Technology and Music: Popular Bands Turn to You for Creative Direction

Crowdsourcing leads to cool, interactive music videos

Thanks in part to global social networking and the rising popularity of crowdsourcing, regular old consumers are getting the chance to become hot shot creative directors for big-name bands.

Riding on this "open call" trend, Talenthouse, a creative collaboration platform, is making a name for itself by connecting bands with fans. From designing a poster for Rod Stewart to submitting graphic art for Paul McCartney, its contests and campaigns allow the public to lend their talents to a wide array of creative projects.

Even craftier than Talenthouse’s contests are the legions of crowdsourced videos, album covers, t-shirt designs and other artsy services that directly benefit popular musicians while also giving unknown artists a few seconds of fame.

YouTube is a big player in the video aspect of this phenomenon; it played a role in the likes of Radiohead getting a marketing boost from a distinctly different cover of "Paranoid Android." A homage to the British band, the video was created by a fan who pieced together clips of 36 other fans to create a "full-length mashup."

When you combine social media with HTML5 and turbo browsers, you get an all-access invite to interact with musical artists. Here are just a few ways fans and bands are merging on the high-tech highway.

Crowdsourcing and the creative collective

The many faces of crowdsourcing are endless, literally. Dutch band C-Mon & Kypski is collaborating with 34,267 (and counting) fans to help make the music video for its song "More is Less." Enthusiasts go to the One Frame of Fame site, submit a webcam snapshot of themselves, and the result is a massive, virtual reel-to-reel of fan involvement. (The video is updated every hour.)

When the Canadian duo Violent Kin needed a music video for their song "Human Nature," they went directly to the people who know them best: their fans. With a $1,000 budget for prize money, the electro-rock outfit leveraged crowdsourcing to get a video they could be proud of while interacting with their adoring fans.

Violent Kin is riding a wave in technology and fan interaction that hasn’t even crested yet. Why wrangle with the messy innards of a public relations/media company when you can go directly to the people who know you best - your fans - and get good creative collateral and lots of love in the process?

Interactive Elements

As HTML5 emerges and multimedia capabilities continue to improve, musical artists are pushing the boundaries to connect with fans in more unique and unusual ways.

To avoid piracy, Manchester Orchestra gave listeners a look at its new album via a web-based puzzle, complete with "cheat codes." And Ok Go lets users choreograph a dance of kaleidoscopic proportions based on messages they type into its All Is Not Lost Website.

The Wilderness Downtown project takes things a step further by integrating the Google Maps API Street View into its online interactive film. First, you type in an address, say your childhood home, and once it loads, the Arcade Fire’s "We Used to Wait" cues; windows begin to open with satellite and street views of said address, essentially creating a music video out of your life.

The end of the world as we know it?

So, all of this creativity shooting back and forth - is it good for starving artists or simply a fancy way to glean cheap labor? What if you’re a full-time, freelance graphic designer or videographer who depends on accounts like the ones Talenthouse essentially auctions off?

Some say collective talent sourcing is here to stay and get used to it, while others warn about "digital sharecropping." Nicolas Carr coined the term to describe "the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few."

How will this augmented engagement affect the music industry? The Kaiser Chiefs turned its fans into producers, giving them the chance to choose 10 of 20 tracks for a customized album (within parameters) that could then be sold for a margin of the profits. It sounds like fun, but detractors also question the consistency and "purity" of the band’s original concept.

One thing is for sure: Static videos are probably a few steps away from being considered dinosaurs. If you’ve ever watched a music video of your favorite song and thought, "I could do better than that," now is the time to create one. It doesn’t matter if you’re a musician, writer, producer, composer, singer or videographer, there’s no longer a barrier between you and the creative process of your musical idol.

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