Video might not have killed the Radio Star after all.

A long time ago, if there was a song you wanted to listen to, you had two options: go out and buy it on vinyl (and then cassette, and then CD and maybe even Minidisk), or turn on the radio and hope that your song might get played.

In the last decade the music landscape has changed dramatically.  Any song can be found online in seconds, you can watch a video (official or not) on YouTube, and from there you can either buy it on iTunes, or stream it on services like Spotify or Apple Music – or do something less legal to obtain the song. It is fair to expect that radio would suffer given all the other choice, but the truth is that it’s doing just fine.

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While many radio stations have shuttered or slimmed down their operations over the years, possibly even moving to online or DAB to save costs, it is clear that the industry is still strong, and that there is room for stations and personalities to thrive.

One of the reasons that radio is still so popular in our society is due to its readily available passive nature. We don’t need our hands or eyes to interact with the radio so we are still free to go about and do other things. Most people listen to radio in their cars on their way to and from work, though after those times of the day, the number of listeners drops off as many end up at computers or are busy during the day. Streaming services like iHeartRadio have seen this data, and they are working to make sure that once these listeners leave their cars and get wherever they are going, they stick to radio, though they may access it on a different device.

Another bonus to radio is how localised it can be, you can listen to a global, national, county or even city broadcaster filled with news and views that are relevant to the end users; traffic reports and local events are a staple on any local radio station. Figures show that local radio is often the most popular station in their area. The top 5 radio stations with the highest listening share in their area are Island FM (49.2% of all radio listening in their area is to this station), Channel 103 (36.9%), Radio Borders (34.3%), Moray Firth Radio (24.7%) and Manx Radio (24.6%).  The share of listening in a station’s broadcast area is normally the best way of monitoring how popular a radio station is. This makes it easier to work out how popular the station’s entire broadcasting output is, in comparison to others in its area. [Information from media.info]

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Radio is also a format that is easy to access and understand, there are still millions of people who are not online and have not yet tried a streaming service, but everybody knows how to operate a radio. There is no learning time associated with enjoying music, and it certainly doesn’t cost anything to continue to enjoy the medium (other than the Broadcasting Licence that we are required to have to listen to radio). While listening to radio certainly doesn’t offer the same freedoms as selecting a specific song from a library of tens of millions, most people are happy to identify a style that they like—pop, rock, hip-hop, 70’s—and let a curator (in this case a DJ) pick out the tunes from there.

Radio has embraced online life well and adapted accordingly (arguably better than TV) stations or personalities use social media to spread messages, competitions and get engagement form audience that in the past would only have happened via a call in or snail mail. They have learned to embrace the instant nature of social media that reflects and compliments the instant nature of radio broadcasting.

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Infinite choice is nice, but judging by the fact that there are still hundreds of millions of people listening to the radio on a weekly basis, it clearly isn’t what the majority of people are looking for.

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Sounds Right – a look at Sound Trademarking & Branding

Sound affects us more than we know, it’s an often forgotten medium but sound can make or break a product or production – by having a sound that is displeasing or by not having the sound we expect, it can (and does) turn us away from a product. Sounds can stir up great emotions and feelings very quickly without having to stop the original function of the product, and advertisers are more aware of this than ever.

A sound trademark is a trademark where sound is used to perform the trademark function of uniquely identifying the commercial origin of products or services, much like a visual logo it has to be instantly recognisable and attributed to that one brand. Historically it has been difficult to get a sound trademarked, but this has started to change over the last 10 years as more companies are using sound to get across their messages.  Just like a visual logo, the most essential qualities of a sound logo are uniqueness, memorability, and relevancy to the brand promise.

