Audiences-are-abandoning-traditional-theater-settings-for-immersive-theater-experiences

Imagine waking up to find yourself on a deserted island. You’re standing on a small piece of land surrounded by ocean. There’s nobody to talk to and no way to escape. But the more time you spend exploring, the more you rely on your senses and instincts for answers. With time, things start to make sense.

Just over 20 years ago, brothers Robyn and Rand Miller released a game with this very scenario for Mac OS called Myst. The game’s main differentiator was that it relied on art and sound to help the player navigate through an unfamiliar world. Myst was captivating enough with the sound off, but with a pair of headphones and the volume up, there was nothing in gaming more thrilling – or creepy – than Myst‘s unique set of ambient soundscapes. Myst became the best selling game of the decade because it focused on an immersive multi-sensory experience that was so engaging, it felt real.

Fans of games like Myst no longer have to sit in front of a computer or television screen with headphones on: a relatively new genre of theater has emerged which brings the multi-sensory experience to the next level. “Immersive theater” is the closest thing to a real-world version of games like Myst and bridges the gap between an audience and the experience itself like never before.

New York City has become a hot-bed for immersive theater, starting with Sleep No More, a production which began in London in 2003 and has since expanded to The McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. The “hotel” spans 100,000 square feet with over 100 rooms, all of which can be explored by the hotel’s “guests,” who are fitted with masks (think Eyes Wide Shut) upon arrival. Guests are squeezed into an elevator, let off at random floors, and left alone to explore the elaborate sets across 5 floors of rooms. The production is a feast for the eyes and ears – dance and music play a major role – and one guest’s experience can be completely different than the next, which is why so many people return again and again.

Whereas Sleep No More is a choose-your-own-adventure production, Then She Fell (staged by Third Rail productions) is a guided – but much more personal – experience. With only 15 guests allowed in the former hospital at a time, Then She Fell blurs the lines between author Lewis Carroll’s life and the iconic novel he penned, “Alice In Wonderland.” The line between participant and actor is also blurred, as guests find themselves playing a role in the production with numerous one-on-one interactions and a set of keys that lets them open locks placed throughout the hospital. Like Sleep No More, each room has its own unique set design which becomes a platform for modern dance, enhanced by the soundscapes that pipe through speakers in every room. It’s an intimate experience that leaves an indelible impression on of all its participants who spend the evening uncovering clues and coming to their own conclusions about the controversial literary figure.

The Dutchman is another recent addition to the immersive theater genre. Although the play was first performed in 1964, a recent re-staging at the Russian and Turkish Baths in Manhattan’s East Village provided a unique setting for an immersive experience. Audience members, dressed in bathing suits and robes, followed the two-person play into three rooms over the course of the evening, each room hotter than the next. The purpose of the experience was so that audience members could physically “feel” the heat and tension rising with the drama of the performance. The play experienced a limited run but was sold-out each night as word spread of the play’s unique setting.

Immersive theater is showing no signs of slowing down. Relatively new productions like Fuerza Bruta, 4Chambers, Here Lies Love, Speakeasy Dollhouse, Queen of the Nightand Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 are all changing the way theater, art, music and dance are presented. These productions are attracting a diverse set of audience members, all attending to explore unfamiliar worlds and lose themselves in interactive, multi-sensory experiences.

Last weekend, I found myself standing in line in front of a retail store that I hadn’t been to since I was 8 years old. It was 8am on a Saturday morning, and the doors to the Manhattan Disney Store were about to open for a long line comprised mostly of little girls and their parents waiting for the limited amount of Frozen merchandise to arrive.

I would have been sleeping in bed if not for the impending birthday of my nearly 4-year old niece, who “plays” Queen Elsa so much that her pre-school teachers have banned Frozen-related behavior from her classroom. So my wife and I queued up along with all the other little Elsas, waiting for the authentic Elsa dress that apparently is selling on Ebay for nearly three times the retail value. I should have told Starbucks to write “Uncle of the Year” on my to-go cup.

As the chipper Disney employees whisked us into the store, where the majority of the waiting would occur, I heard some familiar sounds that transported me back to another time and place. First, a whistle from Mickey Mouse which I immediately placed as the song from the famed 1928 “Steamboat Willie” episode. Next, a pop-ballad love song that my wife informed me was from Tangled. Lanterns, which play a role in the film, were placed up and down the walls and ceiling surrounding the escalator to enhance the experience. The Elsas squealed with delight.

