11.11.11 Sting's Message in an iPad - The 60-year-old rocker tries a new medium for musicians: the app...


Sting's Message in an iPad - The 60-year-old rocker tries a new medium for musicians: the app...

The music industry is often criticized for being slow to harness changes in technology. Smartphone applications are no exception. While videogame makers quickly got into the app business, spawning hits like "Angry Birds," few music acts have developed successful programs of their own. Now, a 60-year-old singer who released his first album in the 1970s is diving into the medium, in hopes of promoting his back catalog and snaring a broader audience.

On Monday, rocker Sting and the New York-based production company @radical.media will release a free app combining music, concert footage, photographs and videos. The central feature: footage from Sting's performance last month at New York's Beacon Theatre, including duets with guests like Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder. But the app, which is only available for the iPad, is also intended to serve as a retrospective of the artist's entire solo career.

"This is a very convenient way of archiving yourself," said Sting in an interview in his apartment overlooking the fall foliage of Central Park.

Users navigate through the app, "Sting 25," in multiple ways. A sliding timeline breaks out photos and video from career milestones such as Live Aid in 1985. Another navigation bar moves through about 20 "influences," from author Quentin Crisp to the Cold War; each category offers images and audio commentary from the singer. If any songs from 11 Sting solo albums reside on the user's iPad, the app automatically recognizes them; tracks that the user doesn't have can be sampled in the app and then purchased via iTunes.

Sting's manager, Kathryn Schenker, initially approached @radical about filming the singer's 60th birthday concert for a documentary, but she was politely rebuffed. "They told me concert movies are kind of a thing of the past," she recalls. Instead, @radical proposed an app. The company, founded in 1993, has offices in five cities, including Shanghai and Sydney, and describes its specialty as "transmedia," encompassing commercials, design, feature films and music specials for the likes of Bon Jovi, Jay-Z and Britney Spears. Last December, the company filed a trademark application for the term "appumentary," coined by company co-founder Jon Kamen.

Having recently released a 25th anniversary Sting box set, the singer's label, Universal Music Group, and publisher, EMI, say they eagerly supported the app as a high-tech showcase for Sting's catalog. The music companies offered up the copyright clearances required, but didn't chip in on the production budget. Those costs, in the low seven figures, were primarily covered by sponsors American Express and Chevrolet.

Apps represent largely uncharted territory in music. Recently the singer Björk married songs from her album "Biophilia" to a series of spacey video game-style interactives. Otherwise, few artists' apps have grabbed mainstream attention—most that exist are rudimentary, compiling tour dates, Twitter feeds and the like for mobile devices. Artist managers and labels have held off on attempts to develop ambitious apps because the payoffs are unclear.

Sting's team is offering the app free in an effort to drive downloads and cross over to users outside his fan base. But the free strategy underscores a nagging uncertainty about the demand for such apps, and whether they can effectively spur sales of music downloads. "There's clearly going to be a business model down the road, but nobody has a sense of what the market is yet," said Justin Wilkes, @radical's executive vice president of media and entertainment.

Since digital downloads have often been blamed for severing music from the artwork and liner notes that albums once offered, the rise of content-rich, mixed-media apps could offer a potential remedy. "There is a story, so whatever helps me to tell it, I will use," Sting said. "This is the future, in my opinion. I'm putting my money on the app."

(c) Wall Street Journal by John Jurgensen
(3) Reviews and Comments
stevem - 11.12.11
Can't wait!!
This sounds very interesting. Can't wait to get this on the ipad and running!
jodiba328 - 11.12.11
music app
For my Droid too....please
brijohn - 11.11.11
I game
How about an app for ITouch too.
"Sting was alone onstage, cradling an acoustic guitar, during the final moments of his supremely self-possessed show at the Roseland Ballroom on Tuesday night. It was the third encore, and as has been customary during his "Back to Bass" tour, he was playing a stripped-down version of 'Message in a Bottle', one of the springier No. 1 singles from his tenure with the Police. The lyrical gist of the song - in brutal shorthand, crushing isolation softened by a bleak epiphany - came across more clearly than usual, even as the crowd giddily sang along. "Love can mend your life, but love can break your heart," Sting admonished, his singing nearly drowned out by cheers..." Click here to read in full what the New York Times had to say about Sting's concert at the Roseland Ballroom. Were you there? Share your review or comments and post any photos from the evening or your ticket stub to the event page. Tell us about it!
''His Back to Bass tour - which stopped in Detroit on Sunday evening at the Fox Theater and promotes his most recent album, Sting: 25 Years - is as unpretentious as his stage presence. It doesn't involve any theatrics, complex lighting or elaborate effects. He is accompanied by a simple five-piece band: a violinist, a backup vocalist (who also doubles as a second violinist and maraca shaker), two guitarists and a drummer. Sting's performance felt decidedly stripped down and intimate; in between songs, he recounted stories from his childhood, explained his creative process and talked about his love for his wife, speaking to the crowd with heartfelt honesty and candor...'' Click here to read in full what the Metro Times had to say about Sting's concert at the Fox Theatre. Were you there? Share your review or comments and post any photos from the evening or your ticket stub to the event page. Tell us about it!
''In celebration of the 25th anniversary of his solo career, Sting hit the road performing and selling out dates throughout North America. With him on stage was, Dominic Miller, Dominic’s son Rufus, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Peter Tickell on electric fiddle and Jo Lawry on backing vocals and fiddle...'' Click here to read in full what the Chicago Music Guide had to say about Sting's concert at the Rosemont Theatre. Were you there? Share your review or comments and post any photos from the evening or your ticket stub to the event page. Tell us about it!
''There were no former bandmates from back in the day. No symphony orchestras. No theatrics. No distractions. It was Sting distilled. Playing a one-night show at the Rosemont Theatre Saturday, this was the Sting, pure and simple. Dressed in a plain gray T-shirt and jeans with a single spotlight on him, Sting was back to basics, or rather "Back to Bass" in a tour designed to celebrate his 25 years as a solo artist. He started the night with 'All This Time', accompanied by a five-piece band, including father and son guitarists Dominic and Rufus Miller and fiddler extraordinaire Peter Tickell, as well as drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and vocalist Jo Lawry.'' Click here to read in full what the Chicago Daily Herald had to say about Sting's concert at the Rosemont Theatre. Were you there? Share your review or comments and post any photos from the evening or your ticket stub to the event page. Tell us about it!
Two highly-acclaimed musicians, Sting and Vince Gill, are the latest duo to take the stage for an all-new episode of CMT CROSSROADS premiering Thursday, November 24 at 8:00 p.m., ET/PT on CMT. The performance, taped earlier this year at New York City’s famed Hammerstein Ballroom, resulted in an exceptional night of rocking collaborations and in-depth interviews. The 90-minute premiere features the duo partnering on Sting’s hits including "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You," and "Every Breath You Take," plus Vince Gill’s "Liza Jane" and "Whenever You Come Around." The musical chemistry between these multiple Grammy Award winners (over 35 between them) shines on stage, especially during their chilling cover of the Everly Brothers "Let It Be Me." Never-before-seen interviews with the two musicians reveal their reflections on the longevity and success of their careers...