Part 2: An Insider Looks At The R.E.M. Web Campaign
The web provides a confusing array of opportunities for artists and labels. But Ethan Kaplan and his team at Warner Brothers Records are doing a great job of sorting it all out and one of the biggest beneficiaries has been R.E.M. In Part 2 of this two part series, Ethan shares four more of the six sites that were created for the current R.E.M. campaign. You can read Part 1 here.
SupernaturalSuperserious.com – For the first video, the band decided again to do a "more is more" approach to the video. Being that the video medium is "dead" in Stipe’s view, the band shot in the end 11 videos for the song and used the website to present all of them in a grid. The videos were a mix of in studio shots, an edited piece, acoustic pieces shot around New York City and one final "Lyric" video that consisted only of a closeup of the official lyrics. All versions were available online in HD format and fans were encouraged to edit their own videos and post them to YouTube. In the end, one of the submissions ended up being sent to VH1 for broadcast in lieu of the official video.
REMAccelerate – REM Accelerate was a special album site devoted to…
aggregating all content about the record from a variety of sources. We
aimed it to be a one-stop-shop of information given that we had
information in so many places (including Murmurs.com, REMhq.com, etc).
REMHQ Tour – The popularity of
YouTube clips and twitters from the REM Dublin shows and the staggering
amount of twittering that went on during R.E.M.’s SXSW set lead the
band to want to make a site that aggregated all types of user generated
content for each show on their world tour. Using the Drupal platform
that WBR is on, the tour.remhq.com site aggregates all specifically
tagged Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and blog posts for each show. Each show
has a specific tag that is at times referenced from the stage. All
told, we’ve had over 3000 items submitted through this site in near
real-time in some cases.
Hollowman.tv – The video for
the second single off Accelerate, Hollowman, contained an animated
character known as the "avatar". During the tour, the band had live
video remixed on the backdrop of the stage. Hollowman.tv invited a
merging of these worlds, where fans would take a picture of one of the
animated poses for the Hollowman and submit it. Those were in turn
layered and animated and thereafter shown on the backdrop of the stage
during the encore break.
The Future –
The R.E.M. campaign provided an interesting opportunity to explore the
intersection of art, technology and music in a dynamic means, given
that we had a band that was willing to experiment, and a great record
to experiment with.
Technologically, everything done for this record is reproducible en
masse given the nature of the Drupal framework and how WBR uses it. The
tour site has proved a great paradigm to be replicated for other
concerts, and the video remix proved the viability of open-sourced art
as a means of generating buzz, fan involvement and artistry.
The beauty of all of this of course is that none of this would have
been possible ten years ago. While people cry for the old days of the
music business, I find it exciting that we can experiment so willingly
and easily (and cost effectively) with technology. The very technology
people say would be the death of the industry is the very technology
which provided REM and WBR the ability to stretch our boundaries, help
a band reinvent themselves and drive our efforts forward in an easily
Music isn’t a single line to product anymore, and 6 websites, over 3000
different content items and hundreds of thousands of visitors prove
Thanks of course to all of R.E.M. (especially Michael Stipe and Bertis Downs, the two creative and idea forces around these), their office staff, Damien Schaefer at Herosion design, Blue Leech and the WBR
R.E.M. team (Jeremy Welt, Peter Standish, Devin Sarno, Brian Bumbery and Jeff Watson) for the efforts around these sites.