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Miley’s VMA Wilderness Reflekted

Something a little different today, I wrote this piece and thought I’d share since it builds on from my last post.

The music industry has changed.  That’s old news. It’s in major state of flux and rules and records are being broken and rewritten every week.

This week two rules have been broken. And it’s only Tuesday. One was quite literally smashed apart by a wrecking ball, ridden by a nude Miley Cyrus. Miley’s new video was watched 12.3 million times in just 24 hours – shattering the record held by One Direction (10.7 million).

Although the record proves the constant growth and importance of YouTube– it could hardly be called innovative. You can imagine the big marketing experts of RCA/Sony sitting around the meeting going – I’m thinking, a big wrecking ball and nudity! Boom! We have a YouTube record winner. Soft porn selling is not a new concept.

In more refreshing news, Arcade Fire’s long awaited The Reflektors released its first single on the same day. This may have not received the same one-day hype but certainly may be a more important footmark on the music industry.

The indie rock band from Montreal had been rather quiet since the 2010 release of their Grammy winning The Suburbs. However over the last few months a very extensive campaign has developed which came to a climax yesterday.

It started with rumours that former front man of LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy was producing the album. He added to the fire of anticipation by commenting that the album “is really epic”.

reflektor2

Then came the creation of The Refletkors as a persona – a widespread project across several platforms. First graffiti of a tribal looking logo was sprawled across various cities. Then a website with a video of shiny looking costume and snapshots of the artwork. Followed by an instagram account bearing the same name with more snaps of the graffiti and a YouTube channel with another strange mystical video.  However at this point only rumours linked The Reflektors to Arcade Fire.

But finally on the 26 of August a banner in NYC officially tied the two together bearing the words Arcade Fire 9pm 9/9 above the famous graffiti symbol. Interesting how all the first steps of the campaign were done in physical, tangible forms first. But of course the digital reinforcement followed, with a countdown video preview appearing on an Arcade Fire’s official YouTube channel and some usual tweeting.

Then the explosion that was yesterday – two videos, a secret concert and the preorder for the full album to be released on October 29.

The traditional video portrays the band reunited with their big plaster heads of the Sprawl II video in a black and white fascination with a big disco ball and a man statue made of mirrors. It is directed by Anton Corbjin. In comparison the video only passed the half a million views marker today.

However more interesting is the second video – a Google Chrome Experiment interactive video, that is starting to become a trademark of the group after the success of The Wilderness Downtown (and less breakthrough Neon Bible).

Just like The Wilderness Downtown the video has the user play a fundamental part of the video. Using your phone/tablet to “reflekt” your computer, you use it as a torch to discover the main character’s escape from her wild life in Haiti and your webcam pulls you into hers. The video was filmed by long time collaborator Vincent Morisset and the technology was created by Aaron Koblin.

Koblin’s work and its impact on the future of music videos and the ever-growing partnership between digital and music is rather interesting. Koblin was not only responsible for The Wilderness Downtown but also various other breakthrough interactive videos such as The Johnny Cash Project  and 3 Dreams of Black for Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, Jack White, and Norah Jones (both done in partnership with Chris Milk – another prominent figure in this field).  Koblin has been featured both on TED talks and the Future of StoryTelling where he discusses the importance of story telling and its role in developing culture. He explores its need to transform in the new age of the digital world so that it can bring culture along with us in a more personalized and interactive manner.

Another interesting angle is the role of Google in all of this. We all remember the days of MTV and music videos being used as a commercial for a song to get people to go out and buy the albums. Google has now made YouTube the advert, the product and the streaming all in one (as well as an ever growing revenue source).

But the Google Chrome projects take it one step further. What are the dynamics of these special projects? Is Arcade Fire licensing the song to Chrome and is Google seeing this as advertising? Is this a showcase for the ability of Chrome as a browser and aimed to capture further market share for interactive and creative projects to follow (whether in partnership or simply hosting)? Or is the band paying Chrome to advertise the song? And in this case why is the call to action less prominent than one might think – where is the big PREORDER NOW button? Or not even an email sign up? And finally is CONTENT creation a future revenue source for Google?

All of this is uncertain, but what is certain is we are watching the Google empire growing over the music industry, day by day, in one shape or form. Oh yes and sex still sells.