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Online video platforms have now matured to the stage, where content providers are able to use the playlist and "next video" functions to build a narrative structure. Brands are now able to create stories in which viewers can choose their own adventure in a kind of interactive branded content.
This "viewers choice" concept might initially seem to be limited to video platforms, but in a campaign from Hurts, the U.K. synth-pop band, the strategy has been applied to the popular Spotify music platform.
Spotify is an online music streaming service that allows listeners to listen to complete music tracks for free, search the Spotify library and program their own playlists. The service is funded by the occasional advertisements that appear between songs, similar to a commercial radio station. A subscription membership is also available, providing uninterrupted listening for a daily or monthly fee.
Music advertising on Spotify has traditionally followed the radio spot format -- a 30-second clip featuring clips from the album, accompanied by a voiceover urging the listener to "download now." Hurts and its label, Sony Music, chose a different approach.
Sony had identified a group of consumers dubbed "Tipping Pointers." These are savvy individuals in their early twenties who like to be at the cutting edge of culture. Music is a key part of their social lives; many of their friends produce music, arrange club nights or work in fashionable shops. As a group they are fascinated by the new or the experimental and love to feel a sense of 'connectedness' with the cultural underground. They often lead music tastes in their peer group but tend to be less 'purist' in their music tastes than fanatics.
One of the key things that came out of Sony's research was that this group had begun to abandon Radio 1, the national U.K. station aimed at listeners between 15 and 29 years old, in favor of listening to music on Spotify.
So Hurts collaborated with the highly regarded and often controversial Manchester author Joe Stretch, whose first novel "Friction" gained much critical acclaim, to provide the soundtrack for an interactive audio novel that was available exclusively on Spotify.
The novel, written in the second person and narrated by the actress Anna Friel, allows listeners to choose their own path through a strange dream world where nothing is quite what it seems. The story centers around the villainous Guy Lockhart, who is determined to condemn humankind forever to a loveless, empty existence.
Each chapter of the novel has been published as a track on Spotify and is located by typing a code into Spotify's search field. At the end of each chapter the listener is offered a choice, and can progress through the story by searching for the next code -- ultimately leading to disaster or success.
Throughout the experience the listener encounters music from Hurts' album "Happiness." Getting to one of the novel's possible endings without dying offers listeners a further preview of the album.
In the first week the novel received 160,000 streams, with more than a third of the listeners making it through the first ten chapters. Forty percent of streams on all these chapters came from 18- to 22-year-olds; another 15% to 20% came from 23- to 27-year-olds.
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