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article imageCreativity and collaboration merge on WholeWorldBand Special

By Cate Kustanczy     Apr 29, 2014 in Entertainment
New music/video platform WholeWorldBand embraces emerging technology while celebrating the spirit of exploration. Along with giving users a chance to play with their music heroes, it allows a new way to collaborate on and monetize creative work.
The brainchild of musician and video director Kevin Godley allows users anywhere to compose, collaborate, share, and promote their music and video work, all using iOS technology. Godley is a creative soul at heart; the founder of celebrated British band 10cc and one-half of the celebrated duo Godley and Creme, the British artist has directed (or co-directed, with Lol Creme) some of the most iconic videos in music history, including the celebrated "Cry", “Rockit” by Herbie Hancock, “Girls On Film” by Duran Duran, “Fields of Gold” by Sting, and various U2 videos, including “Numb”, “The Sweetest Thing”, and the dizzying “Even Better Than The Real Thing.”
The inspiration for WholeWorldBand, however, came in 1990, when Godley worked on One World, One Voice (Virgin), a music/video project created to raise awareness around environmental issues. Essentially a musical chain letter, the project was a commission from BBC2 demonstrating the idea of music as a global language. Godley would record a musical piece with a film crew, then travel to various locales, adding contributions to the piece as he went along. The final result included a myriad of big-name contributors, including Sting, Chrissie Hynde, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Lou Reed, Maria McKee, Robbie Robertson, Clannad, and The Gypsy Kings. While Godley recalls it was “an exciting project,” he was annoyed at the limits of 20th century technology.
“It irritated me that the music couldn’t continue,” he recalls, “that it was fixed in stone.”
WholeWorldBand purposely goes against the "set in stone" ethos, allowing its users to shape a continuously-unfolding, ever-evolving piece of music and video. With no physical or geographical restrictions, users can record a “Seed” track, which others can then add and contribute to; there’s no limit on who can record, where they are, how they should sound, or what instruments should be used. (Godley charmingly demonstrates its approachability by doing a rhythmic hand-clap in a promotional video.) Big names like The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, The Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins, and Stewart Copeland of The Police have already contributed; more big names are set to come on board. In 2013, the company was nominated for South By Southwest's Music Accelerator Award, and went on to being one of eight finalists selected from a pool of over 500. Earlier this year, it won the Buma Music Meets Tech Award at Eurosonic Nooderslag. (Buma is a Dutch music rights organisation.) With early investment from former longtime U2 manager Paul McGuinness, the platform allows established musicians to interact and engage with fans, and fans to be on equal footing with their music idols.
“Artists and musicians need to engage in a much more meaningful way with their fanbase,” WholeWorldBand CEO John Holland observes. ”An important aspect of WholeWorldBand is direct-to-fan engagement — the fact an artist could crowdsource a single and really get their fans involved at an early stage in a single or album release.”
Fans can collaborate with The Rolling Stones  Ronnie Wood using WholeWorldBand.
Fans can collaborate with The Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood using WholeWorldBand.
Eric Alper agrees. Alper is the Director of Media Relations and Label Acquisitions for eOne Music Canada; he remembers when the label released One World, One Voice in Canada in 1990. “I remember putting it out and thinking, "This is a cool way to collaborate." I’m always interested in how people are using technology in order to collaborate, and then after you collaborate, how to make money off something.”
He applauds the fact WholeWorldBand levels the playing field between established artists and those new to the music world. “It takes out the mentality of, ‘You have no right to play with Stewart Copeland’,” he explains. “as if only a prestige (group) should be able to get to play with some of these people! From the start, (WholeWorldBand) had the mindset of, ‘This is possible: you could play with the band of your dreams.’”
The platform is still iPad-specific, with an iPhone app rolled out recently. "The reason we went the iOS route is, it’s the best technologically," Godley explains, "it’s the most accurate technology for music creation." However, Holland says the company has “definite plans" to be multi-platform by the end of the summer. WholeWorldBand is currently conducting live user trials; download the app for free, and users are given 8,000 “tokens” (worth roughly €7.12, or close to $10) for recording and collaborating.
Users can contribute video as well as music mixes to WholeWorldBand  using the platform s free app.
