Tracking down the music with digital Dylan | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 10.09.2012
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Tracking down the music with digital Dylan

He first shocked fans when he dumped folk for electric. Now, Bob Dylan has gone digital. Using Sound Graffiti, fans have had a pre-taste with a novel Gamification app.

A screenshot of

On, fans find out where they can listen to the new album

Music industry veteran Bob Dylan and his label, Sony, have turned to 26-year-old New York-based DJ Roman Grandinetti to promote the new album, "Tempest."

Grandinetti is the owner of start-up called CNNCTD+ (pronounced Connected). And he and his partner have created a web app called Sound Graffiti.

Sound Graffiti can be downloaded from and installed on a user's smartphone.

"When you are in the targeted location, you activate the app, the app unlocks a random selection from Bob Dylan's new album and you have an opportunity to listen to it," Grandinetti told DW.

One hundred locations around the world have been set up for listeners to find – with the help of a dedicated online map.

"The locations were picked through Sony and some of them are iconic locations to Bob Dylan," says Grandinetti.

US President Barack Obama awards the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom to musician Bob Dylan

A veteran of the music industry, Bob Dylan has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

In the past week, more than 10,000 people have successfully plugged in at the various locations after completing what amounts to a musical treasure hunt.

Music industry plays catch up

Sound Graffiti is nothing new in the mobile marketing industry. It is just one of many apps used to interact with users.

Mobile Marketing Magazine editor, David Murphy, says the Dylan campaign has simply logged into this growing mobile trend known as Gamification. But he says it's still a novel approach for the music industry.

"Rather than just saying, have a listen to these Bob Dylan tracks, they are actually making people work for it a bit," says Murphy. "It's a lot more innovative than anything that the music industry has done on the web."

Social media has been embraced by most recording artists. But some analysts suggest the music industry has still been slow to recognize the full marketing potential of smartphones.

Among leading artists - like Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Madonna - Murphy says only Madonna has an official app.

But while the major record labels have yet to make the most of digital technology, start-ups like Spotify, and have come up with new solutions for streaming music online.

Something for everyone

By 2014, it is estimated that more than half of the people using the Internet will access it via a mobile device.

Founder of Tape TV Conrad Fritzsch photographed next to the company logo. Datum: 2010, Ort: Berlin, Rechteinhaber: Marijan Murat

Fritzsch says, which is free now, may have premium accounts for some content in the future

Conrad Fritzsch, the founder of, says the music industry needs to come up with its own solutions to reach different people via different devices.

"In the past, iTunes said 99 cents was the price. But normally in the whole world, you have supply and demand [dictating the price], but not for music, and this is really stupid," says Fritzsch.

Fritzsch says pre-listening, which allows fans to access a record days before its release will re-shape how the music industry sells records., which offers users free access to music videos online, may introduce premium accounts, which would give paying users access to exclusive content.

Sound Graffiti's Roman Grandinetti, meanwhile, is sticking with his own approach.

"The content will always be free to listen to the first time, but there will be you know drivers to other sources of content or media," says Grandinetti, adding that listeners may be able to win tickets to an event, or win other freebies, by listening to music on the app.

After 50 years in the music business, Bob Dylan has found a way to stand out as ever with Sound Graffiti - and it is pushing music back into public spaces.

But he also seems to be banking on an almost fully-fledged digital release. When his new record, Tempest, comes out, there will only be a smattering of limited stock, pop-up shops, where punters will be able to buy a physical copy.

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