Transmedia + Music

Passion Pit’s “Gossamer” App


Music apps continue to be at the forefront of innovation for musicians. Björk’s Biophilia app album and The Polyphonic Spree’s Bullseye app were both beautiful and immersive, allowing for expression on the musician’s end and engagement for the fan. Biophilia truly set the bar for future endeavors, so I was excited to see its architect, Scott Snibbe, had directed Passion Pit’s new app, Gossamer.

The app was released on July 18th, in support of the band’s second album debuting the same week. It features two songs, each of which have two interactive modes. The first option is the interactive music video for “Take a Walk.” Users listen to the song while creating a unique visualizer, mixing and revealing different images through window-like panes.

Snibbe explained to, “The imagery for the app is all based on a bubble-like diagram that’s technically called a ‘Voronoi’ Diagram…We chose it for this app because the first song, ‘Take a Walk’ is about the financial bubble, and the hangover healing process coming out of it, so I thought this fragmented bubble imagery fit both metaphorically and psychologically.” Visually manifesting the message of the song is key for this type of transmedia extension.

The second application of “Take a Walk,” this time just the instrumental version, allows the user to create similar shapes with their fingertips. As the song plays, a bar moves across the lines on the screen and, depending on the length or placement of the lines, changes the melody, allowing the user to manipulate an element of the song.

There are two similar functions for “Carried Away,” the second song. It has the same style of interactive music video as “Take a Walk,” except with different images.

However, it also has the most exciting section of the “Gossamer” app: a remixer with the different segments of the song clearly partitioned out. The user can pick and choose between continuous loops for the background, and then improvise other notes over them. The app offers a helpful diagram to show you what each shape triggers. There is no time limit such as the length of the original song, so the user can play for as long as they like.

It is this true co-creation in the “Carried Away” remixer that seems to be a missed opportunity in the other functions. For instance, it is interesting to play with one set of beautiful photos provided by Mark Borthwick. His artwork was used for the traditional album release, so this inclusion helps immerse the fan in the band’s chosen aesthetic.

However, wouldn’t it have been interesting to allow the user to supply their own photos for the second video, “Carried Away”? The user could select ten photos from the gallery on their device, and load them into the app. Then, using the same style of Voronoi tiles, they could touch and play with their own memories to the sounds of Passion Pit. This act of co-creation would emotionally bond the listener closer to the music by marrying it to their visuals and related emotions.

The user is already able to interact with and, to some extent, remix the content of the songs. While this is definitely fun, the user is unable to record any of these compositions to share with friends. The same could be said of the music videos being created. There is an ability to “Share” to Twitter, Facebook, etc., but it only allows for screenshots. A screenshot certainly does not do justice to the app, nor does it allow the user to share their actual creations with their friends.

I believe that by being able to record and archive creations, this function would benefit both the user and the app creators. By allowing them to save, users will invest more in their pieces of work, both by using their own materials and by being able to share their accomplishments with friends. Playing a good remix for yourself is fun, but being able to record it, even as a simple low quality mp3, to receive praise from peers has a longer lasting positive effect. Creating a space where users could archive their pieces and compete with others would encourage them to spend more time in the app, creating and honing multiple versions.

Nine Inch Nails has taken to releasing the multitrack files of their recent work for free, to encourage fans to remix however they wish. The website even allows registered users to upload songs under their chosen screen name, which can be rated by other remixers. This really validates fans who take the time to invest themselves in these works they have created. Fan validation is crucial for any successful artist participating in social media.

As for the musicians and app producers, the shareability is incredibly valuable for gaining new users, and thus, new fans for the musicians. I may not know who Passion Pit is, but if I saw a friend slotting their photos in a music video or showing off a remix they made, I would be very interested in purchasing the app. By making the functions of the app desirable, non-fans will be willing to give it a go, thus widening the customer base. As they play with the music video and remix function, they will be exposed to Passion Pit’s music repeatedly, tying it to their creative fulfillment and turning many of them into new fans.

All in all, Gossamer is a great app for current fans who already love Passion Pit’s music, but with the right tweaks, it could become something more: a fan converter.

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