Small and mindful.
One future trend I’m betting on is concentrated, mindful media experiences. Curated and easily manageable, these big ideas thrive on small (like the Little Printer or 5-second-films) and seem characterized by focusing on one thing in a new or interesting way. Some could argue that Twitter was the one of the first big players in this movement, and its worldwide adoption offers compelling evidence that the right idea in the right context needn't be huge in size.
I've been inspired by small, boutique media experiences for a long time and initially began experimenting with some small ideas with my "Thank Small" project last year. Today, small brands or companies that intently focus on one idea have the nimbleness to quickly respond to market changes, cultural shifts, or behavioral evolutions, and are more capable than ever of out-innovating, and out-maneuvering bigger competitors. So to apply some of my small thinking to my passion for all things melodic, I’ve taken a stab at a new way of writing, developing, releasing, and (theoretically) monetizing music in this new age.
My longtime creative collaborator Sean Emmel and I have been hard at work creating our first piece of "micromedia"; a short piece of original content that’s been stripped of all of it’s non-essential elements (here: musical and lyrical repetitions). We incorporated some of what I learned at Stanford’s d.school conference on “Design Thinking” by iterating, testing, and recording as many ideas as fast as we could, and in the course of a few hours (our goal was 1 hour) we had written new music, worked out harmony and arrangement, recorded, and mixed the final copy that you hear above.
Ostensibly this song would be much longer when played live and have other possible media accompaniments (like a video, or perhaps a piece of visual art) that could be experienced only in a live setting. These small songs would be distributed for free for fans to enjoy and to motivate them to further engage with the band (via live shows or premium-priced goods).
I see this model as having multifaceted levels of value; from an internal perspective as musicians we’re able to flex our creative muscles in small, short reps as a weightlifter might. Creativity is a habit that’s reinforced with repetition and with time I’m sure our ability to concept and create new music will only become richer and more streamlined. From a market perspective I could imagine microsongs flourishing due to an application of the “freemium” distribution model, defined as having something for free and only paying for it if more features or content is desired.
If Band X released an album of short, distilled songs with the stipulation that the only way to hear the full version would be to see them in concert, would you be more willing to pay today’s higher ticket prices? If the songs were natively available in a ringtone file format for free I could see music marketing breaking new ground by giving fans something to passively share with those around them via their ever-present cell phones and opening up more possibilities for something to become culturally sticky.
So with that in mind we'll continue to experiment with small creativity. Below are the lyrics to our first song and if you'd like, leave a comment below and I'll email you a copy.
Untitled Small Song #1
Life ticks away so swiftly
Small moments, here then gone
Series of instants all alone.