And so it begins: from the 12th (that’s today) to the 24th December, we’ll be embarking on the 12 Days Of BAMM, during which we’ll be treating you to a selection of our greatest moments from 2012.
To kick things off, we couldn’t help but choose one of our proudest moments this year – the release of the BAMM.tv iPad app, which has been lighting up iPad screens across the world. If you haven’t grabbed yourself a download yet – and it’s entirely free – you can do so here.
If you have downloaded the app and have been enjoying it, we’ve got something else for you: a previously unpublished article featuring an interview with Mario Garcia, the legendary designer who helped to spearhead the BAMM.tv app project. Fascinating stuff follows after the jump … just click on ‘read more’ …
THE BAMM.TV APP – THE INSIDE STORY
It happens occasionally – a movement, a unifying of creative minds, a genuine step forward in the field of technology. Things move pretty fast these days: YouTube was founded only in 2005, and the iPad was first released five years after that. We can’t wait for 2015.
But for now, it seems clear that the fusion of online video and mobile devices has changed how we live. We’ve gone from consuming media to engaging with media. The explosion in popularity of apps on smart devices in recent years has seen users willingly migrate from a browser-based environment to something that gives a bit more, that takes things to another level, that really immerses oneself in an experience.
The BAMM.tv iPad app, now available for free in the App Store, is special. Really special. A cutting-edge approach to music from one of the world’s most exciting new companies, the app brings together the youthful enthusiasm of a dynamic, focused team with the mentorship of expert industry veterans.
Dr. Mario R. Garcia is perhaps the most highly acclaimed publications designer in the world. With over 450 collaborations and counting in his long career, Mario knows very well indeed what it is to reach a target audience.
A Garcia Media project, broadly, seeks to present the most important information in the most easily accessible manner possible. Mario is both a teacher and storyteller, as befits his ebullient personality and active mind.
So it was a bit of an unusual brief that crossed his desk, but one very much in line with the Garcia Media mission: make what happens in the real world come alive in the iPad. Every night, in small clubs all around the world, excellent musicians are telling their stories, performing the songs that “you had to be there” to appreciate. What if we could recreate that experience in your iPad?
BAMM.tv is Bricks and Mortar Media. So we wanted to create a bricks and mortar venue for you to be a part of. Download the app for free, then open the doors to our underground performance space, explore the nooks and crannies, hang out with the staff, discover some of the best new music in the world, and then interact with the band.
“Editors have been telling us for years that people won’t read long stories online. Yet they will read 1,000-page novels on their Kindles. What will they be willing to read on their iPad? I predict the return of long-form journalism. At the same time, visual storytelling will take deeper, richer forms. Information design will be more important than ever.” – Luke Hayman, visual designer
From 2010, once the iPad landed on our global shores, it prompted agreement that the technology would change the nature of storytelling itself. Whether it could salvage print media from its seemingly inevitable demise was another key issue. There is a challenge to bridge the gap, and demonstrate how print and digital will continue to complement each other. At this stage of the game, we know the iPad will exponentially expand the contours of our imagination.
When approached to create the multimedia BAMM.tv app for the iPad, Garcia Media saw it as an interesting challenge. “We are not only into doing the big projects. We look at the project, and if we have an interest in taking that team to the next level, then we do it—I always say, ‘the best story wins’. We are not primarily a team that engages with this kind of music app. Both of the Hansens [the brothers behind BAMM.tv] wanted to make sure that this would have a strong journalistic foundation, not an entertainment one. Immediately after the first meeting I knew they wanted to have an element of journalism.”
So why journalism? Whether actually true or not, it is something of an accepted wisdom that in the new post-analogue age, artists need to regularly perform live in a diverse field of locations to make money. The thinking goes, regardless with one’s relationship (or lack thereof) with a label, live performances will broaden fanbases over time, thereby making music financially sustainable. Many do believe that ticket sales and merch are meant to replace the pricing matrix from when we bought CDs from stores.
If we stick to the basic premise that in the modern music economy, live performances and tours matter a great deal—well, perhaps not for Kate Bush, but you can see where we’re going with this—there is also the reality that live music performances tend to be rather complicated beasts. There’s a lot that can go wrong, every single night, and sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s tragic. But to the professional musician, this doesn’t matter much, because it’s all part of the craft, and mostly, things work themselves out.
Over time, the best performing bands do it with consistency and regularity, although it doesn’t always come easily. So there’s the story of the artists, the story of the writing of the song, the story of the recording of the song, and now it seems, the story of the delivering the performances, both at home and on the road.
A perfectly performed song, delivered to a cheering, crowded venue, just disappears into the ether, creating a musical rendition that is both memorable and immediately forgotten. Enter BAMM.tv, seeking to curate the best music discovery experience possible, by capturing performances at broadcast quality for a global audience.