Some widely known trademarked sounds include:

  • 20th Century Fox Fanfare (composed by Alfred Newman)
  • Audi sound logo
  • BMW sound logos – the first one with a “double gong” and the second one that is the current sound currently used.
  • ITV News at Ten “The bongs”
  • NBC chimes
  • Duracell’s 3-note “coppertop” logo
  • Fourscore, the four note audio ident used by Channel Four
  • “Intel inside” musical jingle (composed by Walter Werzowa)
  • Macintosh startup chime
  • McDonald’s Corporation’s 5-note “i’m lovin’ it” jingle
  • Nissan sound logos – there were three sounds
  • Nokia tune
  • PlayStation robot sound (“play-sta-tion”)
  • Samsung ringtone
  • Sony ding
  • T-Mobile sound logo (composed by Lance Massey)
  • THX’s Deep Note
  • Xbox 360 startup sound/swoosh, created by Audiobrain

The NBC chimes are arguably the most famous sound in American broadcasting, originating in the 1920s, the three key sequential notes are familiar to generations of radio listeners and television watchers. Many companies have tried to trademark sounds but only around 100 have ended up being accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office — and NBC’s iconic chimes were the first.

Sound branding

It gives a brand an additional way to break through audiences’ shortened attention spans. Sound branding (also known as audio branding, music branding, sonic branding, acoustic branding) can tell you whether the brand is romantic and sensual, family-friendly and everyday, indulgent and luxurious all without ever hearing words or seeing a picture. This is crucial for brands as the rise in two screen viewing means that the audience hasn’t always got its eyes on your adverts but they are likely to still be listening.

The sound logo (or audio mnemonic) is one of the tools of sound branding, along with the jingle, brand music, and brand theme. A sound logo (or audio logo or sonic logo) is a short distinctive melody or other sequence of sound, mostly positioned at the beginning or ending of a commercial. It can be seen as the acoustic equivalent of a visual logo. Often a combination of both types of logo is used to enforce the recognition of a brand. An example is the T-Mobile logo and ring tone composed by Lance Massey, or the Intel logo composed by Walter Werzowa.

The PlayStation start up sound is something really special to me, it’s an instant warm fuzzy feeling at the PS1 sound – it catapults me back to my pre-teens, but I love the audio resonance of the PS3 sound: it’s organic and rounded and swells like a tide, it sounds less electronic than its predecessors showing that machines are now more advanced than ever before.

The sound logo leads to learning effects on consumer’s perception of a certain product. A melody is the most memorable sequence of sound, since, when a melody starts, the human brain automatically expects the ending.

Radio and television stations create their own audio identities using melodic themes to strengthen their brand. Notable examples include the short variations of the BBC Radio 2 or Classic FM jingles. In recent years, television station idents have also introduced their own audio identities to strengthen their brand recognitions, most notably Channel 4 who have theirs trademarked.

The video below is a great short romp around some really recognisable sound logos (most of which are trademarked) and why they are the way they are featuring two sonic branding experts explain the thinking behind some of the world’s most recognizable sounds, Andrew Stafford and Steve Milton.

 

OkGo – Experimental Video Rock Stars

An American rock band originally from Chicago, OK Go is composed of Damian Kulash, Tim Nordwind, Dan Konopka and Andy Ross. The band is known for its often quirky and elaborate one-take music videos. They had mild to middling success until they started making more interesting/experimental music videos.

OK Go has become famous for their creative and often low-budget music videos, most of which have been promoted through YouTube. Many of these have become viral videos including the 2006 video for “Here It Goes Again”which won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 2007. The band performed a complex routine with the aid of motorized treadmills, and has received over 50 million views on YouTube four years later.

 

 

The band’s video for Needing/Getting, released February 5, 2012 in partnership with Chevrolet, debuted during Super Bowl XLVI and has over 32 million views on YouTube.  Many of the videos also use long or single-shot takes, which Salons Matt Zoller Seitz claims “restore[s] a sense of wonder to the musical number by letting the performers’ humanity shine through and allowing them to do their thing with a minimum of filmmaking interference“.The success of OK Go’s music first won the band the 14th Annual Webby Special Achievement Award for Film and Video Artist of the Year.The video for “This Too Shall Pass” was named both “Video of the Year” and “Best Rock Video” at the 3rd annual UK Music Video Awards.”This Too Shall Pass” won the LA Film Fest’s Audience Award for Best Music Video,UK MVA Awards – Music Video of the Year Winner 2010, among others.

The band has worked with directors including Francis Lawrence, Olivier Gondry, Brian L. Perkins, Scott Keiner, and Todd Sullivan. The videos have been screened and displayed at museums, art galleries, and film festivals around the world including the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of the Moving Image, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the Saatchi & Saatchi New Director’s Showcase.

