Transmedia NY Meetup January 11, 2011


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Here is the deck from my presentation to Transmedia NY Meetup on January 11, 2011. I've updated the deck to include recent developments.

From the meetup description:

Since the early 1980's, a group of crazy artists have made music, videos, a feature film, books, art, and spectacular live events all with the support of one of the largest media corporations in the world. Their evolving creative approach, work ethic, and relationship with fans are an inspiration to anyone creating transmedia stories and experiences. Mike will share their story, and we will experience one of their most unusual and experimental works.

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  • \nAll Transmedia storytelling is experimentation. We are, through trial and error, learning the language of transmedia, because it is a nebulous form. \n\nWe have a lot of experience making successful films, novels, comic books, TV shows, video games, but we haven’t figured out the natural form of a transmedia story. Yet.\n\nOver the last fourteen years of creating and playing with transmedia stories, I’ve learned that success demands constant experimentation.\n\nWe have to change the way we think, we have to change our process, and we have to move away from emulating what’s come before in order to discover what’s coming next.\n\nNow, I prefer to learn from story and experience than from a powerpoint deck full of data, charts, and graphs, so I’m going to tell you a story about a band that completely reinvented themselves after 10 years and a top 40 hit to become one of the most vital creative entities in pop culture, and they do it by constantly experimenting.\n\nThey have created a culture of playful invention, collaboration, and experimentation that is embraced by fans worldwide.\n\nPHOTO:\n
  • \nI’m talking about The Flaming Lips and I’m going to talk about one specific period of extreme experimentation where they completely reinvented themselves, the way they work, and they way they approach everything they create. This change has driven them to their most successful work, both commercially and creatively.\n\nI think it is an INSPIRING example because we have to do what they did -- \nwe have to change the way we work, \nthe way we think, \nthe way we tell stories, \nthe way we approach media, \nand the role of audiences in our work.\n\nThis is exactly what The Flaming Lips did.\n
  • In the beginning, The Flaming Lips were a crazy, psychedelic guitar rock band who stole as much from punk as from The Who and Led Zeppelin. They toured all the time and when the whole alternative rock scene blew up in the early 1990’s, The Flaming Lips were signed by Warner Brothers.\n\nOn their second album for Warner Brothers, they toured so much that one of the songs, She Don’t Use Jelly, became a surprise top 40 hit a year after it came out. But the followup, Clouds Taste Metallic, didn’t meet the kind of sales the label expected and they were in danger of being dropped.\n\nThen their guitar player, a key creative force in the band, quit.\n\nSo they spent 2 weeks wondering what to do and they decided it was time to change everything.\n
  • \nInspired by walking around a tailgate party at a sports event, hearing different cars all blasting the same radio station, they planned a concert where the audience became participants.\n\nThey called them The Parking Lot Experiments\n\nWATCH VIDEO:\n\nPeople absolutely LOVED IT. It was a mind blowing experience that stole the show at SXSW that year.\n\nInstead of alienating people with this crazy experiment they realized that fans believed in the band, and this belief and encouragement gave them the confidence to go further. \n\n\n
  • \nSo they went on tour with The Boombox Experiments.\n\nPLAY VIDEO:\n\nAgain, incredible reactions from fans spurred them on even further.\n
  • They followed that up with The Headphone Concerts, using an FM transmitter to beam sounds and parts of the songs to FM radios given to the audience on the way in, so they could combine the intimacy of headphones and stereo sounds with the raw power of a live performance, again pushing their music and their stage show in crazy new directions.\nBut these concerts were not as successful as the previous experiments. The headphones were isolating rather than communal, but as you can imagine, all of this experimentation was changing their ideas about recorded music, and it was at this point they decided to make an album.\n
  • \nThat album was Zaireeka, 4 CD’s meant to be played simultaneously on 4 cd players. It was social, it turned the act of playing a recorded album into a performance that was unique every time due to the way cd players synch.\n\nAnd they got Warner Brothers to put it out.\n\nThe Flaming Lips carefully researched the costs of releasing a box set, and figured that Zaireeka could be released so that once 12,000 copies had been sold, the label would break even. \n\nThey pitched the album to Warner Bros. Records president Steven Baker. Baker’s reaction at the time was this fantastic quote:\n\n“I was dealing with bands coming to me and saying ‘we need a backdrop that costs ten thousand dollars’ or ‘we need these lights that cost twenty grand,’ and I’d be thinking ‘You assholes, look at The Flaming Lips: They have a better light show, and it came from Ace Hardware! Don’t you get it? This is your career and you have to do it yourself.’”\n\nHe agreed under the following conditions:\n\n1. Zaireeka would not count towards the seven albums the band was contracted to deliver to Warner Bros. \n2. For an advance of $200,000, the band would make Zaireeka and then deliver a pop album. \n\nSo they had their advance and off they went, where they quickly blew half of it without recording any songs successfully. \n\nThey really only began to complete songs when they stopped trying to split normal songs across four CDs and learned how to write and record for the medium explicitly for the the medium.\n\nZaireeka was released in October, 1997. Advance orders for the album came to 14,000 copies. As of 2006, 28,000 copies have been sold.\n\nI have the album here today, we have 4 cd players, so let’s play some tracks.\n\nThis extraordinary period of experimentation culminated in this unusual album that must be experienced communally, but the real benefits of all this were to come in the following albums, where they applied everything they learned to more traditional recording processes.\n
  • \nOver the next four albums they won grammys, earned tons of critical acclaim, and sold more albums than ever before.\n\nStephen Drozd stepped up and became the band’s multi instrumentalist, writing much of the music. Wayne is still the ringleader and they have become an incredible creative unit, each member contributing and adding to the whole experience.\n\nThey have expanded their crazy universe beyond albums, making a feature film called Christmas on Mars, also released by Warner Brothers. \n\nThey took the same approach as they did Zaireeka, spending a small amount of money and doing the work themselves, shooting in Wayne’s backyard over a period of several years.\n\nThey understood their movie would never be a major box office hit so they made it in a way that fit within their overall vision.\n
  • \nThey even made the screenings of the film truly communal experiences, staying away from traditional cinemas and setting up alternative venues in several cities.\n\nHere’s the message they projected before each screening that gives you a sense of the experience.\n\n\n
  • While their live shows have become much bigger with their success, they continue to break down the wall between performer and audience in surprising and fun ways.\nThey do simple things that are not hugely expensive but are incredibly effective -- on one tour they had fans in superhero costumes walk through the audience before the show handing everyone these cheap little laser lights. Here’s a video of the result, called “User Generated Light Show.”\nThey have fans dance onstage while wearing costumes, Wayne walks crowdsurfs in a giant inflatable hamster ball, they shoot tons of confetti and more. A quick search on youtube will reveal thousands of user videos from their shows.\n\n\n
  • PHOTO:\n
  • Your work ethic opens doors for you.\n\nDon’t sit around and wait, you have to go out and do it. There’s no money out there, it’s not a proven thing, so grab a roll of duct tape and get to work.\n\nHard work gets you respect, and it’s also the easiest path to money. You can waste a year trying to raise money for your epic transmedia project or you can SCALE IT DOWN and spend that year making something. \nAn investor is a lot more likely to give you money for something you are already making than vaporware that only exists in your head.\n\nPHOTO:\n
  • Zaireeka only works because they wrote for the medium instead of trying to split normal songs across 4 CDs.\n\nTransmedia is not simply spreading a story across different platforms, it’s not checking off a list - oh I got my feature film and my twitter accounts and my comic book and my iPhone game.\n\nTransmedia is about the space between all of those things.\n\nEditing a film creates meaning by putting two shots together.\n\nIn Transmedia, meaning is created by the experience someone has between various parts of your story, and that raises very interesting questions:\n\nDo I need characters?\n\nDo I need plot?\n\nDo I need a resolution?\n\nThe answers are always going to be “it depends,” because they change everytime.\n\nPHOTO:\n
  • \n\nAn audience is a gift, their love and attention are the most valuable things they can give you.\n\nYou have to constantly earn that love and attention with every single element of a transmedia story.\n\nThat is how you create fans, and FANS are better than money because they give you enormous power. Power to create more, to raise funds, to experiment, to succeed.\n\nPHOTO:\n
  • \nPretty self explanatory but I see it ignored time and time again.\n\nTransmedia is like architecture, it isn’t complete until it’s occupied by people.\n\nPHOTO:\n
  • \n\nI’m not talking about actors here, I’m talking about your team of collaborators. Know what you are great at, know what you suck at, and surround yourself with collaborators who need you as much as you need them.\n
  • \nHere’s a great little video of Wayne talking about his stage tricks, and it’s a wonderful illustration of these five points at work in The Flaming Lips’ stage show.\n\n\n
  • The Flaming Lips continue to experiment!\n\nOn Valentine’s Day 2011, The Flaming Lips released a brand new song on YouTube. The song is Zaireeka-like, designed to be played on up to 12 iPhones or mobile devices at the same time. Before all 12 tracks were fully uploaded to YouTube, articles about the song were published on Mashable, The Onion A/V Club, and Wired.\nPlay the track here:\n\n
  • PHOTO:\n
  • SLIDE 1:flickr user sarahreido:\nSLIDE 2:flickr user sarahreido:\nSLIDE 11:Jay Janner:\nSLIDE 12:flickr user greenboy:\nSLIDE 13: Rebecca Gayle, See The Leaves:\nSLIDE 14:flickr user momaraman:\nSLIDE 15:There Stands The Glass:\nSLIDE 19 & 20:flickr user cheek:\n
  • Transmedia NY Meetup January 11, 2011

