Remember back to when you bought your first record or CD - the thrill of the purchase, the anticipation of unwrapping and putting it on for the first time, listening to it in its entirety. Then seemingly overnight MP3 and the iPods entered the realm of music and then almost as suddenly, streaming services took over. We take a look at bands and artists redefining music releases and combining music, art, print and technology.
For Forward Thinking month this April, we're taking a look at how fashion, music and technologies are being shaped, twisted and entwined in todays world. This week we dive into the future of music - exploring the concept of music as no longer a stand alone medium. Bands have for years now felt the pressure to do more than put out an album in order to stand out. As album sales diminished, bands couldn't rely on hard products anymore. The media and internet age moves faster than a spinning needle so it became imperative for bands to be creative in their launches - not to mention their ability to keep audiences engaged long enough. It's about the added extras today as you'd say.
It's no new concept. Bands and artists have been using digital platforms to enhance their music listening experience for years with the demise of the hard album. It's become a competitive place out there to peek out among the crap. You've got U2 who teamed up with Apple in 2004 to release a special edition iPod that came pre-loaded with U2’s full discography, then Nine inch Nails released their 2007 album Year Zero with an “alternative reality game” that contained clues about the content of the record. Then of course there's Radiohead with their infamous 2007 In Rainbows pay as you want release - redefining the cost of music.
We look at some of the artists who are taking their music to the next level today with the help of technology, art and print.
Bjork - Biophilia and Vulnicura Apps
Bjork released her Biophilia app in 2012 - an interactive album which became the first downloadable app to be included in the permanent collection at MOMA. As the description on iTunes states "Biophilia is an extraordinary and innovative multimedia exploration of music, nature and technology by the musician Björk. Comprising a suite of original music and interactive, educational artworks and musical artifacts, Biophilia is released as ten in-app experiences that are accessed as you fly through a three-dimensional galaxy that accompanies the album’s theme song Cosmogony. All of the album’s songs are available inside Biophilia as interactive experiences: Crystalline, Virus, Moon, Thunderbolt, Sacrifice, Mutual Core, Hollow, Solstice, and Dark Matter." Bjork also turned her 2015 album Vulnicura into a virtual reality album - always ahead of the game.
Passion Pit - Gossamer App
Gossamer, the 2012 app “EP” features two songs with each song to be experienced in two modes - one is an interactive music video, where the sequencing of graphics, animation, and photographs by Mark Borthwick are different every time. And if you touch the screen you make your own unique music video. The "remixer is the second mode which allows users to create their own music with Passion Pit’s raw material. For example users can create new melodies on top of a backing tracks, or turn off and on parts of the song via touch tiles, or others can be looped or have synth notes added.
Jay Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail App
Before Jay-Z set up Tidal streaming services, he joined forces with Samsung to release his album Magna Carta Holy Grail. Samsung bought one million digital copies of Jay Z’s album to distribute to users of certain Samsung smartphones and tablets however the app came under scrutiny for privacy issues in 2013.
Lady Gaga - Artpop App
Gaga's app release for her 2013 album under the same name is centralised around the idea of “the auras,” which is the community of users within the app. It's a combination of music, social networking and GIF creation where you can even see when Gaga herself has viewed your creations.
Radiohead - PolyFauna App
In a similar tone to Bjork, Radiohead released PolyFauna in 2014 as a visual, educational, collaborative app. "It comes from an interest in early computer-life experiments and the imagined creatures of our subconscious," Tom Yorke stated. The description on iTunes reads, "Your screen is the window into an evolving world. Move around to look around. You can follow the portal. You can wear headphones."
Brian Eno - Scape and Reflection Apps
Eno is a mastermind when it comes to melding music and technology. In 2012 he developed the app Scape, which offers users deep access to its musical elements. It makes music that thinks for itself. The musical elements can be endlessly recombined to behave intelligently: reacting to each other, changing mood together, making new sonic spaces.
