Write-up: sound branding talk with John Groves

John Groves event on sound branding

On Sunday 23rd October 2016, I and nine others were lucky enough to spend an hour-and-a-half with John Groves, founder of Groves Sound Branding GmbH, a legendary music producer and a pioneer in the field of sound branding. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had an „aha“ moment: sound branding seems obvious when someone explains it to you, but few people seem to know what it is. It was fascinating to dig deeper and find out what sound branding can and cannot do.

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This Sunday at 3pm: sound branding with John Groves in his studio at Groves Sound Branding GmbH

Talk about sound branding with John Groves, Sunday 23rd October 2016 at 3pm

When you think of branding and corporate identity, perhaps your first association is communicating a company’s identity and values by choosing logo designs, colour schemes, fonts, communication guidelines and the rest of it. But what about sound?

John Groves, MD of Groves Sound Branding GmbH

John Groves, MD of Groves Sound Branding GmbH
John Groves, MD of Groves Sound Branding GmbH

John Groves has kindly agreed to tell us all about sound branding and show us his studio at Groves Sound Branding GmbH. He will start off by finding out who we are and what we are interested in, then give a talk, followed by the opportunity to ask questions.

Date: Sunday 23rd October
Time: 3pm-4pm
Place: Isekai 20, 20249 Hamburg
RSVP by email, see below

You may have heard of John: he’s a well-known and very successful composer, music producer and pioneer of sound branding who has lived in Hamburg since 1983. His early work included the music for adverts we know and love: Mentos (“fresh goes better”) and Bacardi (“sippin‘ on Bacardi rum”).

In the early 90s he developed a system for creating and implementing brand and corporate sound identities and has been helping people harness the power of sound to influence moods, perceptions and emotions ever since.

His company, Groves Sound Branding GmbH, has its headquarters in Hamburg (where we’ll meet) and has offices across the globe in China, Dubai, the USA, Chile, Netherlands and Sweden.

Limited places – RSVP by email

If you want to come and find out about sound branding, about John and how he has turned his musical talent and passion into a successful career and business, then send me an email with your full name and telephone number on john@johnheaven.eu.

We’re limited to 10 people so please be sure to sign up, and if you can’t make it please tell me so someone else can have your place.

Looking forward to seeing you on 23rd October!

Being a stage host at the Reeperbahnfestival 2016

Making music with virtual reality – demonstration at the Reeperbahn Festival Conference 2016

On 22nd and 23rd September I helped out at the Reeperbahn Festival Conference, playing my part as a stage host in the Theater Schmidt. The conference is an adjunct to the 10-year-old Reeperbahn Festival, a music festival that happens in Hamburg’s famous red-light district which is also the site of many music clubs. The festival-conference combo is modelled on South By South West and is a meeting place for music-industry people from around the world.

Stage host

Being a stage host means standing on stage at the beginning and end of each event, welcoming the speakers, announcing house-keeping information such as wi-fi passwords and other information, thanking the speakers at the end, and generally holding the ring if moderators are late, not present or whatever. A bit of banter doesn’t harm either to warm people up. When the role was introduced at the Reeperbahn Festival, it was inspired by the stage hosts at the Social Media Week and I think I can take the credit for playing that role for the first time in Kultwerk West during the first Social Media Week that I was involved in.


I helped out in 2014, so this time I was better able to follow the content of the panels – although I’m not directly involved in the music industry. Largely, the topics deal with in the Schmidt Theater (Saal) where I was were about the effect of digital technology on the music industry. This year, compared with 2014, it felt like the participants were more forward-looking: in 2014 I remember more scepticism, the flag-bearer for which was Herbert Grönemeyer who compared users of services like Spotify to restaurant visitors expecting a flat-rate for all restaurants in the city.

As well as the usual panel reflecting on the current and upcoming festival seasons (again moderated by Greg Parmley with charm and dry humour), there were panels on machine intelligence (e.g. Google Muze, an experimental fashion  project), virtual reality and its implications for music production, and more. A very enjoyable session was called „Help The Aged“ but was a humorous and insightful, anecdote-filled primer on the history of the music industry with some reflection on diversity in the music industry over time. Finally, there was the presentation of the Büro für Offensivkultur – the bureau for proactive culture – a kind of rapid-reaction force to mobilise musicians at the drop of a hat for protests against acts of far-right extremism as they happen.


