Transmedia + Music

May 2, 2013
by Laura Sterritt

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan: DIY Transmedia Through Crowd Sourcing


It is often the less well known, independent musicians who are willing to take chances on new media as artistic expression. The unfortunate Catch-22 is that these musicians or their record labels are usually unable to fund such endeavors. Now, with the advent of crowd funding platforms, artists can turn to their fan base and other interested parties to help bring new projects to fruition.

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan is no stranger to DIY. The multidisciplinary art collective has made a career of working in many different mediums, on little-to-no budget. Recently, the group finished a 6-month creative business development with the Canadian Film Centre, and have started an Indiegogo campaign to fund Your Task: Shoot Things, a mobile game set in Pureland, the realm in which their album YT//ST and other rock operas had been set.

YT//ST was founded by Alaska B and Ruby Kato Attwood in 2007, their mixed Asian Canadian heritage heavily influencing the group’s East-meets-West aesthetic and sound they cleverly named “Noh-Wave.” J-pop, industrial music, Buddhism, and Kabuki are just a handful of influences they have thrown out there. Originally working in strictly black and white (cheaper for printing), they have come to add metallics and the color red to their palette  a color synonymous with Chinese culture. “Home-brewed” instruments and cheap samplers and drum machines naturally evolved into an electronic/acoustic hybrid of music.


Said Alaska, “We sort of migrated from a post-modern interdisciplinary arts milieu into some kind of avant-garde anime stoner pop realm and are still straddling those worlds in our artistic expression.” Continue Reading →

December 6, 2012
by Laura Sterritt

Skrillex Quest: a Browser Game Homage to Zelda, 8-Bit, and Skrillex

From indie rock to hip hop to electronic music, browser-based games are becoming increasingly common extensions for musicians. The element of interactivity, inherently missing in traditionally distributed music, is a major benefit. These games offer the ability to build an actual world for fans to explore that is both easily distributable and accessible.

The most recent and very high quality venture into this realm is Skrillex Quest, an homage to The Legend of Zelda series and the Nintendo Entertainment System set to the music and themes of Skrillex’s work.

Skrillex is a highly successful electronic musician, who is often credited with taking dubstep mainstream in the United States. He has previously done music for various video games, and recently had a small cameo in the game-centric film Wreck-It Ralph, for which he also wrote a song.

Skrillex Quest can be played in any browser, but it runs more smoothly in the most up-to-date versions. After a loading period, the game begins, with title cards explaining that a game world has been damaged by dust getting into its video game cartridge, and is slowly corrupting. The dying king asks Player 1 to try and save their world, by venturing out and destroying “glitches,” which look like moving boxes of pixels.

It is very reminiscent of Zelda, which is of course the intent. Most of Skrillex’s fan base are young enough to have grown up entirely in the video game console age, and have played at least some edition in the series, even if it’s not the original NES game. A young man must save a princess and the world, often wandering the land alone, and occasionally meeting citizens or buying wares from local shops. These same concepts can be found in Skrillex Quest. The art is also purposefully reminiscent of the 8-bit style of earlier video games, yet rendered in very high quality, and dust in video game cartridges is a familiar curse to any former NES players.

Continue Reading →

September 25, 2012
by Laura Sterritt
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Soundplay: the Meeting of Music and Games

A transmedia campaign is only as good as its co-creators. Many originators—filmmakers, authors, musicians—are excellent at their art form, understanding how to use the medium to its best potential. Instead of forcing them to fumble through new and unknown platforms, it is much better to partner with creators who hold an expertise in those areas. These co-creators can advise and produce excellent extensions, fully utilizing the benefits of other platforms.

Co-creations can assist in other ways as well. Partnerships allow for budget sharing, spreading out the costs to allow for larger projects than the musician or record label may have been able to shoulder on their own. If these are innovative endeavors, with partners of significant clout, sponsorships are an additional possibility, allowing a third party to take on part or all of the budget in exchange for some branding or a few moments with the users.

This is the origins of Soundplay, a collection of browser-based games inspired by music. Pitchfork, a music website, partnered with Intel to commission independent game developers to create games for specific songs, often from albums that were about to be released. The games were produced by Pitchfork’s sister site, Kill Screen, a blog about videogame culture. The games range from very literal to totally abstract interpretations, acting as portals into new worlds for fans to explore the songs from the inside out.

“We Were You” was inspired by M83’s “Intro.” A young girl finds herself lost in a snowy land, and she must seek out the help of magical creatures to guide her home. The game incorporates some of the song’s lyrics into dialogue, as the mammoths and the tiger speak of the origins of the world and how it has come to be a wasteland. The game was designed by Jake Elliott, who was nominated for a Nuovo Award for “A House in California.” Continue Reading →

September 18, 2012
by Laura Sterritt

NYFF50: Adult Swim and the Power of Music Partnerships

I’m very happy to be hosting a conversation with Adult Swim’s Jason DeMarco at the New York Film Festival’s Convergence program on Saturday, September 29th! We will be discussing Adult Swim’s historic relationship with musicians and record labels, including Flying Lotus, El-P, Ghostly Records, and Stones Throw Records, and the numerous co-productions they have headed up.

Jason DeMarco is vice president of marketing and promotions for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.  In this role, DeMarco is responsible for cultivating brand building partnerships and developing promotional marketing programs that extend each network’s reach, visibility and brand messaging off-channel. Additionally, he oversees the development and execution of customized integrated promotions and sponsorships that drive revenues for Cartoon Network and Adult Swim’s Sales and Marketing efforts.

Adult Swim and the Power of Music Partnerships
Saturday, September 29th, 11AM
Film Society of Lincoln Center
New York, NY
Ticket sales 

September 5, 2012
by Laura Sterritt

The Lack of Narrative as Narrative

The basic concept of transmedia storytelling implies an ever presence across a multitude of spaces. This can appear daunting, especially to musicians who solely want to compose music or wish to maintain a low profile. Using social media or asserting oneself on other platforms is the antithesis of the private, elusive musician’s existence.

Yet at the very core of transmedia storytelling—or storytelling of any kind—is the need for narrative, content, and characters. Does this mean musicians who lack story are at a loss? No. The lack of narrative is a narrative. Crafting mythology through the controlled lack of information (or infusion of misinformation) is absolutely a storytelling method, and musicians are an excellent fit for it.

There are a number of artists who have leveraged this style to excite fans, drum up anticipation around their releases, and carry them through lulls in their careers. I believe the following musicians did this with varying degrees of conscious action, but I will operate under the assumption that each put some level of thought into this.

One method of fostering myth is by using evasion. Musicians agree to interviews or publicity, but end up turning questions around on the reporter, giving non sequitur answers, and going off on tangents or long-winded stories. Tom Waits is perhaps the most classic and long-running master of elusion. His early interviews are full of dodging, either avoiding the questions outright or giving outrageous, nonsensical replies.

Later in his career, interviews became more intermittent, yet still mystifying and intriguing. His public performances have also become sparse, and mere rumors of concerts spark heavy anticipation. An e-mail sent in July from Epitaph Records titled “Tom Waits: Permission to Come Aboard?” consisted solely of a photo of Waits wearing an eye patch and wielding a cutlass, with “Coming August 7” written across it. It whipped press and his fanbase into a frenzy: is it a new album? A tour announcement? (It was a music video.) Few artists command that kind of power that is born of sparsity. Continue Reading →