Unmashing a Mashup | Bruce Turkel

According to web technologist Cameron Adams, a mashup is “a song created by blending two or more other songs.” In analog terms, a mashup is a musical collage made up of bits and pieces of other songs, sound effects, and audio files. But while you can look at a collage and tell which bits came from where, the more complex a mashup gets, the harder it is to distinguish the parts that are being used to create what you’re hearing.
So Adams dissected his mashup, Definitive Daft Punk, in real time to “reveal its entire structure: the cutting, layering, levels, and equalization of 23 different songs.” In doing so, Adams not only used the latest HTML5 and CSS3 technology to create an impressive bit of software and a fascinating explanation of a complex process, he also created his own visual art.

According to the website Coolhunting, Adam’s “online visualization tool breaks down and analyzes the complicated construction, demonstrating how individual sounds work together to form the whole in a diagram of rainbow-colored concentric rings. The beautiful animation lends a unique understanding of the intricacies of the particular mashup, joining the audio and visual for experiences not unlike ‘little slices of synchronous art, designed to please all of your senses.’” Adams posted his mashup, his dissection, and an explanation of it all, on his site, The Man in Blue.

Let’s recap: Cameron Adams created a new work of music, Definitive Daft Punk, using parts and pieces from 23 earlier compositions. The song is available on iTunes and YouTube. Adams then wrote software to graphically deconstruct the mashup and show how it was created and he posted the results on his website. Coolhunting wrote an article about the deconstruction presentation. So did two Google pages worth of other sites.

Our trend spotting director, Marlisa Shapiro, aka Trendaholic, sent me an email about Adam’s work and I found it interesting enough to write about. If you find it interesting too, then you can read about the deconstruction of Definitive Daft Punk’s marketing HERE.

Compare Adam’s marketing calendar to the traditional model. In the old days, a musician would record a piece of original music with other musicians, a publisher would produce and distribute it, radio stations (later MTV and VH1) would play it, and consumers would trek down to their local record stores to buy the song.

Adams did none of those things. First he built a piece of music by using existing recordings. Then he posted his music online for immediate downloads and generated consumer interest in the song by programming a new app that created art by disassembling the song he just put together. He then documented his process on his blog. Metaphorically speaking, Adams not only deconstructed his composition, he also deconstructed the traditional marketing machine.

Am I the only one who’s getting excited here? And by the way, it’s irrelevant whether you like Adams’ music or not. It doesn’t even matter if you like mashups. The bigger universal message is that every industry, creative and otherwise, is going to be disintermediated just like the music biz. Only here’s a clear diagram of exactly how to do it. Adams not only created music and visual art, he also built an easy-to-follow blueprint on how to market your output. The trick that Adams makes so clear is that it’s not just the product itself that generates interest but the process that created it, the components that go into it, and the analyses of both the product and the process. In other words, thanks to today’s digital technology, every part of your business can be marketed to the right people.

Nicholas Negroponte, the head of the MIT MediaLab, sussed it out years ago. He explained how computer technology breaks everything down to bits and that it’s these bits that change everything.

“First, bits commingle effortlessly. The mixing of audio, video, and data is called multimedia.

“Second, a new kind of bit is born – a bit that tells you about the other bits.

“These two phenomena, commingled bits and bits-about-bits, change the media landscape so thoroughly that concepts like video-on-demand…are just trivial applications – the tip of a much more profound iceberg.

“Being digital…creates the potential for new content to originate from a whole new combination of sources.”

Negroponte wrote about this in 1995. Adams showed us how it works in 2011. Today’s question is whether you (and your business) will start disintermediating your own world before somebody else does.

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