John Mayer's new song Heartbreak Warfare has been given the AR treatment. When you visit the musician's website, you're prompted for permission to access your webcam. When you hold up a key image, displayed on your smartphone or simply printed out, it triggers the app to start a dynamic interactive music video. Check out the demonstration in the clip.
It's being called the first AR music video—though this is questionable. But whether you're a Mayer fan or not you have to admit the tech is cool. So cool, you're probably going to have to get used to it as more and more record labels work out how much of an impact you can get from AR.
While it's not quite as technologically advanced, U2 is pulling off a similarly high-tech trick this coming weekend. The band's certainly embraced technology before (remember the U2 special iPod?) but this is pretty big stuff—the upcoming gig in LA is going to be streamed live over YouTube to whoever wants to watch. The show is laced with cameras and video feeds, but LA was chosen as the show is being filmed—hanging a YouTube feed off the back of the filming effort is fairly easy. Licensing arrangements mean that only 16 nations can see it, but that's going to amount to one hell of a traffic bump to YouTube and U2's own website.
Which is the point, in the end. Even with RIM's sponsorship, the main purpose of U2's 360 tour is to generate interest in the band, and thus to drive sales of their music—there's a handy Amazon store link on their YouTube channel. YouTube gets the click traffic, which pushes their ad revenues up. Fans get to see a U2 concert for free, and to talk about it with other members of the fan community in the YouTube comments box (newly live-searchable of course). Everyone's happy.
And these two news items point to one unmistakable conclusion, particularly when you remember new high-tech efforts like Apples' iTunes LP: Despite the recording industry's obsessive hand-wringing about digital media and the web, it's just going to have to embrace the opportunities it offers. Because anything that can push the revenues up is good.