The Future of Music is Visual

The future of music is visual

I used to hate bands that put more time into their stage than into their music. I loved seeing punk bands because they were raw and had no pretensions about their work; it was all about the energy, anger and lyrics. No one was making million dollar stage productions. Other folks love lavish spectacles and who am I to begrudge them their right to do so?

Recently however, I have been changing my opinion, but not on lavishness. Rather, I changed my opinion on the need for a visual aspect to live music. What made me change my mind after decades? Simple. I looked at my collection of electronic instruments and realized the choices I made in instruments involve a lot of me moving my fingers or hands and pulsating lights. And seeing bands like Chemical Brothers live… well ’nuff said, but remember that while I love the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, I am neither DJ nor raver so glow-sticks will not be part of this article.

I asked notable electronic musician, Mark Mosher about the connection between visuals and electronic music as he is a strong proponent of both. Here’s what he had to say:

“I’ve found without a doubt that visual controllers such as the Percussa AudioCubes and grid controllers like the Tenori-On makes it easier for the audience to correlate my performance with the music and sound coming out of the speakers. Ultimately this deepens the connection between the performer and the audience, and the audience quickly becomes aware of the musicianship required to perform experimental electronic music live and makes them appeciate the music even more.”

Roland and the D-Beam Controller

Roland EG-101 and D-Beam Controller

I have one synth that dates back to the ’90s, a Roland EG-101. It was a fairly standard Hip-Hop synth, really nothing outstanding except for one feature; the D-Beam. This is an infrared beam that is still being added to current Roland synths. Moving the hand near it and around it interrupts the notes and warps them in unpredictable ways. No two performances could be the same (unless you have robotic limbs).

Novation Ultra Nova

Novation UltraNova

I haven’t purchased the Ultra Nova yet, but it’s my next buy (after my wife and I get settled in our new home). Novation added some beautiful lighting effects to the display of this synth. The Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels are internally lit in a pleasing blue and the entire GUI glows like a suit from Tron.

Korg Kaossilator ProKaossilator Pro
This is an odd little beast. Is the Kaossilator a synth? A beat box? A sequencer? A light display? Yes. Using a glass pane interface like an iPad, this square piece of magic from Korg allows your hand movement across the X/Y axis of the glass interface to affect the sound, pitch, volume, speed, effect, etc. of your song phrases. You can basically “draw songs” with this device. Not only is it interesting to watch someone use one, the lights under the glass seem faery-like as they dance near your fingers and glide away.

Audio Cubes
I’ve written at length about Audio Cubes and finally broke down and bought four of them after seeing the amazing work Mark Mosher is doing with them.

There are dozens of “controllers” available for electronic musicians but they all seem to have a visual aspect to them. From the myriad number of Ableton Live controllers (hardware) to the iOS tablet versions (software) to the Tenori-On that Mark Mosher mentioned above, controllers all seem to combine function with beautiful light displays that make them easy to use in a dark bar or concert hall, and fascinating for the audience to watch.

iOS Apps
Finally, I would be remiss to neglect mentioning the plethora of iPad and iPhone apps that are for music creation. Because iOS devices rely on finger movement and gesture-based commands, the software instruments on iOS naturally require a lot of finger dancing to operate. I have a huge collection of them and there are frankly to many to mention. Some of my favorites (in no particular order) include:

  • Curtis
  • Arix-303
  • Shapemix
  • Soundrop
  • Magic Piano

What about you? Do you like seeing lavish displays onstage, simple light and gesture-based performances or just raw and dirty? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Photo Credits: Synthtopia, VIEP, Newecho Productions, Korg.

An Internet Guide for Baby Boomers

Amazing, electric InternetsDear Baby Boomers,

It’s time you learn to talk about the Internet intelligently. Seriously. You’re really embarrassing the rest of us every time we hear you say, “The Google” or “all those Facebooks”.

Here’s a quick, but handy guide to get you up to speed with the rest of the planet so you won’t have people staring at you incredulously in meetings. —Thanks in advance, Dave (a Gen-Xer who cares)

“The Google” does not exist
Google is Google. There is no “the” placed before Google. Ever. Same goes for any social network. It’s simply Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. While nothing on the Internet is a physical location, you should use the rules of locations to refer to sites and companies online. After all, you don’t “go to the Macys.” You go to Macy’s. Right?

Internets and Facebooks
Stop pluralizing the names of social networks. You would be horrified if your son or daughter said, “I read Wall Street Journals” or “I drive a Toyotas,” but you feel no shame at all about adding an ‘s’ to the end of a social network. Why? It’s wrong, and you should stop doing it.