    1. 1. TRANSMEDIA NY MEETUPJanuary 11, 2011 (updated Feb 14, 2011)Michael MonelloEmail: mmonello@campfirenyc.comTwitter: @mikemonello
    2. 2. The Flaming Lips
    3. 3. The Flaming Lips 1985-1995
    4. 4. The Parking Lot Experiments
    5. 5. The Boom Box Experiments
    6. 6. The Headphone Concerts
    7. 7. The Flaming Lips 1999-Present
    8. 8. Christmas On Mars Feature Film
    9. 9. Communal Experience
    10. 10. What the Hell Can The Flaming Lips Teach UsAbout Transmedia?
    11. 11. 1. DIY + Hard Work.
    12. 12. 2. Create for the medium.
    13. 13. 3. An audience is a gift.
    14. 14. 4. Make it social and communal.
    15. 15. 5. Casting is 99% of the job.
    16. 16. Wayneʼs Guide to Stagecraft
    17. 17. New Experiments, Feb 2011
    18. 18. Thank you.Michael MonelloEmail: mmonello@campfirenyc.comTwitter: @mikemonello
    19. 19. Photo CreditsSLIDE 1: flickr user sarahreido: 2: flickr user sarahreido: 11: Jay Janner: 12: flickr user greenboy: 13: Rebecca Gayle, See The Leaves: 14: flickr user momaraman: 15: There Stands The Glass: 19: flickr user cheek: 20: flickr user cheek: