Are you a transmedia solo artist, rock band or what?

A couple of years ago I wrote a post on transmedia, examining a comparison that Jeff Gomez often sports; the one of likening transmedia to a symphony orchester, where you have a great number of different instruments – or media platforms – that need to be conducted in precisely the right way in order for them to create the harmonies that will make people sit up, take notice and flock to the content.

I’ve often returned to the post, in which I took an article with advice on how to write a real, musical symphony and re-hashed it for transmedia purposes. During the time since then, and based on some of the projects I’ve worked on or familiarized myself with, I’ve come to the conclusion that a symphony orchester is not always the best comparison for every project. For the purpose of jugging our minds and helping us examine our projects in new lights and from new angles – something that can only help while developing content – here are five other musical ensembles I’ve identified among transmedia projects. Do you know where your fits in, or is your project something completely different?

The singer/songwriter

We’ve all been here, or know people who’ve been here. One-woman or one-man projects that come straight from the heart… or guts, or mind, or some other creative place. For me personally, these projects are long-running, often very flexible, suddenly changing shape and form and direction without any heads-up; much like a singer-songwriter trying out his/her material on small crowds in bars. And just like that singer-songwriter, sometimes it needs someone else, someone with influence or connections or resources, to come along and help draw up directions and bring the content to a bigger audience, while sometimes the artist manages to do it all on her/his own.

A few examples: ”Felicity” by Andrea Phillips, ”Snow Town” by Jan Libby, ”We Dream Of Nothing” by Paul Burke, and many many more. My own? The most advanced one is called ”Awakening”, and that’s all I’m going to say about that!

The DJ

It takes a certain kind of skill to take stuff that others have created and re-use it in a new context that make the experience of listening or participating a totally fresh one. It is about taking a long good look at what is, and seeing what, with a couple of twists and turns, could be. In a transmedia setting the DJ is the person (or persons) drafted in to shake things up, give a new twist to things and make a project all that much better. Just as the best DJ:s play to crowds of thousands, if not tens of thousands, so the best transmedia DJ:s can captivate huge audiences with the result of their craft.

A great DJ team that comes immediately to mind is Starlight Runner Entertainment; crafting brilliant immersive stuff from a combination of original IP, creativity and skill.

The rock band

They might go for all-out full frontal heavy metal, or they might be the next boyband out of the wheelings and dealings of the music industry, or anything in between. What they are is a rock band. They’re great at what they are doing, in their own niche. And they need no more instruments or bling than what they already have. Many are open to experimenting with new setups and new influences, but at their core they know what they are; a rock band. In a transmedia setting, these are the players that work in mid-sized teams, each with their own speciality – be it ARGs or online video or social media strategies or something else. They happily collaborate if needed or if it makes sense, but they are pretty solid in and of themselves. Just as with rock bands though, one project that’s below par and their relevance will start to drop. And just as with rock bands, for every successful one, there are a dozen waiting to make that big break.

These are legio, but a couple of examples could be 4th Wall Studios with their Rides-engine or perhaps The Company P with their often quite huge ARG-like settings (Truth about Marika, Conspiracy For Good, The Spiral etc).

The acapella choir

These will very seldom reach the major limelight or create the biggest buzz or the largest-fonted headlines. But on their own, and if they’re good, they’re able to create beautiful harmonies that will enrich the lives of anyone touched by them. It might be they are able to make a living out of what they do – and some, a select few, a very good living – but a major part of their creativity stems from the love of the craft. In a transmedia setting, these are the projects that get crowdfunded, since they most often don’t have the necessary funding in place, but the creators have more than enough clout as creators to pull in the funds through crowdfunding.

Again, these are legio, but Clockwork Watch comes to mind, as does Balance of Powers, to name a couple.


I’m sure there are other analogies to draw as well, so do let me know what comes to mind. I find myself racing between these categories; not so much because of what I actually do, as of what company I do it in. So – where do you fit in?

8 thoughts on “Are you a transmedia solo artist, rock band or what?

  1. Hey Simon – glad to find a semi soulmate on this! ;-D

    You just pushed my red button with all that music analogy, since I, as a former professional musician and singer, have had this music analogy talk hundreds of times in various non music related industries and contexts. I am still trying to figure out why everybody else (but musicans) tend to use music metaphors for so many of life’s experiences – and often, in my opinion, completely missing the point, since so many nuances and down sides of these music industry dynamics are not considered! Sorry….

    I’ll start by supplementing your rant with a few more that I’ve encountered many times:

    ‘Leadership is like directing a symphony orchestra’ (Sorry – wouldn’t want to work in that company, and I don’t know many professional creatives outside the classical music circles that would! – too much management, not enough freedom).

    ‘Creativity is like jazz – it’s all about improvising on top of a learned skill set and expressing yourself by juggling and twisting thousands of elements in new ways’ (Could be true on a lucky night – especially free jazz – but most of the time, many jazzmusicians are reproducing already developed solos, melodies, licks and forms – so basically just a lot of very small incremental innovations – and most of the time just barely qualifying to actually being innovative in any way).

    ‘Creative collaboration is like a beautiful harmony – all of the different notes falls into place and has it function and none of them could be spared’ (Maybe – I wouldn’t know – all of my most rewarding and innovative collaboration experiences counted endless struggles, discussions and some times great conflict between team members in order to move forward in any interesting way).

    I could go on, but no point, really. Still the tendency to put everything into music intrigues me and I know I’m the minority, since every one else seems to dig these metaphors. So let me use another metaphor to explain my point of view:

    ‘Music is sometimes like an old hore that you end up with if nothing else works out for you metaphorically!‘

    Have a great day and keep sharing your thoughts – I’m a grateful reader;-D


    • Hi Henriette, and thanks for taking the time to write that comment! I wouldn’t call myself professional musician in any way, shape or form, but I’ve been in music most of my life, be it DJ:ing, singing in choirs, messing around in bands or whatever. I absolutely agree with you re: the tendency to use music for metaphors. On the other hand, that’s what metaphors are for, right?

      There are of course nuances and facets and what have you that are definitely not covered by metaphorical comparisons. I doubt, however, that anyone would want to read that 12.000+ word post 😉

      And the jazz metaphor you mentioned above explains many a creative process I’ve been involved in in media-land (especially the TV industry), far better than I could’ve done myself! To paraphrase: “…most of the time, many content developers are reproducing already developed ideas, game mechanics, scripts and characters – so basically just a lot of very small incremental innovations – and most of the time just barely qualifying to actually being innovative in any way”

      Yup, sounds about right 🙂 …. the innovation then lies more in seeing new ways to utilize these things, ways that give them a better chance of reaching the audience and affecting them in some way.

      Thanks again, glad you like the blog!

  2. Hey! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Simon,
    Thanks for this.
    My young adult story Kiss Kill, published by Australia’s first Digital Only Publisher, Really Blue Books (CEO Sarah Bailey), is definitely at the singer-songwriter level, with a small acapella choir supporting it – YouTube made by young actors (Australian Theatre for Young People, Adam Marks) and young director (Danny Lim of Crane Films), 2 different itunes from some singers (Phil Bowley, Adam Fitzgerald) all of whom volunteered their time/skills/efforts because of their belief in the project.

    They have enriched the project tremendously.

    And thanks to the character Mat, from

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