Legendary director Kevin Godley turns inventor with audio-visual app WholeWorldBand
David Knight - 1st Aug 2014
Music video directing legend Kevin Godley wants to encourage other directors to explore the potential of his innovative music app where musicians can contribute to each other’s tracks in the online space by uploading videos of their performances.
Godley's brainchild WholeWorldBand, which launched last year on iTunes, and bagged €5m of private investor funding earlier this year, allows musicians to both originate tracks and invite other musical contributions to that track, or to contribute to other musicians’ original music – and potentially earn money in the process.
Musicians use iPads or iPhones to record their performances – which contributes to a 'video mix' for the track, as well as the recording mix – instantly in sync with whoever they are playing with. Godley describes WholeWorldBand as “a little bit like an audio-visual multi-track machine, that anyone can walk into and create their own mix”, adding that the potential for the visual part of the audio-visual experience is ripe for experimentation.
Over 3,000 individual music sessions have been uploaded to WholeWorldBand since launch – including contributions from top musicians, producers and bands. Artists that have contributed 'seed tracks' on the app include Ron Wood, Stewart Copeland, Passenger, Ethan Johns, The Kodo Drummers and Kill It Kid.
“What we’re trying to do is level the playing field, because we know there’s a huge amount of talent out there,” says Godley, explaining that when the originator of the track decides to take the track off the platform and add it to a mainstream release, they must pay any collaborator on the track a session fee or an agreed share of the music publishing if they have contributed a lyric or part of the melody.
And with video being an intrinsic aspect of the application – currently available to download for free on iPad and iPhone, and to be rolled out to other operating systems in the future – Godley says he wants to encourage the visual aspect of the process, and has recognised early signs of that happening. For example, for a track started by traditional Japanese Kodo Drummers, one of the contributions to the track's mosaic is a video of the view of a moving train, with accompanying audio.
“There are a few people in there that have thought: ‘hang on a minute, maybe I don’t just have to point a picture of me playing bass, maybe I can do something a bit more interesting than that’. Without any prodding, people have started to experiment a little bit, and I personally would love to get people who make music videos involved in this in someway.”
Godley has been a pioneer of the music video medium since the late 70s when as a musician he started making videos for his own band with partner Lol Crème. He has gone on to direct for countless other artists in the subsequent decades, and says the germ for the idea of WholeWorldBand came when he directed the ‘One World One Voice’ TV show for BBC back in 1990, recording 250 musicans from around the world, all contributing to the creation of a new track.
When he came up with the proposal for WholeWorldBand in 2008 he says the idea was still ahead of the technology, but he says “the most interesting thing in the whole process is how receptive musicians were to the idea.”
Godley says that the app is still in a relatively early form – what he calls a "digi-logue" experience, part-digital and part-analogue. But with venture capital outfit Balderton and others investing €5m into the further development of the WholeWorldBand project earlier this year, various additional features planned to improve the experience for users will roll out on the app in the coming months.
“From my point of view, It sounds pretentious, but for me it’s a bit like my legacy," says Godley. "It combines two things that I’ve always done – music and pictures, in one interesting device. It's relatively basic at the moment, and the emphasis has been more on music than pictures, but I’m curious to see how people are more involved in pictures – music video directors and so forth – will figure out ways of using it.”
• Listen and watch WholeWorldBand video mixes:
David Knight - 1st Aug 2014