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Sting's (iPad) Book of Life

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"I'm not led by market forces or what is hip," said Sting to music journalist Anthony DeCurtis during a presentation at a special launch event at the Apple Store Monday on New York's Upper West Side.

And yet, the sixty-year-old rockstar was discussing the debut of something that could only be described as hip: Sting 25, an iPad-only app that celebrates his 25-year career as a solo artist.

Created by New York-based media company @radical.media, Sting 25 is a dynamic, multi-dimensional product that easily can be described as the Book of his Life. What it does is tells a story, said James Spindler, chief creative officer at @radical.media and one of the visionaries behind the project.

The story is told through six organizational principles -- time, albums, influences, activisim, collaborations and geography -- that have guided Sting's career. Using a pasteboard layout, users can navigate through the different principles and find audio commentary, concert footage, music videos, original sketches, lyrics, photos, tracks and even the instruments that all had a part to play in the last 25 years of Sting's life.

New Era of Music Documentary
The project, which took somewhere between six and seven months to complete, is the start of a whole new type of music documentary, said Spindler, whose company is no stranger to music docs, having produced the Grammy-winning Concert for George, Metallica Some Kind of Monster, Jay-Z's Fade to Black and a more recent MTV documentary for Lady Gaga, among others.


A big challenge was the rights and clearances needed when you're looking back on 25 years of a rich musical career. Spindler said the team at @radical.media was invaluable, as was the support of the brands behind the project, American Express and Chevrolet. This mitigated the costs involved, said Spindler. "This is the perfect project for @radical.media because it combines our film-making pedigree with an emerging and robust division."

The app is also multi-layered in its technology. For example, as you navigate through albums, the app recognizes what tracks you may already have on your iPad. Then, it fills in the blanks and tells you which ones you don't have -- and how you can buy them, on iTunes of course. The app also connects to Apple TV and can provide a dual-screen experience that lets you browse the app while watching footage, all on an HD TV.

All of which made Sting the perfect artist to launch this app in collaboration with, said Spindler. An app this robust needs an artist who has done it all and done it everywhere. This just wouldn't work with anyone else.

In conversation with DeCurtis, Sting said he used to buy albums and pore over liner covers. That kind of connection with the artist has now gone missing in this era of cloud-based digital music. "This is my modern way of going back," he said.

The app is free, something Sting wanted. The concert footage from Sting's 60th birthday concert, for example, is not available anywhere else. There is no movie, or television showcase for it. This is the only place fans can get it, and he wanted them to get it for nothing. Other than, of course, the price of an iPad.


Sting's Just the Beginning
And for @radical.media, this is just the beginning. The company is poised to announce a similar, larger project with a big name. No other details were provided. "The [Apple] platform provides so many creative opportunities we'd like to explore and it's up to us to figure out how to best use it," said Spindler.

Sting, for one, seems to be adjusting to digital quite easily. He surprised guests at the event with a performance of two tracks: 1987's "Fragile," which he dedicated to Steve Jobs, and "Message in a Bottle," which he said he is considering renaming to "Message in a Tablet."

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