 

 

The video for “I Wont Let You Down” is objectively the first to feature the use of a UAV drone to film a whole music video. There are many other examples of OK Go pushing the boundaries between music video and experimental art (stop motion toast being particularly memorable), companies give large sponsorship to them for features in their videos or for them to be in a stylized ad campaign. Their blend of inoffensive middle of the road indie music is greatly uplifted in the public domain by viral videos which are in themselves a very clever marketing tool. I think it’s fair to say no one would remember OK Go if they hadn’t got on their treadmills back in 2006 and their subsequently more interesting (and expensive) videos that have followed.

 

 

Their most recent video focuses on the super slow-mo trend that is both a hit on YouTube and with the general consumer as more and more devices can record at higher frame rates. A large amount of planning and calculations has evidently gone in to this video to get the sound and visual synchronization. What’s perhaps most impressive is how well they managed to sync up the song with the incredibly fast “events,” of which there are exactly 318. So how did they do it?

“We used very precise digital triggers to set off several hundred events in extremely quick succession. The triggers were synchronized to high speed robotic arms which whipped the cameras along the path of the action,” Kulash explains on the band’s official website.  “Though the routine was planned as a single event, currently no camera control systems exist which could move fast enough (or for many sections, change direction fast enough) to capture a movement this long and complex with a single camera, so the video you see connects seven camera movements.”

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This spreadsheet consists of  dozens of connected worksheets feeding off of a master sheet 25 columns wide and nearly 400 rows long. In Kulash’s words, it “calculates the exact timing of each event from a variety of data that related the events to one another and to the time scale in which they were being shot.”

On top of this intricate web of events, many were shot at different speeds. Each section was shot at a constant rate, but between the events they toggled from one speed to another.

Kulash breaks it down further: “When the guitars explode, we are 200x slower than reality (6,000 frames per second), but Tim and Andy’s short bursts of lip sync (Tim twice and Andy once) are only 3x slower than real life (90 frames per second). The watermelons are around 150x, and the spray paint cans are a little over 60x.”

 

Pop Culture Megamixes – Artefact 3

I love supercuts (a.k.a pop culture megamixes).  They are great ways to ingest large amounts of data in a short space of time. Like, seriously, I think they can be beautiful.

A supercut is a compilation of short video clips of the same type of action, and the purpose is usually to create a comic effect. The word was apparently coined by Andy Baio, in a blog entry in April 2008. He defined it there as a “genre of video meme, where some obsessive-compulsive superfan collects every phrase/action/cliche from an episode (or entire series) of their favorite show/film/game into a single massive video montage.”

Supercuts have transcended; in the last 10 years they can come out of the dank belly of the internet and meme culture and are now recognised as a media format of their own.

But why do we love supercuts so much? I think there are a couple of reasons for this, for one it buys in to our love of lists (and we all know the internet loves lists – here’s looking at you BuzzFeed) secondly it allows us to relive the best bits of something again without having to watch the whole product from start to finish. Wanna see a selection of all the best cuts in Strangers Things? There is a supercut for that; wanna see a selection of the best examples of the Heroes Journey? There is a supercut for that; wanna see Tom Cruise run from every film he has ever been in – guess what? There is a super cut for that too!

Looking at supercuts in more detail has spurred me on to make my own supercuts, not just as my 3rd artefact but as a thing that I do beyond this module. So to that end- below is my first SuperCut Showdown dedicated to the late and great Leonard Cohen.

Interesting side note, Ian saw my video and that spurred him on to make his Remix Artefact.

Since making the supercut above I have made another based on the Oxford Dictionaries Word Of the Year list.

How to make a John Lewis Christmas Advert

Take one well known rock/pop song, normally between 5 and 20 years old.

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Remix it with new up-and-coming female singers with an acoustic/piano accompaniment.

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Play said song over emotive Christmas themed story with a focus on family.

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Wait for the media and public to lose their shit over it.

