The new Coldplay album has come with a few interesting nods to convergence culture, how to work with it, and how to exploit it.
I’m going to skip over the pre-release marketing and community building done on their website, there isn’t much new there, except for the fact that it is a major artist on a real label doing it, as opposed to a video game or TV show. I’m going to briefly mention the fact that there will be a release of the music in a Guitar Hero III DLC right after the album release, but only briefly, because it isn’t new either, just a smart way to sell music and not worry about pirates.
Of more interest are the joined tracks (or “hidden tracks” according to wikipedia) and the bonus track release strategy.
First the bonus tracks, there are a few tracks that are being released as bonus tracks. The official releases are the acoustic version of “Lost?” on the Japanese release and the acoustic version of “Lovers in Japan” on iTunes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another localized release on-disk. Perhaps of the previously distributed B-Side “A Spell A Rebel Yell” or a yet-unheard acoustic. Also, there may be a version that comes out with the joined songs properly split up.
What’s the point of adding certain songs to be released in certain areas?
- Community Building: It forces fans to collaborate to find all the songs released in the album. This reinforces collaborative and convergence culture.
- Sales: Ooops… I guess the pirated reviewers’ copies don’t have all the songs after all. Go buy the real thing.
- Rewards: You waited to buy the real disk? You get a little something special. An idea even more important considering Coldplay released at least 4 tracks of their album to easily accessible online/published locations.
- Advertising: It creates a built-in type of Viral Advertising where fans have to search out songs, some of which have been previously released to other sources or online.
- Resale: Eventually a “gold” version of the album may be released with all the bonus songs, extra b-sides and the joined songs un-joined.
The advantage of the joined songs?
“It’s because we didn’t want to have an extra number on the CD. To keep it concise at 10 tracks,” Guy Berryman said.
“We just preferred to have less titles and more stuff. The album as a whole has got the most on it, but it’s the shortest. We wanted to make it almost impossible for you to not listen to it all in one go,” Will Champion said.
More notably, Champion talked about how “The Escapist” was meant to change perceptions of the band.
“I think with everything this time, the recording, the artwork, the live shows and videos, people will see there’s more to us than they imagine.”
That last one is likely far closer to the truth. The idea of joining these tracks together is about creating a package, one that encourages you to buy the entire album, as opposed to the iTunes model of specific tracks. This is especially important considering the big tracks on the album have pretty much already been released for free. This is about finding a way to plug into their community through free releases of tracks while still selling their music. A good swing at a new model for music sales. This choice on the album is all about packaging. Not to mention the previously mentioned opportunities for resale.
There is another notable result of this choice as well, a subtle encouragement of mashups and convergence culture. By joining these tracks, Coldplay is almost shouting at consumers to go out, grab a copy of Audacity and cut the songs up themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about the more average consumers, who wouldn’t normally even think about getting Audacity, going out and editing these songs.
This means more people with the tools to do audio mashups. I’d be interested in having someone with some music expertise look at the album and see how many of the songs have similar beats or rhythms that make them more mashup-friendly. I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few of them did. There is already one fairly successful mashup online at Demonoid.
Even if they didn’t, it means that Coldplay is encouraging people to play with their songs. Which means more exposure for them and their album and a better deal for their community. Not a bad model, huh?