/ Shopping, Technology

Posters playing songs as you walk by – music to your ears?

Interactive paper posters that can play a band’s music as you walk by could be coming to a wall, billboard or lamppost near you. Would they be music to your ears or spoil your day with superfluous noise pollution?

The prototype “Listening Post” posters are impregnated with conductive ink. Passers-by need only press a thumbnail image of a local band to hear a clip of their music.

The inventors claim that the ‘low printing costs’ (although the inventors haven’t specified how low) could make anything that uses paper or card more interactive.

New bands have other ways of spreading the word

The BBC’s description of the Listening Post conjures images of wannabe new bands fly-posting high-tech posters in order to draw people to their local gig.

In my youth a friend’s band (the Howard Brown Supersounds as named after the Halifax advert) was reliant on flyers and posters to spread the word about their local gigs. The flyers were designed and printed at home and mostly spread by hand.

If the band was still going today I suspect it would have abandoned these advertising techniques in favour of websites like MySpace, which is now as much a music blog as it is a social network – it famously helped propel Lily Allen to stardom. Other artists have made it big on YouTube, like Justin Bieber.

The beauty of these websites is that they’re completely free and accessible to millions online, allowing banks to get their music straight into people’s homes.

Established artists tapped into new technology

It’s hard to see what these musical posters could add that isn’t already available. Walking down the escalator on my way to work I passed a host of advertising TV screens; this morning a yoghurt drink was the advert du jour, but big bands have featured too.

The ability to print paper-thin music adverts could certainly be appealing for magazines like NME. But there are other ways of doing this, such as QR codes that people can scan with their smartphone for a taster of a new band.

The inventors of the Listening Post say it will take a few more years to bring their ideas to fruition, with music being just ‘the tip of the iceberg’. And despite my cynicism, I hope it will succeed. There’s something about the smell and feel of paper that a screen, whether it’s a tablet or TV, just can’t match.

CharlotteWilberforce says:
14 March 2012

I think we are ‘unplugged’ from the world and people around us – walking around with big headphones listening to our own choices, how many of us will obliviously walk past the posters without hearing a thing?

We have had cards that play music when they are opened and mugs that play music when lifted. Now it is posters that play music when you approach them. Not all ideas are worth inflicting on the public.

Maybe these posters could be used in some sort of interactive exhibition, but please, please keep them off the streets.

Sophie Gilbert says:
15 March 2012

There is enough noise pollution around as it is, so this is a resounding NO! to this being music to my ears. Resounding enough to be heard?

I can’t help but think this is pointless. Posters are best when you can read what they say from a distance and understand the message simply by walking past them.

Sure these posters could do both – but I can’t see people going up to a poster to press it… plus with people standing in front of it pressing buttons, how are others going to see what it’s advertising?

A QR code is better – walk up to it, scan it and then go off by yourself with the music playing in your headphones.