Listening Without Prejudice: IamWhoIam

In last weeks Viral Tuesday I featured the latest video from IamWhoIam. The virals originated from Sony and were initially distributed to music blogs and are believed to be part of a marketing campaign to promote an upcoming album. But the most interesting part is that the virals are not attributed to any artist. This has lead to wild speculation online that it could be anyone from Christina Aquiera to The Knife, Lady Gaga, Goldfrapp or even Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. Thats a wide palate of diverse musical backgrounds.

Each viral has a code and The Guardian ran a story last week concerning a fan who has claimed to have cracked the code, claiming it to be Mrs Aquiera, but there’s just a strong argument for this set of virals to be from a new artist. So far the three virals on Youtube have over 330,000 views, although as of today the original virals have been removed and some re-uploaded so the view count will be much less. They are also being discussed across the web on serious music blogs and sites that might not normally discuss Aquilera to many topics, threads and pages on Christina Aquilera message boards

Since nobody knows who the artist actually is, all preconceptions are thrown out the window. Which leaves the big question that once the album is attributed to a specific artist and eventually released will the fans of Aquilera / Gaga / Goldfrapp / Nine Inch Nails or whoever it turns out to be listen to the music with an open mind? Will they unite and download it having left all their pre formed opinions to one side?

Cliques, communities and fans all share similarities hence why they band about together be it offline (mates will always share likes and dislikes) or online (fan pages, online communities, blogs). Breaking through to those sets of people can be a hard thing to do because people will have a preconceived set of values that a product must meet in order to be accepted. A hardcore indie head will not dare utter the words ‘hey, I really like the new Christina Aquilera stuff’. On the flipside (and I’m going to take a wild generalisation based on my own experiences) Aquilera fans will generally be unadventurous in their musical choices and for them to consider buying an album from an artist they might never of heard of, could be just as big a step.
Everything we purchase or consume is based on a set of values established on past experiences. Even the TED video I posted in the Optical Illusions blog post last week, demonstrated how certain visual illusions take advantage of what the brain perceives to be true based the brains’ past experience. Even our eyes will deceive us even when the evidence is right in front of us. For a product to break through that barrier of prejudgement is no mean feat. Preconceptions form such a strong part of our purchase decision that without these past experiences we only have half a product.

For example, all we have here are the slightly more tangible elements, thats short music clips accompanied by strong imagery. The part we don’t have are the underlying elements such as beliefs and attitudes. Marketing is there to form these within people. However the IamWhoIam campaign so far is playing upon our lack of opinion in order to position the product with potential consumers free of any judgement.

Isn’t this how music (and many other products) should be judged? Yes, maybe, but it isn’t. History is littered with products that were technically superior and better but due to a number of factors never really grabbed the public attention. The one that springs to mind immediately is VHS and Betamax, the latter technically superior but confined to the scrapheap long before VHS joined it. The marketing of the products plays a critical factor in building and forming attitudes towards any product. This is why the IamWhoIam is interesting, and, although it may turn out to be Christina, if it does, she will have succeeded in having me listen without prejudice.

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