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A precedent has been set. We are living in the age of participatory media. If we as content creators, producers, production companies and networks want to keep and grow our audiences, we need to stay on top of these changes and develop new ways to further turn viewers into participants.

 In a recent article for TechCrunch, VC at GRP Partners Mark Suster predicts that the future of television will be more participatory than social. Mark suggests that the shift in the industry is moving more towards participation. He uses the most recent viral YouTube meme, ‘The Harlem Shake,’ as an example of how low cost production and storage, along with increasing bandwidth, will drive people to be less passive and more involved in the creation of “television,” whether broadcast or online.

The foundation for participatory media had been established as early as 1982, when Hip-Hop ensemble Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force released a music video comprised mostly of crowdsourced footage. Producers since have integrated fan created media into their content as a way to further engage their audiences. 

In 2011, FOX’s X-Factor supplemented their live broadcast show with an online pre-show and second screen experience. As Producer and Director of the X-Factor Digital Experience, a goal we set for the show was to further build the X-Factor brand in the U.S. while engaging its audience before, during and after the live TV broadcast.

The X-Factor pre-show turned participatory, inviting its audience to Skype live with the hosts of the pre-show and judges of the TV broadcast. Live tweets from fans were read and responded to in real-time. Fans were also encouraged to vote on performance elements, such as wardrobe and song choice, further blurring the line between viewing and contributing. All of this and more was happening not on the “Main Screen,” but on secondary devices such as mobile and tablet. As a result, X-Factor Digital received the greatest social media response of any broadcast in 2011. Over 1000 hours of original content was created yielding nearly 3 billion engagements over the course of 15 weeks.

In the summer of 2011, alternative rock band Incubus took things one step further by giving fans unprecedented access, both online and on-site. IncubusHQ Live was a week long, live stream that invited fans of the band into their rehearsal space for a once in a lifetime experience. Performances, instrument clinics and Q&A’s were conducted for both fans in attendance and viewers tuning in to Various social media interfaces were introduced, including TweetBeam and Viddy, to help create a real-time, personal, global conversation between fans and the band. 

My career is full of experience turning audiences into participants using a variety of techniques and technologies. Amongst all of the participatory experiences that I’ve helped create, there is a single tie that binds: individual storytelling. No matter the means, producers must act as facilitators towards making audiences feel like they are a part of the greater context, regardless of their location or affiliation. In fact, the technology is the easy part. It’s ready and in the hands of willing audiences/creators in the form of smartphones and tablets containing the proper apps. The interest lies in how content producers use these technologies to help tell a story from an individual who contributes with a participatory point of view.

I would love to tell you more about how participatory media has played a part in my role as a storyteller. On Wednesday, March 20th at 2:40pm, I will be speaking on a panel titled Connected Content on Multi Screens and Devices at the Digital Media Summit,  moderated by Ted Cohen, Managing Partner at digital entertainment consulting firm TAG Strategic. I’ll also be presenting a case study of Incubus HQ Live on Thursday, March 21st at 11:50 AM at Canadian Music Week. This project was a real-time participatory documentary and media exhibit created in collaboration with the band. Both sessions are sure to be a lively, insightful discussion on how content creators are furthering the participatory genre. Hope to see you there!

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Last Updated on Friday, 15 March 2013 04:35

For most people, the marriage of music and social media has been a harmonious one. Since the questionably legal early days of MP3 filesharing, the social music industry has matured tremendously, with Spotify, Pandora and iTunes among the more notable success stories.

As social music has evolved, so has social marketing. Getting people to follow, like, pin and buy a brand’s products is now integrated into every smart brand’s strategy, especially brands that target young consumers. With so much content out there, brands strive to cut through the clutter and create an immersive, engaging experience beyond a traditional, one-dimensional print ad. The smartest brands are now putting music to work as part of their social marketing strategy. Here’s how it works.

Most young people like music. And they listen to it a lot. But they are not especially brand loyal, according to a recent study from WSL Retail which found that Millennials (people roughly 18 to 34 years-old) brand hop more than their parents did. They can’t always afford to be loyal: A sale price or a coupon for a competing product is more compelling than a brand name.


Facing this challenge, brands need to figure out how to connect with young consumers in a way that is authentic, powerful, and honest. From the Rolling Stones singing about Rice Krispies to superstar endorsements with Coca-Cola and Pepsi, brands have incorporated music into their traditional advertising campaigns for decades. Now, social music marketing has enabled both brands and bands to find and connect with people in new and compelling ways. It’s not always easy to be loyal to a brand of tissue paper, or to a t-shirt, but once you love a band and its music, it’s hard to undo that.

According to data from William Chipps, author of the IEG Sponsorship report, corporate sponsorship by consumer brands incorporating music into marketing programs was expected to exceed $1.17 billion last year, nearly double what it was six years earlier.Despicable Me 3 2017 streaming

So where are brands investing? The default used to be to sign a big deal with the hottest established artists, think Beyonce and Jay-Z, leveraging their star power to attract consumers. Today, more and more brands are turning to emerging artists so they can deliver something that speaks to the individuality of their consumers. Attaching an artist to branded content is a sure way to guarantee consumers enjoy and remember their experience, and therefore, the brand.

Further, these are the very artists who have the kind of social connectedness that brands are looking for. Emerging artists — who aren’t backed by a label — are by nature entrepreneurial, motivated and skilled at building loyal fan bases through daily communications via social channels like Twitter and Facebook.

Their collective reach is incredibly appealing, according to a study from Music Metric. That's because emerging artists are reaching hundreds of millions of fans who are already engaged and connected with them, and these very fans can activate on behalf of a brand.

So how do you make social music marketing work for your brand? Here’s what has worked for company's like Maurices, Gap, and Diesel. 

  • Push Their Buttons: an “Add This” button was part of every band page for a promotion that clothing store Maurices ran that let consumers and fans vote for a band to perform at SXSW this year. The social button led to an estimated 1.9 million social impressions, in addition to the nearly 150,000 site visits Maurices racked up during the contest.
  • Combine Online and Offline: to celebrate Gap’s 40-year anniversary and “Born to Fit” campaign, nearly 800 artists were selected to play in Gap stores throughout the country – on the same day, at the same time. The campaign was supported with a dedicated micro-site where all of the bands were featured with free music downloads. The viral buzz for the program is to have accounted for nearly 800 million media impressions.
  • Be Irreverent: when the soul of the brand is anti-establishment, the Social Music Marketing program should be, too. Diesel wanted to create a closer connection between Diesel:U:Music, a 10-year-old music support program, and its wildly successful “Be Stupid” campaign. From there came the “Stupid for Music” Cup where emerging bands battled to win prizes like recording sessions and music video production, engaging their fans to go so far as creating fake tattoos to show support. The campaign generated 3,000 pieces of fan-generated content that spread virally to support Diesel’s image of rock ‘n roll irreverence and spread the word about Diesel:U:Music.

By: Panos Panay, Founder and CEO, Sonicbids

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Last Updated on Monday, 31 July 2017 07:57