How To Use The Memorial Power of Music In A Story

The Art of Memorialising - Edition #3 - September 2021

Welcome to edition three of The Art of Memorialising. A monthly newsletter (free at the moment) by me, Peter Billingham.

Has the pandemic changed the way we remember those who have died forever?

While facing our mortality will never lose its sting, digital technology is providing new compassionate tools to face our finite days.

The Art of Memorialising newsletter helps you keep up with the latest news about digital immortality, digital legacy, digital life curation and all things #Deathtech.

In this month’s issue:

News around #Deathtech Startup’s Whiteballoon and Shared Affairs

Our ‘Memorialisation Morsels’ this month highlight:

  • Why QR codes kill kittens (and their uses for memorials.)

  • More interesting information on Australia’s ‘Memories.’

  • One Scottish Funeral Director’s Digital Legacy service.

  • Why a leading USA operator of cemeteries gets ‘Empathy.’

Among other many fascinating #Deathtech developments.

With a sprinkling of opinion and reflection about the soundtrack of life, THANK YOU for being here.

Let’s discover the future being created through - The Art of Memorialising together.

The Memorial Power of Music

Have you ever thought music carries seeds of memories with it to grow in future generations?

Music is the way our memories sing to us across time. Lance Morrow

The soundtrack to my life is like the record shops of old.

The ones where you flicked the LP’s forward, (called Vinyl these days) a singer or a group at time. Now it’s a story at a time in my mind.

Hear a song, and instantly I go back to a time, a place, or a person.

They played the soundtrack of my childhood on a Dansette record player.

  • ‘Needles and Pins,’ by The Searchers

  • ‘Spanish Fly,’ by Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass.

  • ‘Downtown,’ by Petula Clark.

  • ‘In The Summertime’ by Mungo Jerry.

I’ve seen how challenging it is for families to choose funeral music for a loved one. Music speaks when words end … and lives.

I was watching the new TV ad for Virgin Media, the second instalment of its ‘Faster Brings us Closer’ campaign. (Via The Drum) It centres on how two generations of a family come together over a mutual love of music, with the help of super-fast broadband. 

But what speaks to me more is the story it tells.

Back in 2018, I interviewed Sue Kemple, CEO of My Last Soundtrack - now called Story Spot.

Music and memories, music and memorials, will always connect with those we love. 

What’s on the soundtrack of your life? Send me an email with your songs.

Are You Thinking About What Books To Read?

Here’s some to consider - on digital or paperback!

We All Know How This Ends - Lessons about life and living from working with death and dying by Anna Lyons & Louise Winter. 

We All Know How This Ends is a fresh approach to death and dying, showing how exploring our mortality really can change our lives.

You might also want to take a peek at Poetic Endings. Louise Winter is a funeral director. Her mission is to get people to rethink funerals.

Louise believes a good funeral can be transformational in helping us to acknowledge and accept that someone has died. Louise and I chatted together on the Death Goes Digital Podcast.

All the Ghosts in the Machine: The Digital Afterlife of your Personal Data by Elaine Kasket

Elaine Kasket is a psychologist, speaker and writer, an expert on the modern challenges to our privacy across our life span, from cradle to grave. My interview with Elaine is HERE.

Remember Me: Memory and Forgetting in the Digital Age by Davide Sisto

Davide kindly sent me a pre-publication copy of his new book. (Thanks) He also has written - Online Afterlives: Immortality, Memory, and Grief in Digital Culture

In Remember Me, Davide focuses on social networks. This is inspiration behind his brilliant reflection on how our relationship with remembering and forgetting is changing in the digital era. 

I’d be interested to hear what books you are reading?

Startup Spotlights - Whiteballoon & Shared Affairs


Most people don’t think about death and funerals. It leaves many unprepared and uninformed. Not knowing where to turn to for advice when the time comes. Startup Whiteballoon is aiming to change that situation for good.

Personal bereavements and seeing the similar experiences of family and friends, the three co-founders (and sisters) Amanda German, Tracey Norris and Pippa Adams, started Whiteballoon.

Loss left them questioning why there wasn’t a place where they could gather their thoughts. A place to find the information, ideas, and inspiration they needed. Amazing companies were out there, but finding them not easy. Especially at such a stressful and difficult time dealing with loss. Startup Whiteballoon is the solution.

Whiteballoon is a portal giving access to comprehensive information. Its resources cover every aspect of end of life, compiling this into an easy-to-use platform that gently guides people.

Whiteballoon provides practical information. This includes financial and legal, but also highlights the latest thinking, products and services. Innovations such as eco-friendly funerals or new ways to memorialise a loved one. Through Whiteballoon, people can connect to artisans and professional organisations, helping and inspiring a perfect farewell for a loved one.


  • Is free-to-use. It includes information on what to do when someone dies, planning a funeral, and finding bereavement support. 

  • Curates the best ideas and inspirations. From poems and readings, coffins and urns, to ceremonies and celebrations.

  • Offers useful Planning Tools. Including a personal ideas folder to gather information. Print this out or share digitally with family or a funeral director.

