We found a degree of variation. Aside from the viral, more traditional version weâ€™ve all become accustomed to â€” and which eventually go interactive â€” we saw video games, generative music videos incorporating HTML5 and technology, and more.
Viral,Â MemeticÂ (Traditional)
For starters, some viral music videos are already interactive â€” that is, interactive in the traditional sense of the audience singing along to catchy phrases or learning (sometimes silly) dance moves.
Think The Macarena or Soulja Boy.Â With a repetitive tune and easily-replicable dance moves, the audience has little difficulty in mimicking the artist.Â The most recent example of this would be Psyâ€™s â€œGangnam Style.â€Â The catchy video prompts a transformation of the passive listener into an active, engaged audience member.
Todayâ€™s technology has created another layer of involvement. Viewers of Soulja Boyâ€™s â€œCrank Thatâ€ and â€œGangnam Styleâ€ arenâ€™t only watching the music videos and dancing along â€” theyâ€™re also creating and posting their own versions online.
Perhaps this aspect is best exmplified by O-Zoneâ€™s hit song â€œDragostea Din Tei,â€ better known as â€œthe Numa Numa song.â€ The songâ€™s foreign lyrics invited the world to create their own interpretations of the words; then Gary Brolsmaâ€™s viral video led others to create their own dance moves; and, finally, the repetitive nature of the song spiraled into an ever-growing, global pool of parody, featuring everyone from Spongebob toÂ Legos.
Of course, people also make their own remixed interactions.
For those of you who didnâ€™t read my WireWAX article, these interactive videos have built-in tags. Click or tap them and they can launch apps or provide additional text, photos, etc. within a video. Whether these are used to let the user listen to more songs through the Soundcloud app, access their Facebook page, or buy clothes from Amazon, wireWAX videos have introduced a new level of interaction within the music video.
â€œEngagementâ€ is a tired buzzword, but it does exist.Â By encouraging the viewer to explore, the taggable music video avoids explicitly pushing extra content. The result? Viewers â€œdiscoverâ€ the content on their own and actually end up spending more time interacting with the artist.
This summer, Pitchforkâ€™s awesome music videogames featured tracks from M83 and Matthew Dear. â€œWe Were Youâ€ followed theÂ dreamÂ theme of M83â€²s latest album, while Dearâ€™s â€œStreet Songâ€œÂ involved less storyline and more action and control.
Perhaps video games donâ€™t seem to qualify as a â€œmusic video,â€ but these ones are. The games use one song as a soundtrack, they are no different from the traditional music video, in the basic sense of being orchestrated visualizations that accompany a song.
Another example of online game music videos is Jesse Stilesâ€™s game music video, â€œInside a Dead Skyscraperâ€ for his song â€œThe Building.â€ The game lets you explore a world in standstill â€“ as you float through the air near the World Trade Center on 9/11 civilians below continue their daily lives, just moments before most of them have noticed the explosion from the plane crash above.
The game isnâ€™t packed with excessive action, but I think the simplicity of the lone explorer is a strength of the game as it allows for some reflection on the song lyrics and the tragic event. In the FAQ section of the gameâ€™s siteÂ StilesÂ comments on how he believes video games should be combined with the music of artists more often, as the music in indie video games can be used to â€œpromote unknown bands.â€
There are other variations on the online video game music video; for example, Internet Explorer paired up with Jasmine Villegas to create an interactive music video using HTML5 for her song â€œJust A Friendâ€œ. Itâ€™s a mix of video footage and mini games which (depending on your success in the game) change the outcome of the music video. This particular video seems much less generative than those of Google (see below) but it attempts to have more of a personalized, intimate feel, by letting the user connect with Facebook so that their photos and name can be integrated into the video.
Then, there are bands like Zambri and Spinto Band, who are using the app platform to release their music games.Â Perhaps you wouldnâ€™t consider the app a â€œmusic videoâ€ but if we define the term loosely, the directedÂ visualizations of a video game which are set to a particular song are, in some sense, a music video. In Zambriâ€™s the player collects rings and avoids certain objects which appear in sync with the hit single â€œCarryâ€. Similarly,Â Spinto BandÂ sets instrumental versions of their songs to the multiple mini-games in their retro 8-bitÂ game app.
Browser As App Platform
Weâ€™ve been digging Googleâ€™s â€œChrome Experimentâ€ music videos, created with 3DÂ WebGL technology. â€œ3 Dreams of Blackâ€ lets you explore the world inside the game and creates 3D models in real time. As the name implies, this interactive web app music video sends you through three different dreams through the eyes of the main character. Stories are woven from a combination of real video footage, 2D comic-like graphics, and generative 3D models.
In another Chrome Experiment, Arcade Fireâ€™s music video for â€œThe Wilderness Downtownâ€œÂ allows you to type in your location, which the site uses to create a personalized music video. Street views and aerial images of your hometown are integrated into the video.
The interactivity comes in the form of the footage of a generic figure (representing the viewer and making them part of the experience) and in the ability of the viewer to do things like â€œwrite a postcard to the younger you.â€ The typed words then transform into birds, which fly from screen to screen until they become trees, smashing down on the familiar streets of your hometown.Â This idea of using user information to personalize the video experience is similar to Villegasâ€™ video, but with a slightly different approach.
And The Winnerâ€¦?
There doesnâ€™t seem to be a â€œbestâ€ type of interactive music video. Sorry. What did you expect? What did we expect?
Nonetheless, an artistâ€™s chosen mediumÂ sends a message to the audience, and affects the image of a band or even a song. Arcade Fireâ€™s decision to release a music video using new technology like WebGL supports its reputationÂ as an innovative band, just as the use of a shoppable WireWAX video reinforces Diplo and Iggy Azalea as stylish icons, â€œthe fashion worldâ€™s newest music darlings.â€
In other words, artists market the technology, even as technology markets the artists.
Iâ€™ve previously discussed how the interactive quality of music apps can help artists inÂ music promotion, and the story hasnâ€™t changed:Â interaction can be key to attracting media buzz and more importantly, that ever-rarer bird, the audienceâ€™s attention.