While the definition of transmedia may be debated eternally, it is safe to say that establishing a two-way street with consumers is crucial to a transmedia campaign. An aspect of immersion is being able to interact with and react to the content around you. This has become phenomenally easier with the proliferation of new media, with fans now able to respond to musicians instantly, potentially initiating a dialogue between themselves and the artist.
Flying Lotus, an innovative figure in electronic music right now, has made a conscious effort to incorporate new media into his art. As a musician who comfortably crosses genres, he seems to just as naturally cross platforms. Having gotten his initial start on television with Adult Swim, he has since turned to the Internet to create new extensions for his music.
DESTROY AND ATTACK: ONLINE GAMES
Flying Lotus’ first use of interactive media was two browser-based games, based around the cover art of two music releases, Reset and Los Angeles. The games serve two purposes: calling back to his themes and appealing to the fanbase. He has made his love of retro video games well known by including clips and samples of old games in his music and describing them as influences in interviews. Using online games allows for Flying Lotus to present an interest not fitting for his usual outlet of recorded music.
The games also wisely appeal to his core audience of late teens to thirties, people who often had arcade and console games woven into their childhood. The browser games may appear clunky, but they were built this way to specifically ignite the emotional relationship many of his fans have with classic video games. Allowing them to align those feelings with Flying Lotus, by including visual references and a special soundtrack, tie them closer to his music.
FIELDLINES: AUGMENTED REALITY APP
In preparation for the release of his album Cosmogramma, Flying Lotus released a free augmented reality app for webcams. The program allowed the user to play with the cover art for the album, using their own motion to move small balls across the lines in the image. As the balls move, harp and choral music plays, manipulated by the speed and direction the balls are rolling in.
Fans are, in a sense, touching the art, which is a remarkable feat in music. It also allows them to manipulate a familiar song from the album. This type of interaction adds an element of emotional connection that builds off of what’s already been established in the music, strengthening the fans’ bonds.
KILL YOUR CO-WORKERS: DOWNLOADABLE 3D MODELS
Flying Lotus’ film background is evident in his choice of music video collaborators. For his song, “Kill Your Co-Workers,” he employed animator Beeple to create a CGI video filled with 3D characters. As a means of including viewers, the source 3D models were made freely available for download. Fans were encouraged to use the characters in their work to create new stories of their own.
Giving fans the means with which to respond to music is very powerful. It provides them with official materials, taking away barriers to entry and allowing more people to participate. It gives them a sanctioned space or channel, which adds value to their content and recognition of their hard work. Validating a listener’s dedication to a musician and their art can easily evolve a fan from casual to loyal.
TRIGGER: ALTERNATE TAKES APP
As noted in many reviews of Cosmogramma, his most recent album has a jazz influence to it. In this web cam app, Flying Lotus explained,
“I’m really into old jazz traditions and I felt Cosmogramma was my jazz record in a sense. In that spirit, for anyone who’s bought the album, we’ve made something they can use to get new tracks and alternate takes from the original Cosmogramma sessions as a gift from us. We’re making a big fuss…”
After allowing the website to turn on one’s webcam, the user holds up their purchased CD, vinyl, or MP3 album’s printed-out booklet and the program validates the image. The user can then download free alternate takes to the album’s official songs.
This is a creative and light-hearted way to reward listeners who purchased the album as opposed to illegally downloading it. It is an unavoidable reality that almost all recorded music is available online for free with enough searching. Acknowledging that listeners have instead chosen to honorably purchase your music will encourage them to continue to fiscally support you.
This type of two-way relationship, that makes room for interaction and response, is now necessary for musicians to financially survive in the current industry. There are certainly a few exceptions, mostly titans of music who established their mythos long ago. I will never expect Tom Waits or Kate Bush to tweet with listeners about influential films or release raw files of their music for people to reinterpret, and I don’t think their fans want them to either.
But giving fans the tools, venues, and validation to play and respond binds them to the content, in this case, the music. This is crucial for new musicians who are trying to found a solid fanbase, and established musicians who are trying to sustain the support they have already accrued.
The extensions listed above are a great example of a young musician experimenting with new media. When the Fieldlines app was released, I sent the link to every music fan I could think of. A few later told me they went on to explore his discography and become fans. This was rewarding for me, my friends, and of course, Flying Lotus.
Nine Inch Nails is the perfect example of an established musician employing new media to keep long time fans dedicated. Trent Reznor heavily used Twitter to establish a direct dialogue with fans, incorporated an extensive social network into the NIN website, released raw files of songs for fan remixes, and helped create one of the most well known alternate reality games of all time. All of these elements further entrenched his fans in his art, sustaining their interest between releases and even after the band’s “retirement.”
While some musicians may feel uncomfortable establishing an online presence, feeling it may destroy the mystique or compromise their work, the examples above clearly show how new media can be employed in a way that preserves the artistic message, gives it life in a new and distinctive way, and allows fans the opportunity to participate and respond. Surely there is nothing greater for an artist than an expression that benefits both the creator and the admirer!