This years JL advert is set to ‘drop’ on Friday November 11th, if they follow the pattern from the last few years.  Firm Vouchercloud decided to analyse the music used in the ads from the past seven years and they concluded the tune is likely to be:

  • A slowed-down, piano driven, acoustic cover of a top 10 single, by a British male rock band that’s had at least four number one albums in the UK.
  • The song will be covered by a female, British or Scandinavian indie solo singer who’s released their debut album or EP in the last three years.

JL had stayed away from the TV adverts for a few years in the mid 00’s and even after their return with the ‘Shadow’ campaign it was a full year before they hit on the winning formula above. These adverts have a magical place in the overcrowded holiday season, and they join the likes of the Coca Cola truck in moving from simple advert to holiday advertisement.

2007 – “Shadows”

Christmas 2007 saw the first John Lewis television advertisement in three years, with a six million pound campaign: their biggest seasonal ad spend up to that point. The commercial did not feature the hallmarks of later campaigns such as an emotional denouement or slowed-down cover version, instead using Prokofiev’s Morning Serenade from Romeo and Juliet. It features presents and products being carefully assembled and positioned to eventually create a shadow image of a woman and a dog in the snow, in the style of artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster.

2008 – “From Me to You”

For a second year, Lowe and Partners were the agency behind the John Lewis Christmas ad, creating a montage of people of all ages and their ideal gifts with the tagline “If you know the person, you’ll find the present”. This was the first to feature the now-traditional cover version, with “From Me to You” by The Beatles recorded by unnamed employees of John Lewis. The full track was made available to download for free on the John Lewis website with an encouragement to donate to Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation.

2009 – “Sweet Child o’ Mine”

The 2009 advertisement was the first for John Lewis by agency Adam & Eve (now part of DDB Worldwide), who went on to create the subsequent five Christmas campaigns. Featuring a cover of the Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Taken by Trees, the commercial features young children opening gifts usually given to adults such as a coffee machine and a laptop. With the tagline “Remember how Christmas used to feel”, the final scene shows a girl unwrapping a camera and becoming a woman.

2010 – “A Tribute to Givers”

Ellie Goulding’s cover of the Elton John song “Your Song” was the soundtrack to a collection of images showing people preparing gifts for their loved ones. Most notably, two parents attempt to secretly carry a rocking horse up some stairs whilst their children watch television. The advert concludes with a boy taking a stocking of presents outside to his pet dog in the snow, and hanging it on the kennel. This caused some controversy with animal rights protesters who complained that the animal was left outside in the cold whilst the boy waved goodbye and retreated to the house.

2011 – “The Long Wait”

Featuring The Smiths song “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” sung by Slow Moving Millie, the 2011 advert featured a little boy impatiently counting down the days to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, he wolfs down his dinner and goes to bed early in preparation for the next day. When he awakes on Christmas morning, the little boy jumps out of bed, runs straight past a large pile of presents at the bottom of his bed and heads for the wardrobe. He then wanders into his parents bedroom, waking them to give them the gift he has, for so long, been waiting to give them.

2012 – “The Journey”

Using 20-year-old Gabrielle Aplin’s version of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood classic “The Power of Love”, the 2012 advert showed a snowman who traversed fields, a river, a mountain to obtain a perfect Christmas gift for Mrs. Snowman. The advert was very quickly followed up by a children’s picture book which was hastily written and published immediately after the advert’s first screening. The song was the first song from the John Lewis Christmas adverts to be a UK Singles Chart number one.

2013 – “The Bear and the Hare”

Set to a cover of “Somewhere Only We Know” by British singer Lily Allen, the 2013 campaign featured an array of woodland animals in a classical Disney style and setting. The full advert lasted 2 minutes, and was made with 2D Animation by Premise Entertainment. It told the story of a bear hibernating before Christmas, before being persuaded to wake up by the titular hare to see Christmas in all its splendour. The accompanying music quickly rose to the top of the UK Singles Chart, doing so twice more in later weeks. A portion of the song’s sales earnings were donated to proceeds Save the Children’s Philippine Typhoon Appeal campaign.

2014 – “Monty the Penguin”

In their press release ahead of the 2014 campaign launch, John Lewis stated that the strapline for the advert was “Give someone the Christmas they’ve been wishing for”. They added that “the heartwarming advert tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between a little boy Sam and his penguin friend Monty.”British singer-songwriter Tom Odell recorded a cover for the advert of the 1976 John Lennon song “Real Love”, which was the last official song recorded by the Beatles after being re-released in 1996.