And for the stories to accompany the music? Enter Mario Garcia and the iPad. The possibilities for creating a multisensory story environment on such a young platform excite the veteran designer, as it allows BAMM.tv platform to provide a premium experience both for partner bands, who have a rich, immersive environment to perform, and fans, who have the opportunity to seamlessly listen, learn and engage with the artists.
Garcia Media is behind some of the most major newspaper redesigns of recent years, from the Wall Street Journal to Libération. Mario’s formal training is more in traditional journalism than in visual design. However, has used his early experience as a visual journalist to devise design principles that have successfully evolved to new platforms. His most recent publication, entitled Storytelling in the Age of the Tablet, reflects this fully, as it is itself a multimedia app for the iPad. This ‘new textbook’ has been developed from a series of blog posts called the iPad Lab.
Mario told BAMM.tv: “I believe it’s at the heart of what we do, and I believe the schools of journalism have to focus more on storytelling, and less on the platforms. We have too much concentration on the technology, and less on the tools of telling the story.”
“Having said that, I am a firm believer that books come in and they grab you. I was fascinated by the tablet from the beginning. There’s audio, there’s video, there’s pop-up moments, there’s a photo gallery. So it’s not just narrative. It’s written in the first person, but it’s very much a textbook that shows the way.”
“For example, I can tell the story of newspapers in the 1960s in my own voice, or I can use a video to demonstrate how the Bloomberg app works. In the end the book itself is an example of all that this platform can do. That this is a platform for which you design for the brain, the eye and the finger. When you design for print, you only design for the brain and the eye.”
Garcia’s musings on design reflect his years as a university professor on the subject. For him, there are constants that inform work across the old and emerging platforms, but his passion for the possibilities of design is apparent.
“There are three things,” he explains. “You have to make it easy to find, easy to read, and you have to make it easy on the eye and attractive. Those are regardless of the platform you’re designing for. You must have those three essential criteria. On the tablet, you must be able to get anywhere within ten seconds. It’s the same case with print. The cover has to seduce within ten seconds.”
“For example, in the BAMM app, if you want to change genres, you want to go to the auditorium, you are not going to do that quickly if takes you thirty seconds to decipher where you’re going. The process of seducing has to be quick. It must be easy to read, and legible. It must be attractive, because we are all easily seduced by attractive things, whether it is print or the typography. So these are the basic principles which are applicable to any platform.”
In the first edition of Pure Design, Garcia addressed the influence of television on newspaper design. Over 30 years later, there are multiple information platforms to consider and print still hangs on, despite plummeting newspaper circulation figures and weekly stories of magazines folding. The iPad represents a major evolution in “lean-back” media. Lean-back and lean-forward were terms used by designer Jakob Nielsen back in 1997, to distinguish between the level of engagement with information on television and the web, respectively. One of the major reasons why the iPad’s potential for storytelling has been so hyped up is that it is probably the first portable lean-back medium.
For Garcia, the iPad allows us to consume online stories very differently from before. He describes a typical day of reading news content. “You have to deal a lot nowadays with the lifestyle of the user. The average media house has what I call a media quartet, whether you’re reading The Guardian or you’re reading The New York Times. They usually now have four platforms, they have an online edition, they have a print edition and they have a tablet edition. How those platforms are used is fascinating. The lean-forward platforms are the smartphone and online. Those are the things we refer to all day long, when we get on the metro or the subway, and want to find out what has happened to our favorite celebrities or football teams.
“Tablet and print are lean-back platforms. We take off our shoes and we really get into a meditative mode—for example, I want to read the analysis of why Obama is campaigning the way he is, but with the lean-forward, all I want to know is where is Obama campaigning today? Tonight or later in the day, when I go to the tablet, I want to see some footage of Obama campaigning, I want to hear Obama campaigning.”
He is amazed by how easily people move across the platforms, saying: “So we have four platforms, and this is fascinating how some people begin to read a story on one platform and get through two other platforms before they finish. This is how it works. You’re having your first cup of coffee, you’re reading the New York Times, but you have to take the train. Five paragraphs later you’re reading it on your tablet, then you’re at work and you’re reading it online. Many of the people doing this are not aware they have crossed platforms to read one story, but we all do this. I am a 65-year-old and I go from one platform to another to get my information and I am not consciously aware that I do this.”
Accordingly, more online content is aimed at the tablet user. The arrival of the iPad has hailed an explosion in long-form content online, with sites such as Byliner and Longform collating old and new investigative journalism. Garcia compares our consumption of content to that of a ‘harbor light’. He says: “In my workshops I always use the analogy of the harbor light – our users love to do the reconnaissance but they love to land as well. Long narratives are doing very well, because as I’ve been saying for years we don’t have a generation of people who don’t want to read, we have a generation of people who are more selective about what they read. Once those readers land somewhere they like, they stay with you. The tablet is a great platform for long pieces.”
