Commentary

Are Apps the New Music Video?

WilliApps

When MTV launched oh so many years ago, the genuine revolution in music creation and consumption opened with the Buggles' catchy and clever "Video Killed the Radio Star." The self-styled launch of a new model for music video apps arrived this week with a much less promising ante -- the Black-Eyed Peas' BEP360. I admit that I am the last one to criticize anyone's musical taste. My family complains regularly that I have to revise the playlist on the iPod that runs through the car stereo, "because the Keith Richards' guitar opening to 'Street Fighting Man' stopped being cool fifty plays ago," they like to say. "There has been a lot of good music made in the last four decades, Dad."

Yeah, okay, but BEP's "The Time (Dirty Bit)" is not among the classics I have missed. That single and video form the core of band member will.i.am's BEP360 app for iPhone/iPod and iPad. Purporting to represent the next stage in music video formats and distribution, the app has a 360-degree view music video. That means that the apps use the internal compass on the iOS devices to let you shift the view on the video as it plays to give the viewer a kind of surround screen effect.

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One can imagine the effect being put to creative use, while that isn't the case here. Generally we just get multiple screens of the BEP crew singing their parts and different views of the obligatory dancing crowd. A couple of twists of the iPhone or iPad and you see about all that is interesting to see. But imagine if one of the more creative narrative-driven videos of old were done with the 360-effect. We could see characters reacting to new people come into the room and then swivel our view to see what they are seeing?

The BEP360 app, which sells for $2.99, is less apt to redefine the music video than it is to open a new mode for artist singles. This first production from will.i.am's will.i.apps media company pours other media into the mix that creates a more convincing, value-added single. The iPhone app has an augmented reality component that you aim at BEP's latest record cover to see a dancing will.i.am cartoon superimposed on the scene. The 360 effect is used to show a photo shoot of the BEP members. A BEP Twitter feed aggregates the postings from the band members. And you can access user-uploaded geo-tagged images made from the app by others via a globe interface. The app execution is neater than the music video at its core. The app demonstrates one way that the music industry can start leveraging the technology to deliver more engagement and value to fans.

Now if they could just start making good music.

3 comments about "Are Apps the New Music Video? ".
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  1. John Capone from Whalebone, January 25, 2011 at 11:42 a.m.

    Keith Richard's opening riffs in "Street Fighting Man" has never stopped being cool, and it never will.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 25, 2011 at 3:04 p.m.

    I like music from this century and listen to pop music all the time, despite my advanced age. Unfortunately, BEP is one of a handful of modern groups that find me diving for the station buttons in my car. I will not be watching the Super Bowl halftime show this year. I've got no problem with Ke$ha or Katy Perry or Bruno Mars, but no peas, please.

  3. Bob Kiger from Videography Lab, January 25, 2011 at 11:42 p.m.

    As president of the original Videography Studios I was in the room in Century City in 1979 when Les Garland and a bunch of other programming types laid out the plan for MTV. Michael Nesmith was there as well and he already had a great music-video album called "Elephant Parts".

    We were all quite excited because we foresaw, for the first time in history, that videographers could become rich and famous by actually creating "Content" that the public would buy . . . sort of like rock & roll artists sold records.

    Years turned into decades and the market for music-video art never came to pass. Oh sure . . . we got paid some money for producing music-videos for Ric James, Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind and Fire and others, but those were not our creative property. They were promotion for recording artists.

    The world may never know what great creative works could have been made because now everybody just copies stuff and there is no consumer market for video art!

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