Bits and Pieces – Transmedia Music

As mentioned before in my posts, the marketing situation for musicians and artists is more undefined today than ever before. I would like to dig deeper into the realm of telling your story as an artist through transmedia dispersion, whether you are using this technique to tell the story of your image or the story of yourself. Transmedia storytelling is described by Henry Jenkins as “elements of a fiction […] dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience”.

Transmedia marketing has been used in the music industry for years. Artists like Keith Richards of the Rolling StonesAnthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili PeppersNiel Young and Amy Winehouse have all had biographies printed and sold as books to further interest in their music. They and others have had long interviews in a variety of magazines, all aimed to give new and old audience multiple entry points to the content as well as unique material about the artist. You may have seen documentaries about them and may even have seen them live. All these impressions put together are creating a bigger image of the artist, thus telling a more multifaceted story. If you are new to the artist, each and impression  works as an entry point to the story, as pointed out by my lecturer Dr. Ted Mitev. Whether this is marketing or storytelling is up to you to decide, but one could argue that the artist is really the story, and the music is just a medium.

But if we consider the story to be a purely fictional one, as the Jenkins definition implies, music is most often just one piece of a big picture. Often condensed in the movie version, the original soundtrack of many movies are far more elaborate pieces if you listen to the album version. An example of this is the Lord of the Rings soundtrack which spans almost as long as the movie in its extended album version, 180 minutes over 3 discs. But it is mainly the same story as the one being told by the movie.

The flier from the ‘Year Zero’ game

But sometimes music can be a stand-alone part of a bigger story. In 2007,  Trent Reznor, singer of the Nine Inch Nails, became the frontperson of an unusual campaign. USB drives with dystopian music were found in bathrooms of Nine Inch Nails concerts, T-shirts were sold with cryptic messages and strange Orwellian websites popped up, murals were made with keywords leading to new websites with videos, all relating to their new album release: ‘Year Zero‘. But in February the same year, word got out of a game with the same name as the album, which was to be released simultaneously. This big hype was probably one of the reasons that the album got leaked one week before the release. In response to this, the band released the entire album for free download on their Myspace-site. =)

This was 2007 and I haven’t really heard of anything big about transmedia storytelling in the music world. I would love to see more of this innovative material. Maybe an album of music to create a bigger comprehension of a book, or a narrative song which only has the last verse in the live-version. It seems to me like the key part in transmedia storytelling is for the audience to gain something valuable for participating. If you were to use services such as Google Play, where you actually need to own a copy of the songs you stream, would you be interested in solving a little mystery and doing a little treasure hunting for a free download? And if not, would you do it for a free ticket to a secret gig?

Lastly, I know the title may be a stretch for some young readers. But I do recommend you check out the awesomely directed music video to this song: Bits & Pieces.

It’s OK to hate me.

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3 responses to “Bits and Pieces – Transmedia Music

    • Yeah read it a couple of years ago and it was an absolute favourite. I had just finished flying to Stadium Arcadium, and all of a sudden my whole childhood came into context. It was a pretty awesome experience! 😉

  1. Pingback: Looking back, over my shoulder | media t0m0rr0w·

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