The Spark of Online Community

Summer 1998: Soul Music Festival Postmortem, The Real Lesson Still to Come … Online Community!

Sinbad's Soul Music Festival

The mission of Sinbad’s Soul Music Festival was to provide a video archive of some of the leading Funk bands of the 1970’s, a time before the existence of music videos. HBO agreed to a four year run and this was year four. Sinbad stood on stage while on-camera and said it had been a good run and this was the last of his Soul Music Festivals.

Roth’s original plan was to document the festival with a 35mm camera in addition to his live streaming and chat room duties. He photographed set construction at the festival site, then all five days of beach and nightclub parties, shopping trips, opening ceremonies, comedy shows, and three days filled with concerts.

Upon returning to our studios in Hollywood, Roth advised Sinbad that he had more than 2000 photos from the adventure, enough content to continue posting new photos several times each week through the rest of the year. A decision was made to add content and let the site grow, not removing anything previously posted, as was a common practice at the time. Remember, server storage space (hard drives) was costly back then!

For the first several weeks, we focused on the entertainers, posting photos of the concerts and comedy shows. It’s when that was done and we began to add photos of the beach and nightclub parties that the meaning of online community became so very clear. As soon as we started posting photos of the fans, website traffic skyrocketed!

The moment someone recognized themselves or their friends in the photos …
they. told. everyone. they. knew!

By the end of that summer, we were seeing daily demands on the ShoutOut Board and in the chat rooms, multiple times each day, for an SMF 5.

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