What happens when artists give fans creative license

Glass Animals lead singer Dave Bayley realized that creativity and creating were keeping him sane during the pandemic. He explains why that led him to open-source sound clips, album artwork and more, and let fans freely create and share their work.

What happens when artists give fans creative license | Ipsos | What the Future
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  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends & Foresight Lab
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In today’s music world everyone can be a creator. While there were always ways for listeners to create their own fan art or make mixtapes, now they can share their creations widely with each other. It’s a relatively new aspect of how music can shape community. Glass Animals, whose chart-topping song “Heat Waves” is one of the most streamed in Spotify history, saw the pandemic as a way to formalize that process. With the “Open Source” project, lead singer Dave Bayley gives fans access to creative building blocks.

Yet “Heat Waves” has had a slow burn. It took a record 59 weeks to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Despite the ability for artists to drop singles whenever they’re ready, fans are evenly split on the frequency they want to hear from their favorite musicians. Bayley, says this is perhaps due to the myriad ways his fans discover music today. In a future with spatial audio, multiple metaverses brimming with brands, and songs licensed in every media, format and usage, maybe the shelf life of a song will extend. That seems both plausible and paradoxical since the shelf life of a viral video is often measured in days. But new media formats can also revive an old classic like “Never Gonna Give You Up.” With that, dear reader, you’ve been Rickrolled!

Matt Carmichael: How do your fans find artists and bands these days?

Dave Bayley: I think people are listening to more music than they ever have. They’re hearing it all over the place. It’s coming out of everyone’s phone every second, every ad you see has music. People will go back to it. They’ll Shazam it. They’ll ask their friend what it is. They’ll look it up on the internet. I quite like looking at YouTube comments and seeing where people find our songs. They will say FIFA the video game or Minecraft or Will Smith’s TikTok video. It just shows me that people are finding things absolutely everywhere. 

Carmichael: How do they connect with you? Our data shows that many people value having some sort of connection with the artist.

Bayley: I absolutely love meeting people, interacting with people. That’s a huge perk of this job. I reply to a lot of people who leave comments on whatever social media platform. I get in the DMs quite a lot. People send me all sorts of amazing things. People have posted videos or remixes they made, something someone's put on Instagram or sent me on Twitter. That's the most you can ask for, as someone who's made a piece of music, is a creative response to that music.

Carmichael: You have an entire array of tools for fans to do that with your open-source project.

Bayley: I realized at the beginning of the pandemic that what was saving me from going totally insane was creating stuff. The thing that can be difficult with creating in general is that anything is possible. You look at a computer screen, and you can do anything. There are no rules, there are no boundaries. If you can imagine it, it can happen. But sometimes what you actually need are rules. You need a starting plan. You need a tiny nugget of inspiration. I wanted to put as many of those starting points as I could on the internet thinking maybe something would help someone.

Carmichael: How did fans respond?

Bayley: The response back from it was just so wonderful. We made a slightly official competition and asked people to submit remixes, and this 15-year-old guy from Northern England sent a remix that was more musical than anything I’ve done. We put it on a deluxe version of the album and gave it a proper release.

Carmichael: During the pandemic we saw living room concerts and that kind of thing. I hope a lot of that continues.

Bayley: I hope it continues, too. Touring is such a huge part of what we did and is becoming a big part of it again. That’s where you see people and hear their stories and interact. We spent some time trying to recreate that, where we’d drop a Zoom link into our Instagram stories and just sit on there and wait for the room to fill up. Then we’d chill and hang out. Discord is another amazing place where we have a wonderful community of people. We did “Mario Kart” competitions. 

Carmichael: Are there aspects of music and the music business that will likely stick around in the future? 

Bayley: The thing that will never go away is that sense of community when everyone’s at a show and together and this shared consciousness. The most important thing about music is that if you’re feeling lonely and you’re feeling strange, it can make you feel less alone. 

Carmichael: Where do you see the role of VR and virtual spaces in the future of music?

Bayley: It’s so fun to play with virtual concerts and virtual art spaces. There’s an amazing ability with the internet for ideas to be shared and to move quickly. Playing in those spaces is brilliant. I hope people will take the best parts of all these new technologies and bring them forth into the future. But I don’t think they'll ever replace that kind of innate need for togetherness.

Carmichael: What do you see as the role for brands and sponsorship in music going forward?

Bayley: It pushes music forward. When we’ve done collaborations, it’s been an important part of our journey and career. There’s a financial side of it, but that’s also how a lot of people are discovering music. I realize how important collaboration is and how much you can learn from collaboration. 

The author(s)
  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends & Foresight Lab