Warner Music Group's 2014 has been bookended with forward-thinking partnerships. In February, they collaborated with song identification service Shazam, which allowed the major label access to Shazam's data to find and sign promising artists; making a digital push in China by acquiring entertainment company Gold Typhoon Group and partnering with Tencent Holdings Inc., one of the leading internet-based companies in the world; and now, just a few days after partnering with nascent short video "windowing" platform Vessel, WMG has become a founding major label partner of Interlude Music, an interactive media company specializing in videos of a "choose-your-own adventure" style.
“Our team is extremely passionate about offering the most creative storytelling opportunities for today’s artists because we started out as musicians ourselves,” said Yoni Bloch, CEO and co-founder of Interlude, in a statement. “Music is just the beginning. As artists and creators increasingly recognize the power of interactive video, the public and advertisers will surely follow.”
According to the New York Times, Interlude Music (which has received $19.3 million in funding, according to CrunchBase) was launched in 2010 by Yoni Bloch, an Israeli musician who built the technology to let fans "choose their own adventure" in his music videos. Even before the partnership with WMG was officially announced, the two entities collaborated on Coldplay's video for "Ink" off 2014's Ghost Stories and Damon Albarn's "Heavy Seas of Love," below. On Monday, Dec. 22, two more were revealed: Trey Songz's "Touchin', Lovin'" featuring Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa's "Stayin' Out All Night." So for all you Netflix nuts on the couch wishing you were out all night touchin' and lovin', you can now live a little vicariously.
Seriously though, the past few years have seen an enormous jump in interactive music videos. Last year the Arcade Fire made a big, confusion-inducing splash with their "Reflektor" video, which required multiple mobile devices, and Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" clip -- one of Interlude's first big splashes -- proved you can teach a legendary musician new tricks. This year, listeners could only hear Rustie's Green Language in its entirety after making their way through a Minecraft-inspired landscape, and Brian Eno and Karl Hyde took things to a whole new level with an "augmented reality" iOS app and LP combination for their collaborative album Someday World.
“Great videos not only complement songs, but deepen the emotional connection between artists and their fans,” added Rob Wiesenthal, chief operating officer/corporate, WMG. “Interlude’s technology enables a level of seamless fan engagement that has never before been possible. This venture is both an interactive canvas for our artists and a new way for fans to share customized videos. Interlude's video technology will allow for a level of creativity in digital brand integration that is both engaging and elegant. This is the latest in a series of WMG alliances with top-of-class emerging digital players that help set Warner Music apart from its peers."
Interlude comes with its own open-source software, Treehouse, that enables anyone to make their own interactive music video and upload it to the site. The pricing plans range: the free "core" tier allows full access to Treehouse, unlimited projects and storage, and mobile viewing. For a cool $350 a month ($250 if pre-paid annually), Interlude's "premium" tier -- which seems more geared toward those like Bloch, who want to make their own videos with extra resources from Treehouse -- adds ad-free viewing, external links, advanced branding, and insights; users who attain over 25,000 views monthly will be billed $250 per 10,000 more views.
The freemium video streaming model mirrors Vessel, set to open to the public early next year, which charges subscribers $3/month to access videos unavailable anywhere else -- at least, for anywhere from 72 hours to a week. It even finds a model in YouTube's recently launched Music Key. which charges users $8/month for ad-free streaming and extra features.
Whether interactive videos hold the key, so to speak, to compete against YouTube remains to be seen; at the very least, it's a cool way to bring listeners and viewers inside the experience, and might make your run-of-the-mill music video that you just watch seem slightly less enticing.