By Luke Tkalcevic (Sondrio)
Introduction to Series
I’ve come to the realisation in the past few years – especially through my university studies – that right now we may be in the midst of a period of fundamental change to the Creative Industries, music in particular.
Although there is a consensus that content is being devalued financially on the web (though there are compelling arguments against that too), the endless innovation through technology startups and wide-ranging label concepts are proving that there is hope for creativity becoming a full time profession for more artists, and also for consumers to engage further with musical experiences on the web.
Obviously my personal opinions are key to what I will discuss in this series of posts, and these are two opinions I want to state before you read further: firstly, that (currently) physical products are valued above and beyond digital products, and secondly, that people are more likely to engage with any brand/musician and pay money for it if the brand creates an engaging experience. The latter may seem self-evident to some of you, but it’s a crucial point.
The release of Mr. Oizo’s Stade 3 EP and it’s accompanying website and video was my inspiration for these thoughts on the future of online music releases. Its refreshing approach genuinely stood it apart. Oizo’s website has a “computer” that allows you to download his EP for free, check out his discography, as well as providing two virtual MPCs that you can use to play samples from Oizo’s tracks on your keyboard.
It’s important to understand the context behind me clicking through: I play a few of Oizo’s tracks out when I DJ, but I would hardly consider myself a fan or a regular listener. If this EP had been a straightforward release on Beatport, or simply been provided directly from Oizo’s Twitter or Facebook, there’s a significant chance I would have either ignored it or missed it entirely. As it turned out, however, from the video to the website I was completely engaged, and ended up downloading the release – an EP that has made me engage with Oizo’s social media and made me look at his catalogue further.
In addition to the MPCs and engaging content on the site is the humorous reference to ‘stealing’ the free release. When you try to download it, you have to wait 30 seconds for the download to start, just as you would if you’d found it on Rapidshare. It’s funny little references like this that bring a definite appeal to the artist’s persona, and remind you how conscious they really are of the state of the industry and your habits as a listener.
Obviously I can’t extrapolate my experience to everyone who downloaded Stade 3, but it stands that the process of getting the EP provided a unique experience through different pieces of content. It almost echoed the experience I had buying CDs (and that some of you may have had buying vinyl); that feeling of going into the store, finding the release, admiring the cover art and the details in the packaging, handing over your hard earned cash, and thereafter spending endless hours in the car, or on the bus replaying the release and forever discovering new details in the music – provided it was good enough. For some releases, I’m sure you can remember where you were and what you were doing when you bought it or listened to it.
I don’t believe an online storefront like iTunes or Beatport can recreate that experience, but I definitely believe that artists and collaborators can create it independently on the web just like Oizo. If they pull it off, eventually many of them will be able to engage massive audiences, just as Odd Future, Deadmau5 and Diplo and many others have done by running their own ‘labels’ and creating their own unique ways of engaging fans and the wider public.
With the nascent idea of the web hosting ‘apps’ instead of websites becoming an appealing philosophy, the ability to leverage a release concept into an experience is something I predict will become the main leverage for artists to grow their career opportunities. Well that’s the dream, anyway.
Thanks to Euey Hawkins for assisting with this post.