The American electronic dance music trio Major Lazer, includes music producer Diplo, and DJs Walshy Fire and Jillionaire. Their music spans a number of genres, mixing reggae with dancehall, house, soca, reggaeton and moombahton. With some other members once part of collective, the line up has shifted a few times, which has fed the mix of genre defining sounds churned out since it began in 2008. Fast forward to 2015 when a collaboration with DJ Snake on the global hit ‘Lean On’ achieved the group global acclaim with it achieving Spotify’s most streamed track of all time.
Their recipe for success across every continent bar Antarctica (obviously) has been achieved by their clever use of cross-genre productions and travelling to the lesser-visited parts of the world. Showcasing their music with roots in so many cultures that otherwise wouldn’t be heard by audiences of the unusual places they choose to perform has brought the world together through music – and their artistic techniques of storytelling on an international scale.
This piece will walk you through how Major Lazer is king at storytelling, what they do and how they do it. Take note as incorporating some of these methods of telling a great story of you and your brand can increase engagement with fans new and old. Becoming a great storyteller is key to connecting with your audience, creating a link between artist and listener that the masses can relate to is the recipe for success. Other great examples are rap sensations Eminem and Tupac who both unleashed their inner demons and life of rough times within their lyrics – allowing listeners to hear their story and create connections with their own story of struggles.
The Story: “Music is the universal energy that unites us all”
Upon reading Major Lazer’s ‘What is Lazerism’ page on their website, you’re left with a deep understanding of their message, their mission and their WHY. It reads like a story and is accompanied by a genius video that takes you on a journey through everything you need to know about their vision – all within a minute.
By communicating your purpose in your music and content, you’re opening up that conversation with your audience, giving them what they need to relate to their own story from yours. Using their mini documentary, Major Lazer are inherently clear with theirs, and are building something out of the ordinary using different formats – which in turn is creating a cult-like following within their community and fanbase on a global scale… that brings people together.
Music Makes The World Go Round
It is not just Major Lazer’s use of storytelling through brilliant formats that is connecting the world – their music is blending together sounds from around the world and opening different community’s eyes and ears to the joys of different sounds that span from all corners of the earth. Their new year’s resolution was to travel to places they’ve never been before to discover unidentified areas that wouldn’t necessarily get opportunities of experiencing music the way most major cities and surrounding areas do in first world circumstances.
Major Lazer’s frequent shows all around Africa as well as the Carribean have opened up audiences in these areas like never before. Back in 2015 Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba following a 54-year-old trade sanction that began during the Cold War – an international event that lifted US travel restrictions. A year after the restrictions were lifted, Major Lazer held a free concert in the Cuban capital of Havana with a reported estimate of half a million people in attendance. Becoming the first major American act to perform on the island nation to both fans and curious residents wanting to be part of a monumental historic event.
By having their music celebrate different cultures, connect with international audiences and opening up opportunities for communities with little access to Major Lazer’s level of notoriety – they are telling the story of many parts of the world – to other parts of the world. Blending and smoothing relations which otherwise would have remained dormant, through the medium of music. Collaborating with artists of differing backgrounds has given them the edge of reaching ever expanding listeners and communicating their story even further – something that any musician is capable of doing (I’m talking to YOU).
Content Over Contempt
So we already know from seeing their mini documentary about their mission, that Major Lazer know how to create interesting, informative, different content that pushes boundaries. Well, of course there is more – they created a full cartoon series where their tracks were showcased and collaborating with other artists using them as voiceovers. This level of creativity and marketing potential is nothing short of genius. Each episode is 10 minutes in length and the shows follow the story of a freedom fighter based in a futuristic Jamaica as he fights demons and smokes a lot of ganja – blows.my.mind (both the show and the green fairy 😁).
Not only is this cartoon series furthering their vision and story, they have found a captivating format to express it through. The power of attaching music to visual stories like movies and TV shows is a proven way of expanding your brand in a creatively successful way. It’s not just a cartoon, it’s a showcase of music and storytelling to the masses. Trying out something like this will not fall on deaf ears, this is guaranteed to get people interested in what you have to say and your music is intrinsic to the message without forcing promo in people’s faces.
Think creatively here and collaborate with other musicians and artists! Create an actual story – write it down, draw it out or create a storyboard and find illustrators online, and sell them the idea. Get involved with people who can add to the project in different ways – start to build an army of creatives and the idea will begin to come to life. Contacts and collaborations are deep-seated in the business of art and music – the access to each other’s networks, ideas and audiences will come in very handy. The guy who was recruited in the beginning of Major Lazer’s cartoon idea, Gouw, went on to be nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for breakthrough video. You don’t have to head straight to the top, there are hundreds, if not thousands of awards ceremonies that will be easier to reach out to with a finished product. Then the visibility of your creation will fall in the laps of the right people to push it even more. Having someone on the team or find people who understand how to visually tell your story and incorporate your music is very important. A little research goes a very long way.
Just LOOK at how Major Lazer have created an interactive, illustrated Wikipedia-esque site to celebrate all of the people they collaborate with AND promote the work they’ve done together. I mean, wow!
Sharing Your Story Through Others
Like Marshmello did with his hit collaboration with Fortnite – performing an in-game show to a record breaking number of players and releasing items within the game for use – Major Lazer has been brought to virtual life within the game as a character. The same character that featured in their cartoon series – one that soon will be turned into merchandise to generate revenue. They’ve found a whole new world to progress their story with the character that defines their message. I think the appropriate word to use is MILKING and monetising it! If they’re going to have a concert in-game, you can count me in.
When you focus on your why and your story it’s easier to collaborate with others – be it artists or brands – because instead of focusing on small details you’ll have the luxury of the bigger picture in mind. Your collaborators will know from the offset WHAT you are about, where they fit with you and how the joint visions can work together to create art.
As with Major Lazer in Fortnite, there are many avenues you can take with collaboration, it is not just teaming up with another producer or vocalist. What other alternatives speak to you? How can you utilise them?
The Future of Storytelling
Since the birth of the MTV channel in 1981, showcasing music videos 24 hours a day, there hasn’t been much change in the storytelling of an artists music through the medium of the much loved music video. Well, that is all set to change now the advances in technology are racing by every day. Interactive experiences are showing up more and more. TV shows where you decide which action the character should take to virtual reality concerts – times are changing and I am here for it!
With technology being a BIG part of their brand – it comes as no surprise that Major Lazer have turned their hand to a futuristic way of getting their story heard and their vision out there in another mind-blowing way. The interactive music video for ‘Know No Better’ sees a teenage boy daydreaming AND living in reality. With the option of clicking between his dream and reality throughout the video, the audience is able to control two different stories at any given time. Whaaaaaat?!
Your budget might be restrictive of this kind of technology right now – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t expert whizkids out there on the internet just WAITING to create futuristic stories in these crazy formats. Research, connect, collaborate and create! And then do it again. And again. The future of digital media is so exciting and creating something on this kind of level is a fantastic opportunity to be a trail-blazer.
So remember, it’s imperative to discover your story – keep in mind what inspires you and what you want to achieve in your journey. Find that spark and build on it! Take these learnings and begin to implement them in your creative processes, what you’re making and how you communicate that to the world. Think creatively on how you promote yourself and your music. Find other artists in the areas of visual arts, music and technology developers and collaborate together working on ideas that are exciting and benefit all parties involved. Creative people of EVERY level exist and they want to progress their experience – working together with people to push this forward is easier than you think. Get a plan written down so you have something to work from and begin sharing that with people you know or meet online. Get recommendations, put your idea OUT there to be seen. The road to artistic brilliance isn’t a fast one but the journey sure as hell is incredibly fun.