  • Allows users to find and connect quickly and easily with the individuals, artisans and professional organisations they need.

  • Whiteballoon is creating a community of compassionate, forward-thinking people and businesses that are committed to excellence in their field.

Another Startup in the news is Shared Affairs

Shared Affairs is a digital legacy service designed to help family and friends deal with the personal affairs in the event of a loved one passing. The service is free and looks easy to use.

Startup founders, Kashif Barlas and Farhan Ghalib, designed this service drawn from personal experiences and those of friends.

Losing relatives and having to deal with their affairs convinced them to use their cyber security and complex system architecture knowledge and backgrounds to develop this secure solution and make it available to everyone.

From videos to photos, your funeral wishes to your will, storing everything you want within minutes. Even private information for probate, and passwords, for example, with 250 MB of space. Users have full control of the private information they share and who they share it with. You can nominate up to ten people.

Shared Affairs is a web platform, but also has the convenience of an app for phone or tablet. Storing information securely using bank security-level AES 256 encryption with unique keys on Amazon servers in the UK.

Shared Affairs

  • Is free to use with paid options available.

  • Uses AES 256 Encryption, protecting your your data.

  • Regulated in the UK ICO (UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office)

  • Allows up to ten people to receive information following a death

Heard of a startup in #Deathtech? Please let me know.

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MM’s (Memorialisation Morsels)

5 meaty bites of news for YOU to stay ahead of the conversation on #Deathtech

1 - InvoCare Buys Stake In Online Memorials Group - Memories

InvoCare is Australia’s biggest provider of funerals and cremations. Olivier Chretien, the CEO (via AFR Financial Review) tells they invested $4m AUD into the online memorial site because he sees the growth in digital memorials growing and speeding up when the pandemic is over.

The culture and attitudes to death have changed forever, especially among a younger demographic. He sees the change is here to stay. (We highlighted Memories in edition one - saying whatever is going there is worth watching - looks like it is!)

2 - Can Perpetual Altruism Exist? Legacy & In-Memory Giving Goes NFT

I was speaking recently at a Special Interest Group Zoom Conference for several UK charities on the impact of digital memorials, and how this could benefit Legacy and In-Memory giving to charities.

(Thanks to an introduction from Legacy Foresight, the UK’s foremost analysts of the legacy and in-memory sectors.

I suggested the crazy idea that charities should consider the growth of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) for charitable giving. Seems I was WAY behind! Cryptograph is already doing it. (Via Yahoo Finance).

Cryptograph connects mainstream celebrities with (NFT) technology. They are pioneering the concept of NFTs with a purpose. The unique model of philanthropy is the Legacy gift and In Memory gift that keeps giving. Fascinating! 

For another perspective, look at the growth of Creator Coins. Maybe there are opportunities there as well for non-profits?

3 - Is The Digital Memorial QR Code Wave About To Start?

QR codes are those square digital menus we have used to ‘Track and Trace’ - hands free - touch less transactions. They have been around since 1994, never gaining much consumer use as you needed a special app to read them. 

I have to say one of the weirdest titles for a book I’ve read is - QR Codes Kill Kittens: by Scott Stratten. One of the best keynote speeches heard at a conference by far! QR codes with an attitude - worth watching.

In 2017, Apple added a QR reader into the iPhone camera. Then COVID arrived. QR code menus have taken off during the pandemic. (via The Hustle)

Social Embers, a UK company, create meaningful digital memorials with QR codes. Sandy Weatherburn, the founder, became interested in the digital aspects of bereavement. Innovative and creative, they can add an audio recording interaction to a bench memorial, for example. Look at this video.

Social Embers Digital Legacy Consultants offer a comprehensive range of end of life-related services for individuals, small businesses, solicitors and hospices.

4 - On Trend Funeral Director Helps Families Deal with Digital Death

Scottish funeral director W G Catto is aiming to support families in dealing with their “digital death” as well as the death of a loved one. (Via The Norther Scot)

On the Funeral Director’s website is a detailed, yet simple and clear explanation of what happens to your digital life when you die, it’s a comprehensive guide to steps to take before and after death. Interesting to see this appearing on a funeral director’s website. Will others follow? 

5 - StoneMor Joins with Empathy Bringing Digital Support To Their Funeral Business. 

StoneMor, is a significant operator of cemeteries and funeral homes in the United States. In August it announced a new partnership with Empathy, combining a digital legacy platform with live human support to help those who have lost a loved one. (Via Yahoo Finance).

The Empathy platform has a library of original articles, all in one place, free forever. Empathy’s app guiding families through the immediate and long-term tasks associated with the loss of a loved one. From finance, digital legacy, planning a funeral and legal issues. Will other major players follow suit, I wonder?

Thanks for reading!

Who’d you know who would find this #Deathtech information interesting? Please, can you forward the email to them? I’d be very grateful. 

The Art of Memorialising can be sent directly to your inbox by clicking here.

I’d love to hear from you, let’s start a conversation -

Until next month, keep safe, and keep going.