Last year Eno also released the Reflection App and as he described - "REFLECTION is the most recent of my Ambient experiments and represents the most sophisticated of them so far. My original intention with Ambient music was to make endless music, music that would be there as long as you wanted it to be. I wanted also that this music would unfold differently all the time - ‘like sitting by a river’: it’s always the same river, but it’s always changing. But recordings - whether vinyl, cassette or CD - are limited in length, and replay identically each time you listen to them. So in the past I was limited to making the systems which make the music, but then recording 30 minutes or an hour and releasing that. REFLECTION in its album form - on vinyl or CD - is like this. But the app by which REFLECTION is produced is not restricted: it creates an endless and endlessly changing version of the piece of music.”
Beyoncé - Lemonade Visual Album
If you haven't heard yet about Lemonade, close this tab and walk away. We don't have time to be dealing with you people living under rocks. Lemonade was the event of 2016 among pop fans. Hell it may have had more views than Trumps inauguration. A visual album, featuring a mass of talented musicians and celebrities alike. Televised as a big HBO event and originally available only through her co-owned streaming service Tidal with Jay, it was later dropped as a CD for those that didn't want to sign up to stream.
Frank Ocean -Boys Don't Cry Magazine and Endless visual album
Soon after the hype of Lemonade calmed down, the internet was up in arms again over the 'will he, wont he' debate surrounding Frank Ocean. The mystery man himself leaving clues across the web about impending new music - the first since his 2007 Channel Orange release. Ocean really stood out on his own with this one. He dropped Endless - an visual album under sony records then releasing himself from some sub clause in his contract with Sony, he dropped Blonde the next day on his own followed by 'Boys Don't Cry' - his album magazine. And yes, we lapped it all up.
Brit trio/ Mercury Prize winners Alt J are due to drop their third album Relaxer June 9, the band’s first new release since This Is All Yours in 2014. With the release of the new material, the band also dropped a new web game through their website - soundtracked by their recent song “3WW.” The game puts the player in the first-person perspective, and allows players to walk around a dark, low-resolution environment as the song plays. Running into specific characters will trigger photos of the band to be displayed.
Gorillaz VR Augmented Reality App, Lenz App and Upcoming TV Series
Gorillaz just released their new mobile app for forthcoming album Humanz (out April 28). The app uses augmented reality technology to superimpose elements from their recent music videos into the user’s surroundings via the smartphone camera. You can also get playlist by band members and explore the band’s old studio in Essex. Available to download on iPhone and Android. The band also announced a global listening party for new album “Fans will be invited - via the app - to the Humanz House Party, an exclusive worldwide listening event which will allow fans to hear the new album in full for the first time,” a press release reads. “The Humanz House Party will be the largest ever geo-specific listening experience bringing people together across 500 locations.”
At the same time the band have joined with Telekom Electronic Beats for The Lenz app where the user can discover hidden Gorillaz content by pointing the camera at anything magenta - yes the colour. Telekom also hosted the band’s first-ever live interview on its YouTube page on Thursday, April 20. Eastern, Murdoc Niccals and 2D spoke with BBC Radio 1 DJ and host MistaJam to answer a bunch of fan questions.
If that wasn't enough, Jamie Hewlett, the illustrator half of Gorillaz, announced recently that he's working on a 10-episode TV series about the band. The Gorillaz cartoons are getting their very own god damn show finally!
Sigur Ros - Candies
On a sweeter note (and not technology based) Icelandic kooks Sigur Ros have just released their very own weed Candy to try and lure the sweeter-toothed fans in. Whether it's working or not yet we don't have enough evidence.
So what's next huh? Honestly we'd love if someone teamed up with Elon Musk at SpaceX to combine an album and rocket launch for some lucky fans... but until that happens we look forward to exploring the virtual reality music scene as it's now become.
Join the discussion below on what you think is happening to the music industry, future trends you think will take off and any other creative ways bands are releasing music and merging industries today.