The game as Transmedia Storytelling in the music industry


a joystick, a turntable and a laptop on a desk

In an era where the music industry is not at its best, it is important to redefine the classic business model (Major → artist → advertising → public) to capture its audience. To reach a broader public, it is no longer enough to be present online (web store and / or Facebook, Myspace profile) and to advertise.

Transmedia storytelling, specifically the art of telling a story around the artist’s music world on various multimedia platforms, seems to be the new alternative for this business in decline. In this context, the game is a great way to attract the audience in your universe.

The music industry today

Today, music has become a product of mass consumption. With the advent of free music streaming sites such as YouTube, Spotify, Deezer, etc., the listener finds himself lost in a profusion of music.

And this is a paradox; several recent studies have shown that the listeners were listening to less and less music. If in the past, we spent more time in record stores to listen to music, picking few albums, it was not uncommon to leave the store with an album without even having listened to it, just because the cover was beautiful. Questionable or unfortunate choice afterwards, but the pleasure of discovering an album or a song was there. Often, the randomly picked albums were quite a surprise and became our favourite ones.

vinyl records digger

Today, because the choice is infinite, you can go from one track to another with only one click, choosing music according to your mood. 5 seconds of introduction, whether we like it not, we skip it too quickly at the risk of missing a great artist.

The consequences of this are very bad for artists. Especially for those who have an original or particular universe. It becomes difficult to lure some “potential new listeners” into your world.

The Transmedia Storytelling: A new way of music consumption

This is where comes into the equation; the game as a Transmedia Storytelling tool.
Telling transmedia stories is knowing how to tell them via various media such as blogs, social networks, websites… mixing images, sounds and videos. By maximizing the characteristics of the various media, while playing on their complementarities, it becomes easy to create a unique, original and comprehensive experience. A great way to discover an album, a universe, a musical project but also to experience music beyond standardized channels like concerts, radio, tv…

In a transmedia storytelling strategy, the game becomes a powerful tool in the artist’s hands that can be declined in different forms.

Definition according to the “pope” of transmedia storytelling, Henry Jenkins, a professor at MIT.

“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story”.

transmedia storytelling diagram

First appearance and evolution of the Transmedia term

Dick Higgins, American artist and writer, in the context of the Vietnam War, published an article called Statement on Intermedia. It highlights that the intermedia is an opening of creative thinking without any restriction to a single field of art. It also describes that with the massive influx of televisions in American households, the population needs more and more distractions and to watch the surrounding world through different perspectives. This explains in part the emergence in the 60s of “Happenings”, “Events Pieces”, “Mixed Media (Art using different media and supports in a piece of work, moving in time and not static)”.

Between 1970 and 80
Pioneers artists in the Telematic Art made collective storytelling experiences, mixing the ancestors of today’s telecommunications networks. Two major projects used satellites to connect the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States. It was an interactive dance between performers. 25,000 spectators spread on both coasts participated in an interactive dance and attended musical performances mixed in real time and juxtaposed on the same screen. These artists produced both visions and critical theories of what would become the Transmedia.

The term Transmedia is in fact appeared when Marsha Kinder, a professor at USC (School of Cinematic Arts, Critical Studies, California), mentioned the term “commercial transmedia supersystems” in her book Playing with Power in Movies, Television and video Games to evoke the power of Transmedia storytelling in the relationship between the public and commercial manipulation.

Release of the film “The Matrix” directed by The Wachowskis. This is the first film directed and designed around a Transmedia storytelling.

matrix, the film

Henry Jenkins, a professor at MIT, wrote a first essay entitled Transmedia Storytelling, introducing the concept of an “unified and coordinated Entertainment” experience.
In 2006 he popularized the term Transmedia in his book Convergence Culture. It addresses in particular the triple convergence of practices, technologies and content.

According to Jenkins:

* “A transmedia story develops itself on several media plateforms, each scenario provides a distinct and valuable contribution to the whole story”.

* “This new form of storytelling can switch from an individual and passive consumption to a public and active entertainment”.

The best known definition of Transmedia remains the one of Jenkins. Dean of the USC Department (School of Cinematic Arts, Critical Studies, California), he was for ten years the Director of the Comparative Media Studies at MIT. He is the author of a dozen books on various aspects of the media and mass culture.

In this series of five articles, we will present you 5 artists or music bands that have used the transmedia storytelling to embark you on their complex, captivating and fantasy world.

Stay tuned…

Episode 1: Nine Inch Nails
Episode 2: Jay Z
Episode 3: Gorillaz
Episode 4: Arcade Fire
Episode 5: Johnny Cash
Outro: How to revitalize the music business?