2015 – “Man on the Moon”

Featuring a cover of Oasis’ 1994 B-side “Half the World Away”, sung by Norwegian singer Aurora, the 2015 campaign tells the story of a young girl trying to contact an old man spotted living alone on the Moon. Her attempts to catch the man’s attention fail until she sends him a special delivery of a telescope, via balloon, and the man finally gets to see Earth on Christmas night. The strapline for the advert is “Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”, with the company teaming up with the charity Age UK. The advert is estimated to have cost around £7 million.

Remixing Media

Today Blink 182 (the American pop punk band) have released a new song from their latest album – so far nothing unusual here. What is unusual is the video release that goes alongside the track.

With a band as old as Blink 182 it’s hard not to repeat ideas, but what they have made is an almost shot for shot remake of an original video from 1999, with only a small few changes. As one Facebook user commented, is this genius?

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I have actually created a side by side video comparison, minus the audio so that I don’t get bitched at by YouTube. Below though is a more direct shot for shot comparison using screenshots from each.

 

There are lots of things I could say about this video given their view of women and why they really feel the need to remake such a great video now with this release. But this is not really the time to go in to that. Have they made it to gain some nostalgia points? Definitely. Have they use naked women to get views? Probably. Have they polarized fans with this trip down memory lane? Most definitely. Would it stop any band doing it in the future? No.

We Killed the Comment Section

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Go to any mainstream news or entertainment website and you will notice that the comments section has either been removed outright, or it’s a wasteland. I first noticed this with the DigitalSpy redesign in early 2015 or even late 2014 – the comment section was removed and now all commenting was on the social media platform plugins. People said they hated it, then they got used to it.

NPR, a platform known for its robust community of thoughtful commenters, recently announced that they’re doing away with their comments section to make way for social media interactions via Facebook and Twitter. Along with many other internet sites the in-built comments section is leaving us in favour of the increasingly recognised social media comments plugin, or is simply showing the feeds of comments coming from the article’s social media post.

NPR‘s reasoning for this move is along the same lines as most other mainstream sites who’ve already gone down this road. Their in-article engagement only shows a small fraction of how many people read their content – in short it is easier to comment with an already logged-in social media than it is with a dedicated login required for each website. Plus it is well know that all comments from Facebook and Twitter are well thought out and are based on the commenter reading the article (not just a title)…

It’s about popularity and attaining the holy grail of going ‘viral’  as more and more ‘news sites’ compete with each other to get their 2 cents out to the masses, or to be the first to break a story. Because more commenters = more readers = more times adverts are seen on the site = more money earned from advertisers. Advertising has held up the world of news and media for decades and whilst the formats may have changed, the same basic fact remains and fundamentally we accept that that’s OK.

The more social interaction occurs, the higher the algorithms place you on search results; it feels dirty because really it’s modern news prostitution.  The difference is now it’s not just the creators of the media that are selling themselves, we the readers are doing it too without a second thought as we jab at our little touchscreen devices, tagging people to read an article, commenting on the poor nature of the facts, spewing garbage and self gratifying opinions that you expect others to read and adore and then getting understandably irate when someone dares to think differently from you.

But why not give the people what they want? It’s good business sense, right? I mean most people read their media linked from a social site on a mobile device on which they are already logged in across multiple apps. Where is the harm?

You shouldn’t reward people for choosing not to read an article before throwing out their opinion on it, just so they can give their two cents on a headline that’s either taken out of context or is simple click bait. It’s a trend that is becoming more and more common, even in the once well-respected national institution’s online publications.

Not everyone wants to create a Facebook or Twitter account, because Facebook and Twitter comments are a proven cesspool of negativity, bickering, and intentional ignorance. Not everyone wants to have their name, picture, work history, and friends list displayed to thousands of strangers on a daily basis (me included). You may not want to have your whole Facebook or Twitter collective see your opinions on an article, but there is still a part of you that might want to read something online and even offer comment without the rest of the world knowing that it’s you.

Urgh. Rant over.