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So What If You Can’t Afford an Interactive Music Video like Arcade Fire’s?

by Sasha Lee on September 2, 2010 · 4 comments

All week, people have been abuzz over the Arcade Fire’s spectacular interactive music video project, “The Wilderness Downtown,” the latest example of a band using cutting-edge web technology to provide a totally customized, connective experience.

Upon visiting the site, users are prompted to enter the address of the house they grew up in, and what ensues is a customized film playing in multiple choreographed browser windows, set to the band’s song, “We Used to Wait.” Some windows depict standard graphics and video clips of the film’s protagonist running, while others (and this is the most amazing part) depict actual photographs of your childhood address, sourced from Google Maps.

Towards the end, users are even asked to write or draw a postcard to their “younger self,” which will be used as projections during actual Arcade Fire concerts.

The video is designed to show off the latest version of Google’s browser, Chrome, and like Lissie’s “Cuckoo” and Black Moth Super Rainbow‘s trippy “Dark Bubbles,” points to the future of artist marketing. And it’s all just a bunch of coding, right? No renting sound stages or expensive camera crews like the old days, right? Where do I sign up?

Actually, it’s more complicated than that. According to Anita Fontaine, who creates custom interactive music videos through her own agency Champagne Valentine with her creative partner, Geoff Lillemon, the coding ideas are just the beginning.

“To really make something special the budget has to be reasonable because of the amount of people involved,” Fontaine says.

What does she mean by reasonable? “Anything from 20K upwards.”

The uniqueness of each project also means a lot of work put in by a lot of people. “Champagne Valentine worked on an interactive music video for Placebo last year and it turned out quite epic. Nobody on the project had a life for two and a half months.”

But if you don’t have a budget in the tens of thousands for this kind of online marketing, how is average joe supposed to capitalize on this explosion of technology-driven possibilities?

Jarret Myer, founder of influential record label Rawkus Records, and current creative mind behind Uproxx, a highly successful viral blog network, sees this technology explosion differently. “It’s great to have some fancy, cutting-edge marketing, as it gives artists a leg up amongst densely competing media,” Myer says. “But, often laser focusing on the basics will do.”

For example, OK Go’s viral video sensation for the single “Here It Goes Again,” the video that catapulted them to national prominence, was created using a home video camera, four treadmills, and some outrageous choreographed dance moves.

Or, on an even smaller scale, a musician friend of mine, Brett Detar, asked his fans via Facebook what format his next album should be in. He got hundreds of responses – his fans loved the fact they they were somehow creatively involved.

Myer went on to give some other great tips on how artists these days can tap into music video technology and networking:

  • Set up YouTube and Vimeo channels and make tons of videos! Don’t wait to make videos! Make them now, and make a lot of them, with whatever is at your disposal. People like authentic. A video of you singing to your cat in the shower could get 500k views!
  • Become friends with other musicians and promote each other on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Vimeo.

Sure, a vid of you singing to your cat in the shower that you film on a flip cam is not the same as a totally customized interactive music video, but the key lesson to be learned from Arcade Fire’s dazzling spectacle is that, in the music industry, innovation is what drives success.

The possibilities are as limitless as the imagination, so why not take this ethos and find budget-friendly ways to get yourself out there?

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