The Wilderness Downtown: When New Media and Music Reinforce Each Other

On: September 7, 2010
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About Rosanne Sliuzas
I am a graduate of Media and Cultural Studies with a major in Film and a minor in International Development Studies. In my post-grad degree in New Media at the University of Amsterdam I am looking to incorporate non-profit organisations and/or international development into the field of (new) media. Other than that, I am a wine lover, music appreciator, festival adventurer, travel junkie, Dutch Aussie and film & television know it all.


Musicians are struggling, as they have always been. It seems to have to be part of the deal in one way or another. In the past decade or so however, things have gotten increasingly difficult for artists as the music industry has found itself confronted with fast declining record sales and an even faster growing competitor in the form of the internet. Particularly file sharing has become a major pain in the tush for record companies and artists alike. Yet despite several legal actions against online music distributors, some successful, most not, the problem has not faded. As a matter of fact, it is very much alive and kicking, even more present now than ever before.

So what is a recording artist to do? How to keep oneself relevant, and with an income. Live performance and merchandise might cut it for those in the pop genre, big record companies and a mean PR machine backing them up. But without that it’s a different ball game.

Enter Arcade Fire, an indie rock band from Montreal, Canada, and one of my personal favourites. They are known and appreciated for their creativity, musically and otherwise. And so for their third studio album, The Suburbs, they have taken to the internet in quite a creative way. The album carries the theme of growing up (in the suburbs) or as the lead singer recently put it in an interview with NME: “it’s a letter from the suburbs”. For promotional purposes a video was made for the track “We Used To Wait”, but it wasn’t done in the regular way. Instead the band formed a collaboration with Google which has resulted in an interactive film that can be enjoyed at The Wilderness Downtown.

On the website you are asked to enter the address of the home you grew up in. I could explain what happens after you click play, but it would take away from the wonderfulness of experiencing it yourself. Please go to the website (in Chrome or Safari), close all other windows and turn up your speakers. Oh, and possibly be a little patient. But trust me, it is worth it! Besides the amazing music, you will be treated to a visual work of art that shows yet again and in a brand new way how amazingly well music and new media go together. May they live happily ever after and produce a lot of offspring!

3 Responses to “The Wilderness Downtown: When New Media and Music Reinforce Each Other”
  • September 8, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Cool article, I didn’t even thought of that when I saw the website! For me it was “just” an awesome showcase of what can be done with the new HTML5 and CSS3, the next gen of website-markup. This definitely gave them alot of positive media attention, and I hope more bands follow in their footsteps.

  • September 9, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    cool!! too bad the arcade fire seems to be forcing their fans to download/use google chrome. I don’t even think they need the money :S or do they? About earning money in the music business through new media: I prefer the way Radiohead has done it: giving their album away for a price you’re willing to pay for it. In that way bypassing record labels (take up more than 50% of the CD-revenue). Here’s an interesting short article (with chart) that goes into it with greater depth click here

  • September 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    it’s a shame it only works in google chrome. i can understand it though, since it’s a google collaboration, and it’s a smart way to get users on their platform, because i think there’re enough people interested enough to download chrome just to check out this interactive film.

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