It’s always nice to be part of the Reeperbahn Festival Conference and see who comes through the door. It’s an interesting insight into the music industry and usually there are several famous people (e.g. Smudo of Die Fantastischen Vier) or people who have done famous things (e.g. Simon Napier-Bell who penned „You don’t have to say you love me“).

Let’s Encrypt! Activating SSL on any website for free

I first heard about Let’s Encrypt on a podcast a couple of years ago. It was finally released several months ago now, and I hadn’t got round to activating it yet (partly because I thought it would be hassle).

It was actually really easy. Just a couple of shell commands was all it took. If you’re lucky, your hosting provider supports it and it’s even easier: just a matter of clicking a checkbox.

I use WordPress for this website, so I’ll outline how I did it. Full instructions are available via the official website and I’d advise you to check that because this article might be a bit out of date by the time you read it. This article will give you a short overview of what SSL is for, my experience configuring it, and give one or two tips on using it with WordPress.

Why SSL?

There are a number of reasons for using SSL (I think it’s called TLS these days, but everyone seems to say SSL). If users can register on your site (even just to comment), then their data will be more secure when they are communicating with your website because it will be encrypted. This includes personal information, passwords for logging in and more.

Even if people can’t log in to your website, you probably log in to the backend often to update content. If everything is unencrypted, someone could intercept your password or a session cookie and hack into your site. I’ve never had this problem personally, but if you’re ever at a conference or in a café with unsecured wifi, then you’d be well advised not to log into your unsecured website.

Finally, even people who are just reading your site without logging in will have their communications protected. This doesn’t mean that people can’t snoop on them to find out what site they are visiting, but at least the content is encypted.

So this is how it’s done …

Step 1: activate Let’s Encrypt on your server

I’m with HostEurope, and they don’t directly support Let’s Encrypt. So if you’re on a managed solution without SSH access, then you’re out of luck. If you don’t know whether you’ve got SSH access, you might lack the technical skills to do this but depending on how important your website is, you might want to try anyway. If you’ve got Plesk installed, which I haven’t, you have to be careful about manipulating your server setup via the Shell so check that out before doing this.

If you are able to get into your server via SSH, then the next step is to download the Certbot client, which does all the hard work for you. Start off by entering some information about your system, then it will give you the commands you need. I just copied and pasted the basic commands without reading in detail (yes, a bit dangerous but I’m a trusting kind of guy) and it worked without any problems.

After installing (using wget, as outlined on their site), I ran the bot and let it configure my apache. The only slightly confusing thing is the first screen you get: I thought it was asking me to select one site to configure, so I highlighted that site. In fact, you have to deselect the ones you don’t want using the space bar.

User-friendly UI in the console
User-friendly UI in the console …

Apart from that, it’s plain sailing. In one of the later screens, I chose to go full-on SSL by automatically redirecting http content to https.

Step 2: setup a cron job

This is important to do: a cron job makes sure the certificate is automatically renewed. Let’s Encrypt purposely issues certificates with a very short shelf-life because the system of revoking certificates is somewhat cumbersome. If they all lapse regularly, this helps to avoid the problem. Anyway, this was the most difficult part for me: I don’t often have to setup a cron job, and it took me a few minutes to come to terms with vi editor, which crontab uses. Anyway… it’s all out there, it’s not that difficult if you’re determined, and it’s almost pointless doing all this if you don’t get it set up.

Step 3: configure WordPress

The next step was to configure WordPress (although at first glance it seemed to work ok).

First, go into the settings and change the URL of your site. It will chuck you out after this, because the cookie is only valid for the http version of the site:


Then log in again and install the „Better search and replace“ plugin. You can use this to change http to https internal URLs, e.g. images and internal links. So in my case, I replaced „http://johnheaven.eu“ with „https://johnheaven.eu“ (and don’t forget to do the same for „http://www. …“ if necessary).

That’s it!

That’s it.