The line snaked around the Disney store as audio and visual stimuli filled various corners of the room. I enjoyed clips of Fantasia and The Little Mermaid, songs from The Lion King, and yes, even “Let It Go” from Frozen. By the time we reached the front of the line, an hour and a half had passed. We got the dress for our little Elsa, and both my wife and I looked at each other at the same time and said, “that wasn’t so bad.”

Disney has good reason to ensure that their customers have an enjoyable experience, no matter how long they wait. A study conducted in early 2013 by Oracle Global Research found that “brands could lose up to 20% of revenue due to poor customer experiences,” and that “many struggle to develop successful strategies.”

Whether your customers are waiting in a physical or virtual line, there’s no doubt that the right sounds played at the right time can turn around what could otherwise be an unpleasant customer experience. To that end, we offer the following tips:

1. Understand Your Customers

One thing brands are not short of these days is customer data. Modern marketing tools ensure that once an email address is obtained, all sorts of telling information – like age, location, and behavior – can be collected immediately. Defining the audience can often dictate the direction of the Sonic Strategy and help brands to develop a Sonic Identity. To help you understand your customers, we bring both an artistic and scientific approach.

2. Keep Your Customers Entertained

For companies like UPS and FedEx, where a large amount of business and customer service is done over the phone, wait times are often long and irksome. Playing the same 60 second loop over and over again could make anyone go insane, and it’s surprising how many companies who rely on customer service do just that. Do a YouTube search for “the worst on-hold music” and be prepared to hear how many big name brands don’t make the grade. Based on client work with help desks and call centers that has included original compositions and engagements with our music supervision team to find you the right tracks, our research has proven that the right music and voice, and unexpected sonic cues at the right moments, will increase the time customers are willing to wait.

3. Focus on The Customer “Experience”

When Man Made Music engages with a client, we don’t focus on the sounds or songs that will play while your customers wait – we focus on the experience. A client who manages a group of hospitals and doctor’s offices might look for music that will put their waiting customers at ease, while ticket holders waiting to get into a stadium would respond best to music and sound that will pump them up for the game. Starbucks, for example, has stores with various layouts and sizes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a combination of art and science behind how they get you from waiting on line to holding your coffee cup without feeling frustrated.

Learn how your brand’s customer experience can be transformed by visiting manmademusic.comDon’t wait.

File this under the “why didn’t anyone think of this earlier?” category.

Patatap is a virtual instrument with accompanying graphics that uses keyboard buttons to create sound. The application was created by designer Jono Brandel who partnered with the composers at Lullatone – a husband and wife duo. This isn’t Brandel’s only project, and most of his work focuses on using technology to display various types of animation.

The application not only works perfectly on a web browser, but it’s a fantastic experience on mobile web as well using touch interface. As Brandel told evolver.fm, “Web technology is at a really interesting place where we can start to make projects like this. Today’s web technology, which harnesses processing power typically associated with native applications, lowers the barrier of entry for audience participation. In many ways, I think this is why the reception was so strong,” he said.

Not surprisingly, fans of the application are recording their own compositions using Patatap already. We even played around with it at the office. Here’s the musical/visual results of typing in Man Made Music:

Go ahead and try it here!

Music streaming and discovery apps are so commonplace, it’s hard to know where to start. With all the big players diving into the space – including Samsung (who just announced “Milk,”) BeatsMusic, and Amazon – the market is becoming over-saturated.

We’re excited about a relatively new trend that is getting far less attention: apps that offer music or sound as an experience.

What’s the difference between discovery and experience? At Man Made Music, we have always seen music as a vehicle for creating an emotional experience. We’ve put together a list of some of the apps that prove music can be so much more than just pleasant sounds for your ears.

1. Mogees – Mogees, developed by British musician Bruno Zamborlin, is an app that works with an attached sensor to turn every day structures into musical instruments. Remember the guy next to you in history class who used to drum his fingers on the desk? Yeah, that guy. Mogees turns mundane thuds into beautiful music for anyone listening through the headphone jack.

The app, available for both iOS and Android devices, uses the sensor (a piezo-transducer) to transform nearby vibrations from tapping or hitting solid objects into a signal. The Mogees app uses that signal to produce sounds that have to be heard to be believed. Users can tap openly in “Free Mode” or along to their favorite songs in “Song Mode.”

