Thinking beyond the play button…

Put bluntly, no one cares if artists release new a single or album anymore. In our crazy paced culture, it’s not enough. With attention spans going down and the amount of screens one person has access to going up, artists won’t get much attention – or be remembered – unless they do things differently.

The importance of thinking about music beyond the play button was highlighted at SXSW this year by the numerous panel discussions about fan interaction and personal data. Of course there are future thinking, techie obsessed artists who have already explored these avenues, changing the way we relate to music as they go.

Crystal Fighters being the latest example. In a recent partnership with Coke in Spain (supervised by CORD) the band have released a song exclusively via the stem syncing app #TheSharedSong. The single, Love Alight, can only be listened to in its entirety when four friends get together, each playing a different stem from their devices. With a sound that evokes dancing and ‘togetherness’ and some 75k followers on Twitter this app is right up Crystal Fighters’ musical street.

In 2010 Arcade Fire and director Chris Milk launched an interactive interpretation of We Used To Wait harnessing a shed load of HTML5 and Google Maps to incorporate images of the viewers home-town into an experimental project. The Wilderness Downtown was a beautiful way for Arcade Fire to engage with their fans in a way that was meaningful to them (nearly all of their songs relate to places or their homes) and their fans.


The Johnny Cash Project, another of Chris Milk’s creations, is a crowd-sourced tribute film that is ever evolving. Fans are asked to contribute to this haunting and moving web film by drawing a ‘frame’ to add to a music video using an online toolkit.

In 2011 Björk’s Biophillia app saw the idiosyncratic artist take music consumption into orbit. The breath-taking app explores the relationship between music, nature and tech with a guided tour through the cosmos led by David Attenborough. Nothing quite compares to this – yet.


On a smaller scale in 2012 left-field electronic act Grasscut, a duo signed to Ninja Tune released their album, Unearth on a series of walkmans hidden across the UK. Obsessed with a sense of place and a thirst for literature, this album drew influences from UK geography, so the band used this as a way to engage their fan base with tech from the past.

British folk songwriter Beatie Wolfe released her album last year on vinyl and in 3D. Working with Director Phil Connolly using the The Palm Top Theatre device connected to an iPhone, Wolfe’s performance is transformed from 2D into a captivating 3D display.

Once dubbed ‘the most hated man in dubstep’,  Skrillex takes his machine noises into the world of gaming (probably a world where the majority of his fans are immersed). He released an album last month through the Alien Ride app in which fans have to play the game to score new tracks.

Imogen Heap, also known as a digital diva, has had her dream realized this year by creating music on computers using only hand and arm movements with the help of Kickstarter. Her ‘gloves’ are one of the most exciting things to happen to music production since the synthesizer.


Obviously not all artists can work on projects like this. There’s a certain amount of dedication, passion, genius and opportunity involved. At least with fundraising platforms like Kickstarter and Pledge, artists with vision and drive can fight to shape our musical future. These are the people who see music not just as something to be consumed aurally, but as something that encompass all senses, the natural, physical and digital worlds.

How long until there’s an app that lets the user experience sound with all of their senses? We recently read that Blood Orange has synesthesia, is there an opportunity there?





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