May 10, 2012 at 11:03 am

This American Life, OK Go Team up for Music App Magic

this american life ok go live event music app interactive

At first glance, This American Life and OK Go don’t have much in common. The former is a talk radio show known for its funny and touching stories about human connection, and the latter is a  rock band known for its sugary hooks and music videos about dancing on treadmills.

A closer look reveals a certain kind of commonality. Each operates in a format that might strike some as old-fashioned in 2012 — the hour-long terrestrial radio program, and the four-piece rock and roll band — but strives to find new listeners by engaging current technology – This American Life’s podcasts and fantastic mobile app, and OK Go’s viral videos par excellence.

In that light, the pair’s upcoming collaboration on the unique music app pictured above makes a lot of sense.

this american life wbez chicago pri talk radioHere’s how this will go down. OK Go will perform during This American Life’s live broadcast event Thursday evening, which takes place at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts and will be broadcast live to over 500 movie theaters in the U.S. and Canada. Attendees of the show, both in person and via satellite broadcast, are asked to download a free iOS/Android app to be used as an interactive element during OK Go’s performance. Details about how exactly this audience interaction will go down are scant, but the folks at This American Life are calling it “a moment of iPhone/Android magic” on their blog (we reached out to the show for comment but have not heard back as of publishing time).

The app features three large, brightly colored buttons, each of which activates a bell sound at a different pitch. Fiddle around with the buttons long enough, and their colors will change, giving you a new set of pitches to play with. It’s not going to blow anyone’s mind on its own, but we can imagine the effect could be pretty impressive when lots of these are going off at once in the same room using some sort of synchronization.

To that end, we guess there will be cues during OK Go’s performance that direct audience members to play the bell sounds. Beyond that, we’re stumped. Will it be a controlled interaction, involving pressing specific buttons at specific moments, or a free-for-all? And what is the “key role” that This American Life promises to those audience members without smartphones? Will there be synchronized dancing???

Even before we know all the details, we like this idea because, with a simple interaction, it will make the audience a part of the show in a way that goes way beyond pulling out a lighter or singing along. Between this and holographic Tupac (which was a pretty impressive technological feat, regardless of whether or not it was in good taste and/or actually a hologram), we’re excited about the ways music apps large and small continue to infiltrate the live performance space.

Have you heard about other artists using music apps as part of their live show? Let us know. We’re all about this stuff.