Author: Leah Taylor Dunbar

Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers Launch Bloom: Open Space in Amsterdam

Several members of the Listen team have spent the past week in Amsterdam gearing up for an ambitious addition to our Music x Technology program with Microsoft. We’re beyond excited to launch Bloom: Open Space with Brian Eno (yes, that one) and his development partner Peter Chilvers at Trafo House, Westergasfabriek.

This installation unlocks the incredible creative power of Microsoft HoloLens, taking Eno and Chilvers’ popular app, also called Bloom, out of 2D and into mixed reality. Working closely with Eno, Chilvers, and the HoloLens team at Microsoft, we were able to bring this generative music and art piece to life — for five days only. After getting fitted for a HoloLens, guests at the installation can use simple gestures to create beautiful and engaging music and art in the air around them.

It’s the first foray into mixed reality both for Eno and for our Music x Tech program. As for what he hopes guests take away from Bloom: Open Space, Eno says, “I would like it if people come away from one of my installations wanting to slow down and take more time… It’s a question of somehow getting people to get into a different gear, to enjoy the pleasure of a slower rate of stimulus, to strike a new relationship with a piece of technology.”

Go behind the scenes of this mixed reality generative music experience in the video above, and check out photos of the installation below. If you’re in Amsterdam, grab a ticket and join us at Bloom: Open Space daily through February 25th.

Listen Up: Our Favorite Albums of the Year

After egg nog, year-end lists are our favorite seasonal treat. We asked Listen staffers to share their top pick for album of the year, and got a varied list of seriously acclaimed artists and albums. Check ’em out, and enjoy our Best of 2017 playlist on Spotify.

Colin – Strategist

Thundercat – Drunk

Frequent Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar collaborator Stephen Bruner steps into the spotlight with his debut album, which packs 23 songs into 50 minutes. Thundercat’s bass chops are impressive, but it’s his inventive playing style, oddball arrangements, and unique sense of melody and harmony that make this album so special.

Magda – Senior Account Director

Sampha – Process

He’s the voice that’s accompanied the likes of Solange, Drake, Kanye, and Frank Ocean on their biggest songs, and Process is a work he can finally call his own. The remarkable, meditative album takes you on a journey through grief and self-discovery. Absolute stand-out of the year.

Josh – Senior Strategy Director

Flor – come out. you’re hiding

Swimming through the sea of today’s pop landscape can be overwhelming, inundated as we are with washy synth-pop, chilled-out pseudo-soul/R&B, and bedroom electronic acts all competing to own the post-EDM era. That’s why it’s rare to find an actual band that manages to tap into all of those trends while also delivering songs that are strong at their core, catchy as f*ck, and rock a sound that is relevant. come out. you’re hiding does all that and more, and it’s the album I’ve kept coming back to all year: Each track has popped up on my feed independently, immediately caught my ear, and then is revealed to be yet ANOTHER track off of Flor’s debut that stands out from the pack… Oh, and they’re signed to Fueled by Ramen. Nice pivot, FBR.

Steve – Partner + Grace – Marketing Operations Manager

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN

End-to-end, this album is compositionally brilliant, sonically rich, melodically interesting, lyrically profound… The list goes on. Anyone who offers a different take on “album of the year” is kidding themselves.

Brett – Partner

Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator

Because I slept on everything else until now, and she sounds like a young PJ Harvey — which is not something that should be slept on.

Leah – Associate Creative Director

St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION

This may be St. Vincent’s darkest (yet poppiest?) album yet. That Jack Antonoff production adds a lovely pop sheen to some seriously heavy themes. I’ve always been a St. Vincent Stan, but her ballad of LA haterade (“Los Ageless”) has solidified my love for all things Annie Clark.

Taylor – Senior Producer

Anna of the North – Lovers

This is sweet, dreamy Scandinavian electro-pop. Between Anna’s airy vocals and synth-pop ballads, the record feels like a confessional from a best friend. The entire album is a hit, but “Fire” is a must listen, and proves there’s a reason why Anna is garnering shoutouts from Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean. For people that like: LÉON, Sigrid, MØ, feelings (not a band name; actual feelings).

