January 6, 2014

Mashup Products

I’m obsessed with Mindie, a mobile app that mixes Vine-like 7-second videos with music to create “everyday music videos.” By combining two pieces of media together - video + music - Mindie creates something entirely new. The music frames the video, adds context. Automagically, the music transforms the mundane into the interesting, instilling meaning to message. Its power to turn ordinary people into artists and evoke emotion in just a few seconds is remarkable.

In the music industry, a mashup is when artists blends elements of two or more pre-existing pieces of music to make a new song. Mindie is what I call a mashup product, combining multiple forms of media to create something novel. Driven with a desire to uniquely express oneself, these products appeal to this UGC era in which everyone is a curator (e.g. Pinterest boards), photographer (e.g. Instagram photos), or critic (e.g. Yelp reviews).

But Mindie isn’t the only mashup product enabling creativity and new ways of expression. Here are a few others:

Context: texting + photos

Context is an app for visual text messaging. Type a message and tap the screen to snap a photo. Instantly, the message and photo is sent to the receiver.

Its name embodies its purpose - a way to communicate with more context. Traditional text messaging lacks much of the human element and subtleties of IRL. Emoticons and stickers attempt to add emotion to an otherwise sterile communication channel but they’re not the same. Vocal inflections, location, and facial expressions are entirely lost. But a message accompanied with a photo - be it an expressive selfie or point-of-view snapshot - communicates more with little effort.

LoudGIF: GIFs + music

Before I spoil the punchline, please turn up your volume and click this link. I’ll wait.

Pretty dope, right? As you might anticipate from its name, LoudGIF mixes animated GIFs and music to make awesome GIFs more awesomer. If jazzy Gandalf didn’t convince you, maybe George Michaels will (click the image):

LoudGIF repurposes existing content (GIFs and music sourced from YouTube) to surprise and delight its users. Unlike the other examples in this post, the creator isn’t burdened to produce original GIFs or music. Users exercise creativity within the product’s limited constraints to create new memes and hilarity.

Crossfader: music + music

Crossfader is literally a mashup machine. The app presents two songs, played in unison as the user swipes through tunes to find the perfect mix. Mashup Daft Punk + Q-Tip, Fatboy Slim + Rick Ross, or the surprisingly delightful Marvin Gaye + Kaskade.

Tilt the device to fade between songs or violently shake to add sound effects. The app gives just the right amount of control to enable anyone to create compelling music.

Turntable.fm: music + chat

Of course, mashup products aren’t new. The recently shut down Turntable.fm, brought people together through IRC banter of yesteryear. Combined with music, nostalgic classics directed the conversation, resurfacing memories and instigating conversation.

Although Turntable.fm ultimately failed the novelty and delight it delivered was unquestionable.

Mashup products are an interesting breed, re-purposing media and leveraging familiar behaviors to create something new. At its core, they are a vehicle for self-expression, empowering and connecting people through creativity.

How might other forms of media be mashed up to create new forms of expression and compelling products?

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Photo credit: eme é ele á

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