The Democratization Of Music

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While technology has already enabled a new generation of musicians to create and share their art without the constraints (and costs and, er, profits) of traditional music distribution, it could be about to change the way we listen to it, too.

MTV plans to launch Rock Band Network later this year, which will let musicians create video game versions of their songs. Such games, also offered by a better-known competitor called "Guitar Hero," let players tap buttons on faux instruments to control how songs are played; tap poorly, and the guitar part won’t be audible, or will just sound band; match the actual vocal on the track with your singing, and you accrue more points.

Think of it as a middle-ground between creating a song, and simply listening to it. Anyone can be a co-creator of music.

The novelty of Rock Band Network is that the tracks will be rendered for any band (willing to pay, and then forsake 2/3 of any profit), and can be distributed via the Internet. Guitar Hero is busy bringing legendary rockers like Aerosmith and van Halen into the 21st Century by repurposing their catalogs. Rock Band Network will let anybodycreate a game.

I don’t know what kind of functionality they’ll include in the service, or how it’ll get rolled-out, but just imagine:

  • Songs have multiple layers, or versions, which are consumer-controlled. Play well and unlock new guitar solos, or opt for keyboard-only renditions. Everything costs extra
  • Bands release alternate versions of songs as a marketing research activity; get players to rate versions for future release. I bet rabid fans would pay for the privilege
  • Songs themselves are shipped locked, so players literally discover tracks as they learn to play them

There could be applications in concert venues, too, that somehow gave audiences the tools to modify or otherwise interact with live performances. Different “played versions” of songs could create multiple sales opportunities for the same basic tracks. Purchase on one track might be dependent on one or more others, thereby creating incentives for purchasing entire albums.

It would take a really big name in music to prove this concept has any legs, and it might not. But I think changing the way consumers experience music, and not just fiddling with (or bemoaning) digital distribution, is a big idea. 

So is democratizing the way those experiences are created.

The Bulb Asks:

  • How much of your brand gets completed by your consumers?
  • If they’re interacting with, aren’t they changing it?
  • Could delivery be a strategy more important than content itself?

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