Tweeps, not twits

Twitter’s many idioms can be problematic for many. Here is the official list:

  • Twitter: The Web site and company is called Twitter. Again, not “The Twitter” and please do not pluralize it into “The Twitters”
  • Tweet: A message consisting of 140 characters using some form of Twitter is called a tweet, not a twit, twip, twitter and certainly not a twat (Yes, I have heard you use all of these variants. Cringeworthy). The past tense is tweeted.
  • Tweep: Someone who is an active user of Twitter is often called a tweep, not a twit, twat (arguable), Twitterite, Twitz or Twitizen.
  • RT means “retweet” or the act of reposting a tweet by someone else that you like or find useful. You do not write out retweet. Ever. The RT followed by a space, then the Twitter handle of the person who wrote the tweet is sufficient and will code the tweet for you. For example, if I wanted to retweet a post by Chris Brogan, I would start the tweet with RT @chrisbrogan

JPG is not a verb
JPG (originally JPEG) is actually an acronym referring to the Joint Photographic Experts Group. JPG is a file format, but not a verb. Never say, “Can you JPG this for me?” Instead try, “Can you convert this image into a JPG, please?” It is possible that over time, JPG as a verb may become an accepted improper usage (much as Photoshop and Google have become verbs).

Cyber-anything is passé
Only government agencies use cyber as a prefix. The rest of the world stopped using it in the 1980s. If you’re using cyber-anything, you’ll be seen as outdated and not getting it. I am amazed that the military still insists on using cyber, knowing their Gen Y target as well as they do. It’s a holdover and you should let it die a natural death.

What’s the difference between the networks?
Glad you asked. While all of them have overlapping features, here’s the one phrase definition for each one, so you can be a cocktail party intellectual about social networks.

You didn’t go online. You didn’t go anywhere
Finally, let’s talk about “going online”. Boomers and seniors (Silent Generation) seem obsessed with using the term “going online”. As if the act of using their computer to access a site is going on a top secret mission. “Strap me in Helen. I’m going online.” Sorry, pal. You never left your seat. Gen X and below never refer to going online because to us, the Internet is ubiquitous and never need be referred to. It’s as awkward as if you had said, “Well, I’m going to apply electricity to this lamp now.” We know you are. Electricity is a given. So is the Web. You aren’t going to or going on, you’re reading, browsing, gaming, sharing, uploading, etc. Got it?

Did I miss any other Boomer blunders? Please share them in the comments.

UPDATE: For those Boomers who did not get that this post was meant to be tongue in cheek, it was. It’s facetious. OK?

Stop using testimonials. Now.

Never use fake testimonialsI know. All of you marketers out there want to include testimonials on your micro sites, landing pages, online media and Facebook pages. Don’t. I’m begging you not to.

“But, Dave! Consumers are more likely to trust another person’s review of a product than what the brand says about itself!” Aha! You said review, not testimonial. That’s the distinction. It’s the word testimonial. It’s poison and you should endeavor to stop using it. The general belief among consumers regarding testimonials is one of skepticism:

Reviews and comments are genuine; testimonials are not..

Most people believe testimonials were written by the company, and that names in the testimonials are probably those of employees, their spouses, etc. At the same time yes, consumers certainly trust each other’s words over that of brands.

Worse still, do a search for the phrase, “testimonials are fake” or “I write fake testimonials” and you’ll see that many marketers and companies wondering if they should write fake testimonials. They are often answered by others who not only admit to using fake testimonials, they recommend using them as traffic drivers! Make no mistake; it is illegal to use fake testimonials. [See the Lanham Act, Title 15]

This makes the fix simple. Never use the term testimonial in your marketing. Use “reviews” or “comments” instead. This is especially important in the headers above the content. Headings appear in search and search engines use them to help organize data and give you smarter results. Consumers search on the term “reviews” constantly. Testimonials rarely shows up high in search. That alone is a reason to use reviews as the heading. And please, only use real reviews from your customers.

What terms have you found to be effective?

Additional Reading
30 Ways You Can Spot Fake Online Reviews [The Consumerist]
How to Spot a Fake Testimonial []
When Fake Testimonials Cost a Company $300,000 [The SEO News Blog]
Fake Testimonials & the Ethics of Freelance Writing [Grow Your Writing Business]
The Legal Ramifications of Posting Fake or Paid Reviews Online [PracticeDock Blog]

Why Everyone Leaves Your Site

bounce rateWhile I like this post on bounce rate, I disagree with the author’s statement that bounce rate is simply, “…the most basic expression of dissatisfaction with your site users can give you.”