Mogees has already reached its Kickstarter campaign goal of £50,000. If all goes well, the app won’t just be for adult musicians or music lovers – it could also be an educational tool, and the company plans to release “Junior Mogees” if they reach their stretch goal of £75,000 for that very purpose. Check out the video – we promise you’ll start to understand what we mean by “music as an experience.”

2. DynoMax Mobile Sound Lab – Fortune 500 company Tenneco, owner of the DynoMax brand, has developed a sound lab app (iPad) for auto enthusiasts. The app allows users to scroll through a variety of their mufflers to “hear” the sounds before they make a purchase.

“Performance enthusiasts ultimately want to know how the muffler is going to sound, and the DynoMax Mobile Sound Lab provides a true muffler sound experience that’s easily accessible on any iPad,” Sales & Marketing Manager Chris Gauss said in a statement.

While the app itself is not revolutionary, it’s the sonic version of “try before you buy.” This concept could easily be applied to other industries whose consumers are influenced or affected by sound, pleasant or otherwise (think household appliances).

Check out the app

3. Snippit – You share your photos on Facebook and Instagram, your thoughts on Twitter, and your sounds on SoundCloud. Snippit combines the social sharing aspects of those platforms with a focal point on short snips of music. Users can take 4 – 10 seconds worth of music for each post to express themselves not only through words and photos, but through sounds as well.

“Most music apps just show you what your friends are listening to, or allow you to share just a pre-set 30 second song preview,” Miguel Estrada of Snippitt told The Next Web. “Snippit gives users the ability to choose an exact verse or section of the song to share, and that creative control is very powerful and fun.”

So far, the Snippit team has raised $500,000 in funding and it’s currently free to download in the iTunes app store.

Snippit – Choose Your Verse from Snippit on Vimeo.

4. Pacemaker – The new Pacemaker DJ app for Spotify is the perfect marriage between sonic experience, music discovery and streaming.

Instead of using only local files as most DJ apps do, DJs can now choose from the catalog of over 20 million tracks that Spotify offers. It’s not the first to go the streaming route – the “edjing” app pulls from SoundCloud and Deezer – but Pacemaker is the only app to use Spotify as it’s source.

Pacemaker is being hailed as a game changer for the casual DJ. “We hope it’s accessible,” Pacemaker CEO Jonas Norberg said. “We believe that there is a bunch of people out there who want to do a little bit more than just passively consume music. They want to mess around with it.”

In other words, they want to be a part of the experience, not just consumers of the end result.

Most water-cooler conversations this week are centered around the last few events of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. At Man Made Music, we’ve adopted the Games’ competitive spirit with our own event of sorts called the DJ Olympics.

Our music supervisors and specialists have scoured the ranks of up and comers and legends alike to tell you who made the podium.

Bronze Medalist: Disclosure (United Kingdom)
English duo Disclosure can put their Bronze medal from the MMM DJ Olympics right alongside their “Best British Breakthrough Act” at this year’s BRIT Awards and their Grammy nomination for their debut album Settle. Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence, just 22 and 19 (respectively), saw their music skyrocket to the top of the charts all over the world in 2013. So far this year, the duo teamed up with R&B legend Mary J. Blige to put out a remix of “F For You” (video below).

Congrats, lads!

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Silver Medalist: Zedd (Germany)
If the name Zedd doesn’t ring a bell right away, just listen to the video below and you’ll not only recognize the track, but understand why our judges awarded the German DJ with a silver medal. The track, “Clarity,” won the 24-year-old Grammy award this year for Best Dance Record. He’s already well established among pop royalty, having produced mixes for the likes Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas and more.

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Gold Medalist: Chris Langrill (USA)
We did say the judges were from Man Made Music, right? It should be no surprise then that the gold medal is going to our very own Senior Music Supervisor Chris Langrill of CT Burners. But make no mistake, Chris deserves to take home the gold – do yourself a favor and check out his music to see why!

With the 2014 DJ Olympics officially wrapped, make sure to listen to all of the talented DJs that fell short of bringing home hardware:

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day at Man Made Music without a mention of 528Hz – or “the love frequency,” as Dr. Leonard Horowitz has coined it.

Dr. Horowitz claims that the frequency not only opens up your heart to love, but has the power to repair DNA structures. Take a listen and see if you feel yourself catching the love bug…

Video

Whetherthe frequency has miraculous qualities or not, love is certainly in the air at the Man Made Music office. The staff was treated to pink-frosted cupcakes – no word yet on whether or not the love frequency was used to make them more delicious.

Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Man Made Music!