Friday, 30 October 2009

Selling music post-MP3: part 3

When people began listening to music on the iPhone and (iPod Touch) a number of programmers and musicians spotted an opportunity: with its motion sensors, touch screen, microphone, and processing power, why should the iPhone be just another device for playing MP3s? Why not use its capabilities to let the listener interact with music? Perhaps even enable the listener's ambient environment to affect the listening experience?

Not only might the iPhone offer new ways of creating and listening to music - that listeners might be willing to pay for, and that could go far beyond the CD, never mind MP3s - but in the form of the App Store (and your phone contract) it even has a simple, quick payment method built in.

Just what kind of a revenue stream the iPhone might represent for artists, and to what exciting creative possibilities they might put its capabilities, I guess time will tell. But for now here are a couple of recent applications that just might point the way:

Deadmau5's remixable album

Whether Deadmau5 was actually the first artist to offer remixable exclusive tracks as an iPhone app, I have no idea, but Touch Mix was certainly the first such app I became aware of. You'll see below exactly what it can do, but basically Touch Mix is simple mixing software (though only usable with the Deadmau5 tracks), allowing phrases to be looped, effects added, mixing and cross-fading between tracks, BPM adjustment, scratching, etc. - all the usual DJ tricks and techniques:

I expect other artists will have since done similar, and probably offered more options and innovations, but even so, you can see from the above how this kind of release might appeal - especially to fans of electronica artists, like Deadmau5, or to fans of any other genre where remixing is prevalent. And with that in mind, let's now have a look at just how elaborate things can get...

RjDj: reactive, augmented listening

According to the website, RjDj is a music application for the iPhone that "uses sensory input to generate and control the music you are listening to." Shaking the phone, tapping it, stroking its screen, letting it pick up noises around you, speaking into its microphone, or any combination of the preceeding, can be used to randomly and/or intentionally alter the music that you're hearing. Moreover, RjDj users can record what they're hearing and share their favourite tracks with other listeners.

As for the artists; RjDj enables them to create "reactive music", "music as software", music that can be "updated, upgraded, or extended" - and which can either be sent straight to the phones of fans, or distributed as stand-alone apps. As a format, RjDj, allows artists, firstly, to take music and their own creativity in new directions, but also it enables them to reach listeners on a more personal and involving level - and if the key to persuading music fans to pay for your music is to offer them something more than they would get by simply downloading an MP3, then for artists and labels something like RjDj might well be a distribution avenue that's more interesting to explore even than the remixable album.

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