No headline relevance
The author missed one reason for bounce rate that may be the most common cause, but few SEO pros write about it: What the user sees on your site may not match the expectation given by the ad banner they clicked on.

In other words, they aren’t dissatisfied with your site per se; they are dissatisfied with the advertising they clicked on. As an example, I recently read an ad for a retail product that was all about price and comparison to the competition. I clicked on it, expecting to learn more why this product was superior to its competition. Instead, I was sent to a microsite that had no mention of price or competition. It was more of an immersive experience type of site and not at all what I expected to land on.

The fix is simple: Ensure that your online advertising messages are in sync with the page it is linking to. The payoff must be there for the user or the user will be confused, frustrated and have a lower opinion of your brand.

No content relevance
Another way the ad banner can increase bounce rate (which is bad), is by not sending to the proper page in the site. Too many times, a company will spend countless hours creating thoughtful and helpful landing pages that go unnoticed because the ad sent everyone to the homepage instead of directly to that relevant content.

The fix for this is also simple: Ensure whomever purchases your online media knows about landing pages. It’s perfectly OK to send a user 3-5 levels deep in the site from an ad. Better still, make the landing page into a subdomain and purchase a domain name for it.


Surround Vision

Santiago Alfaro has been working on a project at MIT that I find fascinating, but also see tremendous commercial potential in. Called Surround Vision, the concept extends our view of television content to external handheld devices. If someone runs offscreen, holding a handheld device would allow the viewer to turn around and see where the person continues to run! Sort like adding a unique version of the story that you, as viewer, get to crop and control.

This project shows promise for making television truly interactive, as well as giving stories have unusual side plots, hiding Easter Eggs in the content and overall making television more enjoyable.

How I’ll be using Google+ for businesses

Google+Google+ has an innate advantage over Facebook in its use of Circles.
Far too many writers are viewing this as a bad thing, it being anti-social, leading to cliques, etc. I do not hold to this view.

Circles allow for one thing Facebook is notoriously poor at: the hyper-targeting of content.

If I have a product with say, three vastly different audience segments, I may choose to do generic, bordering-on-bland messaging that appeals to all of them, or I may opt to write audience-specific messaging with their unique needs in mind.

Circles allow us to message in precisely this way.

Instead of creating Circles like “Fans”, “Influencers” or “Brand Ambassadors” which will be the unfortunate recommendation of many a social media agency, we should create Circles based on audience segmentation and personas.

Now that’s hyper-targeting your content.

The Mini Cooper Effect

Mini CooperEveryone loves Mini Coopers. Even among the most jaded consumers, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who actively hates Minis. So it will come as little surprise to anyone that social sentiment surrounding the Mini Cooper will be overwhelmingly positive. That said, Mini is not the best-selling car. While everyone loves them and has glowing praise for the Mini, they account for just 0.5% of US auto sales.

What value then, do the comments of non-purchasers have when monitoring conversations? With several thousand followers on Twitter and a reasonable Klout score, I could be said to be somewhat influential—and I am highly positive toward Mini Cooper, yet I have no intention of purchasing one. Are my comments about Mini useful or merely interesting?

In my opinion, these comments are interesting in the aggregate, but useless when determining ROI or intent to purchase. The Mini Cooper Effect is a phrase I coined a while back to describe this phenomenon in conversational monitoring. Tools like Radian6 and Sysomos compile tens of thousands of these comments on a local, national and global scale, but it takes a skilled, patient analyst to sift through them for the gems. No matter how good your keyword set is, or how many parameters you filter by, you won’t get over the Mini Cooper Effect of interesting but useless comments. [DISCLAIMER: Campbell Ewald is a customer of both Radian6 and Sysomos]

Recently, I received a call from Barb Morgen at ValueVine to discuss their new Connect tool. It too monitors social conversations, but with a distinct and important twist: conversational monitoring is targeted to the building level. As I am to understand it, a client enters the addresses of all their retail locations. Connect then pulls conversations about and within those buildings and only there. If consumers check in to that location using Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla, etc., their comments are only counted if they include a comment. Comments on other platforms about those locations are also counted, but not general comments. Only comments from consumers who have entered these locations will be tallied. The Mini Cooper Effect is effectively nullified.

I have not tried this tool (yet), but it gives me hope that (at least some of) the limitations of social media monitoring can be addressed in the coming year by new technologies like this. What are your thoughts? Have you tried Connect? How does it compare to other tools?

Photo CC 2007 The Pug Father