Sam – Senior Account Director

The XX – I See You

I’ve always loved The XX. I’m British, and remember going to see them when they were first starting out in London at a tiny venue. More recently, we went to see them perform at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens. It was a balmy summer evening and it was the first time I’d heard songs from the new album live. It was also the first gig me and my husband had been to since we had our twin girls the year before. Needless to say, it was a pretty special evening and further cemented my love for this band.

Shelleyjane – Design Director

Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet

Michelle Zauner’s sophomore album is Twin Peaks levels of dreamy and magnetic. Laced with extraterrestrial atmospheric intros and outros, her voice shines over melancholic arrangements. The songs’ spacious, expansive sounds envelop the listener in warmth. (Shout out to Syd’s Fin and Anna of the North’s Lovers).

Kurt – Producer/Mix Engineer

Actress – AZD

AZD features texturally diverse and inspiring sound design which remains satisfyingly claustrophobic throughout. That said, it was really tough to choose, so honorable mention goes to Sondre Lerche’s Pleasure; Kirin J Callinan’s Bravado; Lindstrøm’s It’s Alright Between Us As It Is; and death’s dynamic shroud.wmv’s Heavy Black Heart.
Enjoy our Best of 2017 playlist on Spotify, and we’ll catch you next year!

Listen + Clios: Another One

Call Khaled because we got another one. We’re thrilled to share that Listen has nabbed a Bronze Clio Entertainment Award for our original game created with Microsoft and M83, Meet Me At Go!

The game draws on vintage ’80s arcade styling, and is optimized for touch screens (like the Microsoft Surface). We were inspired by M83 frontman Anthony Gonzalez’s love of gaming to create this retro race game, which was released in place of a music video alongside an 8-bit remix (which we also composed) for his hit song, “Go!.” Play the game here, or read more about the collaboration here.

Listen Heads to Amsterdam for ADE

Calling all electronic-music fans! Listen is heading to Amsterdam for the sprawling Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), which consumes the city October 18-22 with a mix of club nights, industry workshops and panels, and intimate performances from major artists. In between all-night ragers and carefully curated DJ sets, Listen co-founder Steve Milton and Microsoft Director of Strategic Partnerships Amy Sorokas will be sharing the latest from our Music x Technology program.

Part of the Dance & Brands ADE conference programming, our panel discussion, What Every Artist Needs To Know: Game Changing Technology, will take attendees through recent collaborations with Alison Wonderland, Childish Gambino, M83, and more, highlighting the customized Microsoft technology that took their live performances and music videos to another level. If you’re in town, join us on Friday, October 20 (12-1pm). Then, jet lag permitting, find us front row for EDM wunderkind Martin Garrix.

Listen Snags 2 Clios

We’re proud to announce that last night at Lincoln Center, Listen took home the two Music Clio Awards we were shortlisted for last month. For our work with Microsoft and Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover), we snagged the Gold in Partnerships/Collaborations and the Silver in VR.

Part of the Microsoft Music x Technology program, our collaboration included an immersive live experience and VR component around Gambino’s 2016 release, Awaken, My Love!. Working with streamlined Microsoft tech, including Kinect and Azure, we developed PHAROS, a physical and digital experience that fans worldwide could access.

Learn more about PHAROS, or see how the Music x Tech program empowers artists and fans alike. And we’ll see you on stage again next year…

Listen Shortlisted for 2 Clio Music Awards

Get the tux out of storage and take your gown to the dry cleaner: Listen has been shortlisted for 2 Clio Music Awards! Both nominations are for our work with Microsoft and Childish Gambino, where we brought artist and brand together to collaborate on an incredible VR album release and concert experience, PHAROS.

