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Transcending Social Interaction and Music: Beck's Album "Song Reader"

social sharing

The famous musician known as Beck, whom you may know from his ongoing string of classics starting in 1994 with the release of his single "Loser," has released a new album, but you can’t listen to it. At least, not the way you would normally listen to a new album. Instead of releasing a traditional album with recorded songs, Beck has created “Song Reader,” a book of 26 unrecorded songs on sheet music, ready for the purchasers to perform themselves. He’s asked his fans to come up with their own interpretation of the songs, which is exactly what fans have done, uploading hundreds of versions of Beck’s new album.

This album is fascinating because it successfully merges music with social media, a feat major record labels know can be difficult. Rather than simply tweeting about the release of his new album, posting information on Facebook or uploading song samples to his website, Beck has taken social media sharing to a new level. He has achieved success by understanding that content, at its most creative, builds community and goes viral by thinking of the audience first. Professionals in social media marketing can learn from this experiment by focusing on one main goal; providing your fans with something you know they love.

The Power Of Community Collaboration

Visit the Song Reader website and you’ll see hundreds if not thousands of fan created renditions of Beck’s music, all with varying tempos and musical accompaniment based on individual interpretation. With music today transitioning into the cloud and onto computer manipulated sound boards, Beck goes in the complete opposite direction, offering his newest album in the archaic form of sheet music, available for purchase and then encouraged to perform.

The standard process in which musicians interact with their fans is by creating the music themselves and then giving live performances, complete with unique extensions of their own interpretation. Fans are welcome to make covers and alter the songs after the fact, but the original remains constant. Here, the power is translated completely into the hands of the people, where no one knows how the song should sound, just the general key, notes and words. Each person that uploads his or her version of Beck’s music makes history by creating an original Beck song. Here’s one of my favorites by Gabe House.

How has Beck’s idea worked? Because people were given a digital stage, literally, to communicate their experience with the music by recording and posting the songs themselves, like this piece performed by the Portland Cello Project. It’s no surprise that collaboration and communication is the reason people flock to social media on the internet, and with opportunities as unique as this, people will flock to it. When social media marketing works, consumers spread the word and respond, creating a connection with you that’s based on the creative content. When the content is unique and engaging with the community, consumers want to participate; they want to have a voice, which is why so many musicians post covers of their favorite songs on YouTube. Beck's innovation might not break the all-time album sales numbers, but will undoubtedly create fans for life.

Listen to Your Audience

Beck knows his audience. He knows they like to create music and that they spend hours practicing and spend thousands of dollars on instruments because they love musical exploration as much as he does. Listen to your audience and utilize the data you collect. In doing so, you will learn what your customers want and will be better able to specify and direct your marketing messages. If customers know you are truly interested in what they have to say, they’ll respond—just like the hundreds of musicians who responded to Song Reader.

At its core, Beck’s idea works because it has a creative process and it allows people to collaborate. Writing an album on sheet music is not innovative—musicians have been writing sheet music for centuries. What is innovative is that Beck got his listeners involved with the album through the platform that in which they’re all engaged. With social media marketing, your goal should be the same: provide your followers with unique content that you know they love, keeping them coming back for more.

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