mr. Jansen. “Make a few clicks, label the fields, select an extra option and, presto, there’s a new entry type ready for use.”

Many Users, One Process

Each year, RBMA launches several hundred musical acts, events, and promotions. Juggling these projects on a day-to-day basis can be mentally taxing and physically exhausting. Project managers were especially concerned about managing user access. “At times, we’d have six different parties working on the project, all needing to do their small part before the launch,” tells Mr. Singleton. “But there is no way to see the overview of the team or understand who worked on what.”

We have an easier way to collaborate with people involved in a project, which makes for much more constructive atmosphere. That is a definite improvement from the ad-hoc tools we used a few years ago

Niklas Jansen, Product Manager

Initially, the team worked around the problem by emailing links to content files hosted on Dropbox, but that approach put the entire team at the mercy of spam filters and lacked transparency. By contrast, Contentful allowed project leaders to invite users to specific websites, assign roles, monitor contributions and revoke access with one click. “We have an easier way to collaborate with people involved in a project, which makes for much more constructive atmosphere. That is a definite improvement from the ad-hoc tools we used a few years ago” remarks Mr. Jansen.

RBMA VA

Various Assets sites adds interactive elements to standard media assets

Results

Working with the Red Bull Music Academy imposes unique demands on the Yadastar team: they have to think fresh, execute fast and collaborate effectively with non-technical contributors. Contentful helps them meet these challenges by offering powerful API capabilities, a friendly user interface, and a simple way to manage multiple projects. All packaged in a cloud-based CMS, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.

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