SoundCloud recently released Story Wheel, an app for creating a slideshow using Instragram pics and audio via SoundCloud. It's an interesting webtool with a lot of potential for music marketing involving storytelling. Though they will be connecting Story Wheel to additional services, the creators are insistent on maintaining a retro feel via Instagram's use of filters. The combined limitations of retro pics and talking can either be used to create something one might not otherwise think of creating or to be pushed against to give a different look and sound to stick out as more people produce Story Wheel shows.
Story Wheel was recently released via SoundCloud Labs to celebrate SoundCloud reaching the 10 million user mark. However, it was a project in progress that happened to coincide with that milestone rather than something created with that point in mind. Story Wheel was initially unveiled at Boston Music Hack Day 2011 as Carousel
In discussions about "creating an online slide show with sound and voice recordings incorporated," developer Johannes Wagener was inspired by a Mad Men episode in which character Don Draper discusses nostalgia as he uses a slideshow in a pitch to clients. This retro interest lead to using Instagram, noted for its filters, to combine with audio via SoundCloud's tech. Given that SoundCloud is pushing to move beyond music, Story Wheel also ties into their longer term business strategy.
The approach also ties it to narration. As you can see in this YouTube demo by Susana Medina (it's in Spanish but operation of app begins around 2:15), one logs into Instagram, picks pictures and then starts talking into a mic as one goes from picture to picture. The result of Medina's work is this slideshow.
More developments are planned, such as an integration with Facebook, but the constraints will remain to force the retro feel. No mention yet of an embed which is unfortunate.
For those already using Instagram as a music marketing tool, certain uses are immediately obvious. Given the range of stories any musician should be able to tell, from their own history to the story behind a song to events on a specific tour, the core product is good to go. Another possibility might be a fan contest featuring stories told by fans about particular shows.
There's no need to be limited by the designers' desires. For example, one could use one's audio input for playing music and create a slideshow to go with a song. Given that Instagram filters can also be used for creative effects that aren't retro, oddly colored or abstract images could be used. For example, someone creating psychedelic or ambient music could probably have a fairly easy time of creating a Story Wheel that moves beyond the developers' intent.
One thing to keep in mind, if you're using Story Wheel to reach new fans, is that grabbing them at the beginning is important. For example, I'm unfamiliar with The Limousines so when I discovered their Story Wheel slideshow, the beginning made me think they were simply a couple of goofballs. It was only after encountering this post that I realized they were a legitimate act, though that doesn't mean they're not goofballs as well!
As I failed to consider when discussing Spanish Prisoners' Kickstarter campaign, much web content is encountered out of context and audience sympathy cannot be assumed. So starting strong with strangers in mind is always a smart tactic.
Giving your Story Wheel a meaningful title may help provide context. In the case of Roger Alcantara aka MISTER NOBODY, titling his Story Wheel "My Gear" clues you in to expect something less entertaining than informative. But beginning it with a pic of one's glow in the dark bass strings is a nice place to start.
Also important, if you're going to narrate your slides, is to practice or write some things down. Many of the Story Wheels currently featured have an awkward edge with various rustling sounds, throat clearing, etc. Most people aren't that skilled at off-the-cuff narration so, despite the ease of use of Story Wheel, taking preparation seriously can make a big difference in its effectiveness as a marketing tool.
Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and music industry resources at Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.