Spotted last weekend in Sydney
Spotted last weekend in Sydney
When U2 met with Steve Jobs in 2004, they came away with a deal for a rather baffling piece of cross-promotion. Apple would produce a piece of hardware designed to reflect the band’s latest album at the time, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. With 30 GB and the signatures of all four members of U2, the special edition iPod was priced at US$349. Source: Wikipedia)
But it wasn’t just the kit that fans could love – if they bought the U2 iPod, they would also get a different version of the album to anyone buying it the old way, in the shops.
U2 iPods gave the owner special privileges, such as downloading songs for free, they also scored a US$50 coupon for a US$149 collection of U2′s entire back catalog.
Together, the band and the brand appeared were redefining the music industry. But if they did, where are all the follow-up music/hardware integrations? Why can’t I buy a Foo Fighters album pre-loaded on an iPhone or even a Ben Folds LP on a USB stick? The whole plan stalled at the starting line, leaving us buying CDs and downloading MP3s, occasionally with bonus videos or imagery in a ‘digital booklet’. This is not awe-inspiring stuff.
The biggest movements since then have seen Radiohead offering their song in your choice of format and at the price you think its worth. Beck offered his album in sheet music only in 2012 (hoping for a mash-up that never came), while last week, David Bowie was lauded as an innovator for streaming his album for free. Oh please.
While streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora may already have rendered the purchase of an album irrelevant for the next generation, I still like to have a physical object to show for my money. I make exceptions to this rule when the digital offering is far better than what I would get from a CD with its inserts. But this remains rare, and so, record stores still have kilometers of shelving dedicated to popular bands and their back catalogs. I am certain the CD wil not phase out until a new replacement comes.
Here’s one way things might play out, according to Bono…
The App as Music
I decide to buy an album … I download an app to my smartphone or tablet … I get a preview of songs and a teaser video of what else is on offer … I can then opt-in for the album (together with bonus extras, just like a DVD) or just select some singles to download and be done with it.
Sounds good so far.
But what if the app took me even further? Perhaps it could unlock a back-catalog of videos, or a list of demos and b-sides that took me into the studio like a producer, watching as the band developed each track and sifted through snippets, hooks and riffs to find the gold?
Here’s how Bono describes it, speaking, as he does every few years, of the band’s need to reinvent themselves.
Socially, an app as an album could lift the experience to another level again. Imagine if, while listening, I can read other my friends’ comments on the songs, just as I should be able drop comments into the stream for others to see, if they so choose.
An in-built forum should also capture fans’ debate of the lyrics or the band’s missteps.
I should also be able to share it with a group of friends, having a virtual listening party, helping promote the songs to my friends.
Right now, Spotify tells me – via Facebook and ad nausea - what some of my friends are listening to. But this form of socialised music listening fails at the first turn.
If I have never heard of the song or artist, there ends my interest… I’m done. I know I said I’d like to find out music recommended by my friends, but it turns out an automated feed of what they are listening to right now does not equal useful recommendations. (Now, please leave me alone to continue sifting through the already mindless landscape of posts from ‘friends’ I barely know.)
Moreover, Spotify makes me annoyed not just at the technology but even at my real life friends who should know better. This is all little better than Apple’s Ping – an ill-fated foray into social music sharing. Nor is it any more user-friendly than the Washington Post ‘social reader‘ – a Facebook experiment that gained massive notoriety for increasing traffic then even more infamy following the mass exit of millions of users who felt violated by its sharing of all articles they had read.
Turns out we don’t need Bono or Steve Jobs. I am simply longing once more for music parties, where your friends came over, you put on a CD and you just discuss it; You tell why you like it, who it reminds you of, or you tear it apart because it’s rubbish.
If an app or online service can deliver that, sign me up.
The Southerly Buster is the perfect analogy for living in Sydney. There’s always something fantastic about to whack you in the face.
And I don’t mean that drunk bloke glassing you after a great night at the pub. I’m being serious.
Why do you think King’s Cross is so close to beautiful Potts Point, Penrith is next to the Blue Mountains, and so many busy and noisy streets are lined with stunning crêpe myrtles?
It works the other way too. You’re having a great swim at the beach and then you get caught in a rip. Everyone’s day at the cricket is ruined by a knob with a big flag.
Whenever I have a day hating the CBD I wander down to the harbour. And there it is… The Cahill Expressway.
We enjoy mixing the ugly with the beautiful — because too much of either is nauseating. I truly love Sydney … even if it makes me feel dirty. Because there’s always a southerly coming.
Southerly Busters Explained – Bureau of Meteorology