Users can contribute video as well as music mixes to WholeWorldBand, using the platform's free app.
However, the technology was was always designed with monetization in mind. Costs involved in participating in WholeWorldBand are low; posting your own Seed track costs €0.18 (roughly 25¢); contributing to someone else’s track costs a few dollars more. In order to contribute, one must buy into a Seed session to record with a particular artist/user, and that cost (anywhere between €0.89 - €5.99, or $1.23 - $8.30), is decided by the original Seed artist/user, many setting the price of their Seed sessions at the lower end of the scale to encourage engagement. For example, Ronnie Wood has set his Seed session at 1,450 tokens (€1.29, or roughly $1.78), and Stewart Copeland and Within Temptation's Seed sessions are set at 1,000 tokens (€0.89, or $1.23). Only the Seed artist/user is allowed to take contributions off the platform — not the contributor. WholeWorldBand addresses copyright agreements and buyout clauses at the onset to avoid any legal issues down the road.
Monetization was something Holland and Godley debated "long and hard,” Holland recalls. “The way the music business is going, musicians and artists need multiple revenue streams to replace the traditional income streams, so it was really borne out of a love of music and a desire to see musicians and artists justly rewarded for their work.”
WholeWorldband founder Kevin Godley didn’t want the platform  to be perceived as a kind of throwaw...
WholeWorldband founder Kevin Godley didn’t want the platform "to be perceived as a kind of throwaway item which was just about enjoyment, and that’s it; we wanted to provide a tool that would be useful to a musician — not just music, I should add, let’s be honest about this: we want this to appeal to anybody who has a musical bent. We want to provide something with more solidity and more validity.”
Sue Godley
Such qualities are important, particularly in today's throwaway market, says Alper. “I don’t think the world needs another app allowing you to create something and not make money from it — then artists are in the same position as before they were before starting to collaborate.”
How have major labels reacted? With enthusiasm, according to Holland. “It’s a very positive thing for (them): it’s creating new music; it’s engagement with the fans, labels can monetize their catalogue — and their video catalogue(s) — in a new way. It’s a very positive thing for labels, publishers, the whole ecosystem.”
That ecosystem includes remixers, as Alper points out. “People will ask, “Why would somebody want to pay money to collaborate with somebody else, when people have been using illegal samples for decades now, and twisting and turning the music into something else?” And really, the main thing is, with WholeWorldBand, you don’t have to go through sixteen different lawyers and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to use a sample; you can create and collaborate with recognizable people right now, and pay a small fee for that.”
“Initially when we started going round meeting people, publishers and labels, they were a little bit more suspicious than they are now,” Godley admits. “We are disruptive to a certain extent, we’re changing the shape of things. [...] It will take a little bit of time, but it’s beginning to click in. It’s a learning process. What we have is kind of new, and the bigger the organization, the longer it takes to get through to the people who need to understand it.”
WholeWorldBand is a collaborative idea whose twin music-and-video creation elements reflect the ethos of the man behind it. “An observation I could make is that popular music comes in two halves,” Godley explains, “the audio half and the visual half. You can’t really imagine Elvis Presley without seeing Elvis Presley – you’re missing a major part of the recipe, do you not agree? It’s a huge part of what popular music, and indeed all music, is about. It was always a fundamental part of the experience.”
WholeWorldBand CEO John Holland was approached by a filmmaker friend curious to post a new short wor...
WholeWorldBand CEO John Holland was approached by a filmmaker friend curious to post a new short work, in order to have platform users to collaborate on its soundtrack. "It’s really down to the user and the artist to look at how they best utilize it and make the most of out of it.”
Sulinna Ong
Broadly considered, platform might easily facilitate various creative pursuits, including photography, writing, visual art, and even 3-D printing. “You can start creating and inventing projects based on idea of what WholeWorldBand has,” Alper notes. “Like, ‘If it’s used for that, I wonder if i can use that for this.’ That’s a new mentality that people have to start thinking about.”
“As we forge ahead and see what comes to us, we see how it’ll deviate and come into different possibilities,” Godley observes. “I have a number of ideas in terms of collaboration. We’re at the very beginning of this journey.”
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