The BAMM app became an opportunity for Garcia Media to see how the tablet’s storytelling abilities translated to the music arena. The designer said: “I think from the very beginning when we had our first briefing on this, I wanted to ensure that this project had a strong basis in storytelling. Music is all about storytelling: every song tells a story. But at the same time, they also want to make sure that stories are told beyond the music, which is why we want to include stories about the group. We’ve told stories from the beginning of time.
“Right now, I think our love for stories has increased tremendously. People cannot get enough. I think the BAMM app is going to have that extra layer of storytelling – it’s not just ‘play the music, go to the genre you want to go to’. It’s the foundation of my work and I hope I have brought some of it to the BAMM app.”
In the BAMM.tv’s iPad world, when watching a video, the user should also be given the opportunity to learn more about the musicians, like them on social media, find out where they are next performing and leave comments, all without breaking the experience of being in a performance auditorium environment. So there are three navigation tabs: Listen, Learn and Engage.
The app’s ‘Learn’ tab means potential fans can get the background on bands within seconds of seeing them perform on the screen, rather than having to Google extensively, or, worst of all, forget the name. Even more significantly, the app takes old forms and uses them to engage listeners and viewers in ways that are both familiar and exciting. Avatars of BAMM staff members have been created as interactive guides for users. Joe Zeff Agency, which is behind the famous M&M animations, and the New York visual artist GMD Three, developed the artwork that Garcia says recalls iconic illustrators like Playboy’s Alberto Vargas, and imparts some of the sophisticated humor of New Yorker cartoons.
“I think the app always has to be informative and entertaining and we have captured that. The real value of the app is sustainability, the idea that people would like to come back and that is done through the characters. The characters invite you back just like favorite characters in a sitcom. The avatars to me are really what has hooked people into the app and I really hope that is the case,” he said.
Garcia describes the final product as a “combination of documentary and MTV, and Life Magazine wrapped in one very daring new approach in the kind of company you are and the kind of content you carry”. It brings together elements of “television, documentary, storytelling, and film for the 21st Century”.
Creating multimedia apps is also an immensely collaborative process, utilizing talent from diverse backgrounds. Garcia emphasizes how closely his agency works with the internal team of any product they create, from the initial briefing until the final product launch. Along with Garcia Media and BAMM.tv directors Chris and Nick Hansen, some five other outside organizations have been engaged over the course of a year to devise the unique application. Both Garcia and the Hansens agree that the result would not have been achieved with only one agency at the helm, despite the challenges of working across time zones and countries. Indeed, it seems they thrived on it.
“Once we had a full 24 hour day just before GMD was flying to San Francisco to shoot the avatars in our SoMa studio,” Nick Hansen said. “I was going to sleep in London when Mario emailed from Kuala Lumpur, just as he woke up. So we got to work here the next morning, passed ideas along to Chris and our amazing project manager Reed Reibstein in New York, and we all saw it through to so that the team in SF could confirm arrangements immediately.”
The final BAMM app is something both unique and “pioneering”, claims Garcia. He says: “When it’s out there, people will take elements of it. The Hansens have guided us as much as we guided them. It has a lot of color and a lot of illustration, so we have been in this process and we created a recipe for something that hasn’t been done before.
“The Hansens are very creative minds and they have been hands on, at every step of the way, and we have all been learning together. Nobody has done an app like this. We have been pioneers in the sense. When this app is out there, others will take a lot. This is a multi-genre app, and there is a lot happening in there. This process in this kitchen created a recipe for something that hasn’t been cooked before.”
The creation of the app was a learning experience for everyone involved, according to Garcia. He said: “My neighbors look at me and say: how he is flying one million miles a year? Can you imagine having a project like BAMM to do at the age of 65? Being surrounded by young people? But I say yes, absolutely, let’s do it, because sixty per cent of what I do is on tablet, and you have to realize it’s a two-year-old platform, while newspaper has been around for 400 years—I wish I was 29-years old!”
However, even the average 29-year-old might have trouble imagining the possibilities of the iPad and other tablet forms right now. So are we approaching a new frontier in terms of what can be done and experienced with portable technology? Garcia believes this is the case. He says: “Online is going to become the extension of a smartphone but we’re all aware that the one platform of all those four where all the action is going to be is your mobile telephone. Even though our generation is not keen on reading long narratives on a smart telephone, I think the generation behind us will be. I have seen prototypes of how a newspaper will appear on a smartphone and let’s say that it would be a combination of radio, television, documentary and newspaper – you name it. And you will get it all on your mobile smartphone.”
It all sounds remarkable – maybe the cliché that we’re living in the future right now has some merit to it. Great things are to come. But for now, check out the BAMM.tv app in the App Store through this link right here.