Berklee today

JUN 2012

Berklee today is the official alumni publication of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. It is a forum for contemporary music and musicians.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 24 of 47

even before we do. At other times, I can remix the band before it gets to the front-of-house engineer, so these apps are really an integral part of the performance." Snibbe notes that the critical reaction to Biophilia has been enthusiastic. "The critics have really responded to this," he says. "A number of reviewers said they hadn't felt this fully engaged with an album in 20 years." One artist who has taken the concept of listener interac- tion even further is Washington, D.C.-based electro-pop outfit Bluebrain. The group's app The National Mall is touted as the "first location-aware album" and mixes different samples for the listener as he or she moves through the National Mall. Band member Ryan Holladay explains how the group har- nessed the technology of video games to create the work. "We used a video-game engine that makes sounds fade in and out as a character moves closer or farther from game assets," Holladay says. "We replaced game sounds with musi- cal motifs, and replaced game locations with real-world coor- dinates using the iPhone's built-in GPS information. It's not that revolutionary technologically speaking, but now we have the ability to do it in the real world, so we made an artistic, musical mapping rather than one which is based on game objectives." New Considerations High levels of user input raise questions about artistic authenticity such as these: How much of the work is the artist's? How much is the listener's? Who is really in con- trol? "That's the challenge," Holladay says. "When The Washington Post reviewed The National Mall, there was a route that I really wanted them to take because I knew it would sound good. But that would have gone against the point of the experience. A music reviewer can say they've listened to the new Katy Perry CD because they've heard it from the first track to the last, but nobody's heard The National Mall in its entirety, and no one experience is more valid than another. We're challenging how people consume music, and challenging ourselves as artists by forfeiting certain elements of control. I don't even know that I'm fully comfortable with that yet myself." This explosion of additional content—videos, interactive instruments, games, text—has obvious implications for pro- duction budgets. While major studios may be able to accom- modate those costs, they can present significant challenges to independent artists. "The brother of one of our band members is a develop- er," Lau says. "So we partnered with him. We own the rights Making Apps Biophilia Björk's set of apps within apps allows listeners to engage with the artist's music through mul- tiple senses (see http://itunes. biophilia/id434122935?mt=8). Singer Björk and Scott Snibbe, lead developer for Biophilia to the music, but he owns the code." Bluebrain adopted a similar model. "When major studios do this," Webber says, "they're likely to pay developers on a work-for-hire basis. But independent artists will probably have to find other arrangements." That's not to say that established artists won't also team up with computer programmers. "All of the developers on Biophilia worked for equity," Snibbe says. "So we enjoy a share in the profits. Actually, I would counsel everyone to work this way. You get a much better product when everyone has a stake in it." Webber suspects that this model could have far-reaching cultural implications. "This could change our concept of what it means to be 'in a band,'" he says. "The term band could come to mean something more like an artistic consortium, sort of like a theater company. Some members might write songs or sing or play instruments, some create video content, and still others program computers." Of course, all these developments will necessitate chang- es in the way music is paid for and licensed. Artists like Björk are changing the artistic model, moving from albums to apps, but following a familiar business model in which the listener pays for the product. Biophilia is priced at $12.99, though users can purchase the individual song apps for $2.99 apiece. Artists such as Modern Children are offering their songs for free in the app, while Adele's app only previews the song for users and provides a link to purchase the full track. Soulwax, a rock-electronica band from Belgium, found its efforts to release an app of its songs hamstrung by the byzantine licensing requirements concerning the many samples the group uses in its performances. To circumvent this, Soulwax purchased an Internet radio license, and while the group cannot sell its music, it can reach a worldwide audience 24/7. Things are changing on the retail side as well. Companies like iJukebox have created free apps with which customers can request songs to be played at their favorite cafés or stores. These apps provide a way for artists to reach listeners in various venues without labels, jukeboxes, or any of the intermediary vendors who have at turns built and bur- dened the music industry. For all the predictions, these artists and many more are experimenting to find what works for them. The next decade in the music industry is likely to be exciting, unpredictable, and above all, interactive. Writer and musician Adam Renn Olenn is the Web producer for Berklee's Office of Institutional Advancement. Hays and Ryan Holladay of Bluebrain create location-aware music. Spring 2012 23 The National Mall Washington D.C.-based com- posers Bluebrain released The National Mall, the first location- aware app (see http://itunes. by-bluebrain/id437754072?mt=8). Central Park (Listen to the Light) The band's follow-up location- aware album makes a stage of Central Park (see http:// central-park-listen-to-light/ id468193258?mt=8). Modern Children The free app features the songs from the group's album, band information, and interactive musi- cal instruments (see http://itunes. children/id478677132?mt=8). iJukebox The iJukebox app allows patrons to choose music that plays in par- ticipating bars or restaurants via a smartphone (see http://itunes. id400654246?mt=8). Create Your Own App Popular providers' template- based app developments include the following: • Mobile Roadie: www.Mobile • Mob Base: • ShoutEm: • AppBand: App-for-Bands.aspx • Andromo:

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Berklee today - JUN 2012