Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Blister Media Brings Sound to the Nasdaq Experience

In 2000, Blister Media was commissioned to produce branded audio elements for the NASDAQ MarketSite, located in the heart of Times Square. The following press release was issued by the producers of the project, and I reprint it here because it details our music production process. It may also mark the first time we started referring to the work as 'Sonic Branding' –the now popular coinage for the term. My partner and I had considered using the term as early as '98, but instead opted to use the word 'Audio' because it felt more in tune with the late nineties zeitgeist (ala Audioslave), and so prior to 2001 we referred to our services as 'Audio branding' or 'Branding with Audio'.

FEBRUARY 28, 2001

Apart from being the stock market for the digital world, The Nasdaq Stock Market® now has a place in its MarketSiteSM where visitors can learn even more about the 21st century world of stock trading. The new visitors’ center is a new, integral part the Nasdaq MarketSite, which is located in the Conde Naste building in New York City’s fabled Times Square, and it has become a tourist attraction in its own right. It also represents a year-long effort by the audio designers at Blister Media.

“No matter how inexperienced at investing visitors may be, I hope that they leave here with the enthusiasm to go home and trade stocks on Nasdaq®,” explains Blister Media executive producer Terry O’Gara. “Our goal was to make electronic trading with Nasdaq an audio adventure, and to brand the visitors’ center with a sonic palette that reinforces one’s experience. We didn’t want people to scratch their heads and say ‘interesting.’ We want them eager to trade stock and take part in this economic adventure.”

Nasdaq commissioned Blister Media to create audio content for the “Nasdaq experience,” at its MarketSite, including original music and sound design for the on-site destinations. On the street outside, a forty-five second “Welcome Video” entices passersby to enter and once inside, a five-minute film entitled, “The Global Connection,” plays in a surround-sound theater. The film explains the essence of Nasdaq and the online trading experience. Just past the theater, a bank of interactive kiosks let visitors play a game that simulates online trading.

“The trading game is just for fun ,” says O’Gara. “The data used, though, is culled from the last five years of Nasdaq trading history, so a player can see how well he or she might have done if introduced to the Nasdaq experience earlier.”

Drawing closer to the actual experience of electronic trading, another set of interactive kiosks offer a detailed offline tutorial about navigating the Nasdaq Web site.

“The music is different for each event,” explains O’Gara. “Each is customized. Every sonic element was deliberately conceived to provide Nasdaq with a uniquely cohesive and identifiable sound. Nasdaq was an exceptionally cool client. Beyond our initial conversations about concept, they gave us absolutely free reign in seeking a musical direction. They showed a great deal of trust, which is always gratifying.”

Among the other challenges for Blister was creating a “sonic brand” for the Nasdaq experience that would stand the test of time.

“In this industry particularly, what sounds new today, sounds old tomorrow,” says O’Gara emphatically. “The music we created sounds modern, but isn’t based on musical fads or pop culture. The idea was to give the music ‘legs.’ Instead of relying on the latest electronic sounds, the scores we composed use traditional instruments in ways they weren’t originally intended to be used. Using the guitar, for instance, we would create an unconventional sound, and then manipulate it using computer technology. The result is an electronic sound that is nonetheless organic, a sound somewhere between music and noise.”

Another challenge involved appealing to the multitude of international visitors to Times Square. “In attracting international visitors, the temptation is to use traditional indigenous instruments,” explains O’Gara. “For India, you might think of the sitar, but we wanted something different. We wanted to use traditional instruments from around the world, but to play them in a non-traditional manner to get the feeling of the instruments, without the immediately identifiable trappings. We also recorded voiceovers in six different languages for the guided tour.”

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NASDAQ MarketSite Credits:

Larissa Fawkner - Special Projects, MarketSite Experience
Karen Wilner - