Music Marketing

An Insider’s Look At The R.E.M. Web Campaign

GUEST POST: Ethan Kaplan
VP Technology Warner Brothers Records

Part 1 (Read Part 2 here.) It’s no secret of course that the record industry is in a major state of transition. There has been discussion after discussion, not to mention startup after startup trying to capitalize and push this transition forward. However, where this transition is transpiring most is within the companies who’s legacy and future is dependent on the transition taking place.

I am the VP of Technology at Warner Bros. Records, which is the equivalent, in the valley, of a CTO. My entire day to day operations for myself and the Technology Department is the invention, development, implementation and on-going maintenance of the future of the business. That is a bit hyperbolic, but mostly accurate.

Since this is a guest post, I won’t duplicate content otherwise found on the blog, but instead want to talk about a campaign that we just did that outlined some ways we’re addressing the way that music and fanaticism and capitalism associated with content is moving.

R.E.M. is a band close to my heart, as I’ve been friends with them, and worked with them for nearly half my life. After a string of disappointing releases (one artistically, all three commercially), the band decided to regroup and refocus…

as a band on the very thing that made them R.E.M.: focusing as a band!
R.E.M. were and are a true "band" in that the sum of their parts more
than exceeds their efforts individually. Its rare to find a band which
is so in sync, tight and succinct on stage and in studio.

After the R.E.M. Hall of Fame induction, their manager Bertis Downs
approached us with the idea that band was going to do: rehearse the new
record during recording in Dublin.

In May, I visited the band in the studio in Vancouver and the initial
phases of what would become the "Accelerate Web Plan" as it were
conspired. Over the course of the next year, the band in collaboration
with Warner Bros. Records created six different websites and subsites
before and after the release of Accelerate. – Devised as a means of allowing "wiki" style
collaboration for all attendees to R.E.M.’s 5 night residency at
Dublin’s Olympia Theater. We did the site in the Drupal CMS, which is
the foundation of WBR’s infrastructure. The site turned into a means
for fans to communicate between shows, as well as a way for the band to
highlight fan created content. Michael Stipe encouraged people to
photograph and videotape the shows from the stage, which lead to a
moment where R.E.M. had 7 videos on the YouTube top 100 Music Videos
for the week.
– During the course of recording, R.E.M had Vincent Moon
shoot footage at the Olympia show and during recording in Athens, GA
and mixing in London. Out of this footage would come a documentary, but
Michael Stipe also had the idea of extending the footage into an
interactive experience. In 2007, Stipe had a site where every day he
posted a photo ( Ninetynights continued in this
vein with video for the 90 days from January 1 to April 1. The clips
were abstract at first, and collectively formed a narrative when viewed
as a whole. To make the experience more temporal, a HD quality download
was available for only one day, and the next day the clips were
archived as streaming high quality Flash videos, encouraging remixing
on YouTube.

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