The Pleasant Revolution has been a long time in creation and I am a new addition. The tour went to Mexico last year and now we are going on a world tour. The hardest part was just believing that what we wanted to do MIGHT be possible and having the courage to give it a try in spite of all the scary unknowns.
Since we're trying to change perceptions, we judge our efficacy in some ways by the quality and quantity of our media exposure. Here' some of what happened in Mexico during the band's most recent tour there:
The Project received extensive, repeated press coverage from most all of the country’s major media outlets, including:
• full articles in more than 20 newspapers including 3 of the country's 5 largest dailies
• a handful of front page photos and stories and at least 3 complete front pages of inside sections
• an in-studio interview and performance on a national television morning show
• several interviews on national television on both of the country's two largest networks (Televisa and TV Azteca) and local channels
• news coverage on local tv affiliates
• several radio interviews
• 3 press conferences (in Guadalajara, Morelia, and Puebla)
• a feature magazine article in a Mexican magazine
• a feature in Stanford Magazine
Anecdotally, the converage can be said to have been extensive and succesful by virtue of hearing in far flung locales, throughout the tour, “I read about you in ______,” or “Aren’t you the people I saw on Channel 11?”
Utilitarian cycling and the idea of the “bicycle lifestyle” were included in the tour press release, promoted by the principals and featured in nearly every media placement. One of the primary aims of the tour was/is to show people around the world that (a) it IS possible to carry most everything you need on your bike for short or even long distances, and (b) that doing so is “cool” and to be encouraged and celebrated, not just something you do because you can’t afford the alternative, but because you choose to.
Unlike conventional bicycle tourists, who ostensibly show that wealthy people do ride bikes, too, and that you can carry stuff on bikes, the Pleasant Revolution tours show “wealthy” people working and living by bicycle, not just traveling. And more importantly, the association with music and American rock-and-roll shows bicycles in a light that is unknown in most of the world—as symbols of pride and freedom, similar to their heavier 4-wheeled counterparts.
This effort, too, saw tangible results. After reading about the Ginger Ninjas in the newspaper, the office of the Mayor of Guadalajara (at 4 million residents, Mexico's second largest city) invited the Pleasant Revolution team on a bike ride with the Mayor to discuss cycling and transportation.
On the ride, tour leader Kipchoge Spencer spoke to the attentive mayor about other Latin American cities with favorable bicycle policies and infrastructure. Kipchoge had also invited several of Guadalajara’s own well-informed bicycle advocates, leaders of groups who had been trying unsuccessfully to meet with the conservative Mayor since his inauguration. Kipchoge introduced the Mayor to these advocates and left them to talk for the majority of the ride.
Three months later, on the tour’s northward trek home, the Pleasant Revolution again stopped in Guadalajara. An official from the Mayor's office came to a concert specifically to tell the band that he thought their visit had had a marked impact on the city's and the mayor's transportation planning and views. He cited the energy behind the American and rock and roll aspects of the tour as making impressions on local decisionmakers. The ride and subsequent encounter were captured by Morkin, and will likely be part of the forthcoming film.
The band’s message was delivered most directly through concerts, of which they performed roughly 95 over the course of the tour. The average crowd size for these shows was about 30-50 in the U.S., and from 200–500 for the 75 shows in Mexico, several of which were promoted by local ministries of culture, but most of which were impromptu gigs in central plazas.