This was one of our most ambitious projects to date in the Microsoft Music x Technology program, and we’re thrilled to see our work recognized. Read more about PHAROS and the Music x Tech program, and root for us at the Clios on 9/27 in the Partnerships & Collaborations and Digital/Media Music Marketing categories.

Alison Wonderland Hits the Road

We were thrilled to work with rising star Alison Wonderland for the latest installment in the Microsoft Music x Technology program. We collaborated with the LA-based dance DJ (incidentally, the first female DJ to headline the main stage at EDC Las Vegas) and creative technologists to produce new, jaw-dropping visuals — all powered by a compact Surface-based tour kit that can adapt to any stage size.

Inspired by spiritual iconography and elements of high fantasy, her new visuals are totally dynamic, meaning that she and her VJ can control them in real time, on stage. From stained-glass reveries to fiery hellscapes, the visuals move and change with Alison and her music, leading to an even more thrilling and immersive show for attendees.

Watch the video to learn more about Alison Wonderland’s creative inspiration points, and the energy she pours into all her shows. Catch her new visuals in action starting on August 5 in Chicago, and throughout international tour dates this summer into fall.

Sound, the Virgin Way

Listen headed to London in June to attend The Virgin Way, an annual conference bringing together some of the most creative minds in the industry to share thought leadership with global Virgin stakeholders. Listen founders Steve Milton and Brett Volker presented a music strategy highlighting the rich history of music within Virgin Group, the music landscape at large, and how these learnings could be applied to Virgin brand(s), partnerships, and new opportunities. We also presented a set of best practice sonic guidelines for Virgin management and brands to use when considering the use of music, voice, and sound across all their various touchpoints and marketing. We’re excited to see — and hear — this roll out in late 2017 and beyond.

The Call of Caramoor

Situated roughly 50 miles above NYC in Westchester County, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts is a gorgeous rolling estate and acclaimed performing arts venue that hosts some of the best symphonic and operatic performances in New York. The historic venue recently came to Listen to update their pre-concert “call to seats” sounds.

Our “Call of Caramoor” bells will announce all the concerts in the renowned Venetian Theater, and add to guests’ sense of anticipation ahead of every performance.

As Listen Founder Partner Steve Milton puts it, these bells are “grounded by a serene melody that blossoms slowly, as if emerging from the natural sounds of the woods. The call will ring out at regular intervals as the performance grows closer, first at 30 minutes before, then 15, 10, and finally 5. With each repetition, the core melody will take shape and increase in prominence, evolving from a gentle ambience to a clear, resounding alert that politely urges our guests to take their seats.”

We were inspired by birdsong’s conversational qualities (connoting community), and the natural beauty of the estate itself in composing these sounds — as well as the historical connotations of bells themselves, often associated with ritualistic gatherings.

Our hope is that the Call of Caramoor sets the mood and whets audience appetites for the extraordinary music yet to come. If you’re planning an excursion to Caramoor this summer for their Summer Music Festival, keep an ear out for our chimes.

Listen at Cannes

Musicians aren’t following culture; they’re defining it. This week at the Cannes Lions fest, Listen founder Brett Volker is leading a discussion on defining culture through brand and artist collabs (one of our sweet spots). He’ll be speaking with BBC Worldwide’s CMO, Jackie Lee-Joe, and Managing Director of SBTV, Mark Cranwell, about the ways in which their brands have successfully partnered with music artists to empower both creation AND consumption. These two UK media heavyweights sit at different ends of the British entertainment media spectrum, and together possess a wide-angle view of not only how culture is consumed in the UK, but also how brands and artists can – and should – collaborate.

With over 20 years of international marketing experience, as CMO of BBC Worldwide Jackie oversees the entire portfolio of BBC brands and programs, and their overall marketing strategies – from BBC Earth to Doctor Who. As the Managing Director of SBTV, Mark is tasked with growing the music-centric business across their three main pillars: digital agency work, broadcast TV, and film, both at home in the UK and soon, North America.