Arcade Fire is a rare breed of band. They can pen insanely catchy songs, the kind that send you into singalong fits, while also delivering contemplative, and at times biting, social commentary. Over the course of their 15-plus year career, they’ve tackled everything from death and religion to suburban blight to ambient intimacy and our obsession with self—topics that today’s more megalithic pop stars wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot selfie stick, and yet Arcade Fire handle it without ever feeling overbearing.
The Canadian-American outfit’s latest record, Everything Now, while musically not their finest, strikes yet another catchy-meets-profound chord with its subject of focus, one that is both pervasive and troubling in today’s media landscape. Content. The endless litany of news stories, articles, podcasts, Facebook posts and tweets. As a modern society, we’re hooked on them—or as lead singer Win Butler puts it on the album’s titular single, “every inch of space in your head is filled up with the things that you read.”
This idea of infinite content, as Arcade Fire has dubbed it, is the centerpiece of their world tour in support of Everything Now. The Infinite Content tour rolled through Chicago this past week and I was front-and-center on the floor of the United Center to take it all in. Watching as the band rotated atop a life-size Lazy Susan, performing on a 360-degree stage sporting four video screens blasting out mock advertisements for bibles, fidget-spinner USB sticks, cheap wine and self-help tapes, their criticism of rampant consumerism and content (over)consumption took on an all-too-real added dimension.
A little note for people with floor seats for the infinite content tour. The stage is a square. We will be dynamically mixing up where we play different songs over the course of the tour. If you like being on the barricade, pick a side and go for it. If your more in the back, you have more freedom to walk around a bit and see the show from different angles. The idea of being in the middle is that that we are much closer, even to people in the very top row of the seats. we get more energy from you and give it right back! You guys totally make the show, We have the best fans. Thank you for supporting us, saving your money to see us play. We’ve been on the opposite side of the barricade, and really appreciate it. All the best, Luv Win and Arcade Fire
After all, I’m a strategist and copywriter for a branding and marketing agency, making a living creating content in one form or another. As a matter of fact, it’s what I’m doing at this exact moment. And in my off time, I’m not shy about my appetite for words, pictures and podcasts. So the question becomes, not whether these things should exist or not. The bottle that held that genie has long been shattered into a million think pieces just like this one. For those of us who are creators of content, the real question becomes how do we make sure that we’re not just adding to the cacophony?The answer is simpler than we might think.
I have no intention for this post to be an ‘[insert number here] ways you can be better at [insert topic here]’ type of post. (Not that we frown on those at BatesMeron. Used correctly, they are tidy ways to offer useful tips and great ways to share our expertise.) The answer to this conundrum doesn’t require a handy listicle. It boils down to one thing. Your voice.
Why voice? Why not quality or thought leadership or authenticity? Well, partly because in this over-saturated marketing-content world I’m writing in, those concepts are played out. Do you really need to read another article about thought leadership? Would another blog post recommending that you be your most authentic brand drive the idea home any further? I hope not. But the main reason is because a well-honed, thoughtfully developed voice encapsulates all these things—whether you’re just someone pontificating on Twitter or you’re a Fortune 500 brand with a half-dozen social media properties.
Arcade Fire’s distinct voice is why their concept of infinite content resonates so deeply with me. It’s a perfect storm of quality, thoughtfulness and distinctly Arcade Fire authenticity. They put their unique spin on the idea, adding to the conversation instead of regurgitating it. This is something all the rest of us content creators need to take note of.
For Everything Now, they went so far as to create a fake shell corporation, the Everything Now Corporation, to manage spoof product placement and album PR. They designed logos for every song on the record (shown above). They developed a clothing line emblazoned with patches of all the logos that they wear onstage like the indie-rock version of a bunch of NASCAR drivers. They really manufactured those fidget-spinner USB sticks. Honestly, they went so all in on the idea of infinite content that I think the record itself might have suffered. But that’s a topic for another piece of content.
The point here, using Arcade Fire as my muse, is that in the race to be ever present in the eyes, ears and mindshare of your audience, you have to make a choice between quantity and originality. In the end, originality will always win. It’s a simple enough guiding principle, but it’s one that takes forethought, time and the focused consistency of a team equipped to achieve your goals. Done right, your audience won’t just stop and pay attention when they see your latest post, they might even actively seek it out. And in this world of infinite content, now that’s everything.
If you’d like to discuss how BatesMeron can help you with an original brand voice or an original content strategy, let us know!