We've talked a lot at Adland about how the advancement of technology has unfortunately eroded some of our ethical standards, especially when it comes to music. And yet for every musician rightly shaking their fist at what streaming, webcasting and big tech companies have done to their livelihood, a few are attempting to circumvent the issues.
And then there's Adrian Belew.
You may not know who Adrian Belew is, but you know his music. One of the greatest guitar players in the world, the dude has played on albums from artists like Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, Talking Heads, The Tom Tom Club, Frank Zappa, one of my all time favorites, King Crimson. Not to mention a slew of excellent solo albums. And that's only a tiny portion of his resume.
Now Belew has taken his experimental or "progressive" music to a whole new level, with an upcoming, ever-evolving music app called FLUX. In addition to Belew, FLUX was created by sound engineer Daniel Rowland, and Nick Meuller, the ECD of MOBGEN in Amsterdam. On the surface, FLUX is a music app, featuring Belew's music as well as other sounds and visual art, back stories about the songs, lyrics and more. In reality though, it is so much more than that. And tailor made for the digital age. FLUX is hyper, ever-changing and never the same thing twice. It's as if Belew spent time on Tweetdeck, looking at his feed, while simultaneously browsing a few dozen other windows and watching his TV and thought to himself "there's music in this." Belew has essentially turned the way we process content into an oeuvre in and of itself. Oh, did I mention Belew plans to keep adding content to it? New music? Ever changing? Ever expanding?
Here's a description from their Kickstarter page. (More on that in a second.)
FLUX is an ever-changing variety of music, songs, sounds, and visual art, that comes at you in quick, surprising pieces--the way life does. You get exposed to a lot of interesting content quickly. And every listen is a new, unique experience, that will never happen again for you or anyone else. While songs do repeat over time, the song forms themselves are short and varied. Songs even appear in multiple versions, with different lyrics and instrumentation. Sometimes a longer song will play in its entirety, but most often you'll only hear a portion of it, which may be interrupted by something else: a startling sound effect or a common everyday noise. There are hundreds of these songs, pieces of music, and sonic "snippets", along with engaging visuals randomly changing with the music. A content management system has been built that let's us assign probabilities to tracks, determining how and when they appear. This insures that FLUX never plays the same way twice.
From a huge-of-fan-of-Belew standpoint, I will be the first to download FLUX. From a pro-content anti-piracy standpoint, I am also quite excited by FLUX. It delivers on the basic Digital Age selfishness, of the consumer having The Internet Of Things Whenever I Demand. But is so intriguing and complicated technically that the chances of ripping the music off will hopefully be minimized. I am assuming whatever money there is to be made won't come from any sort of royalty payments (although I could be wrong) but from purchase of the app. (Please tell me you're charging people for the app, Adrian.) See, while Copyleft anti-capitalists argue that it's not stealing when you steal music, etc, they never stop to consider that the content takes time to create. In this case Belew spent four years creating the music, not to mention employing a digital company to help him create the FLUX app. People don't work for free, nor should they, regardless of their profession.
Having said that though, Belew is wise enough to understand the more press you get and the more things get talked about on social media, the better your chances of actually getting people interested enough to pay, or at least download.
Which brings me to Belew's FLUX Kickstarter page. It too, demonstrates a pretty good knowledge of how crowdfunding (and sadly, the willingness to pay for content) works in 2014. In just a few short years it's more or less been proven that only the stars who don't actually need the funding like Amanda Palmer and Zach Braff raise the most money because they have a large fan base already.
Rather than put up an exorbitant amount for his goal, Belew has asked for only $100, having full faith that it will be passed exponentially by his true fans, of which there are thankfully a sizable amount aorund the world. And since you only get the money on Kickstarter if you meet your goal (as some highly prominent musicians learned the hard way,) Belew has already technically reached his goal, and is up to nearly $4,000, at press time.
But let's hope he really kills it. Because as loathe as I am to use the phrase "game-changer" FLUX is exactly that. For content creators, tech types and music geeks alike.
Adrian Belew's FLUX app will be out hopefully by the end of the year for iPhone and iPad. (Sorry Dabitch-- your android smartphone will have to wait. Neener neener.)Check out the Kickstarter Page, donate or at least spread the word.
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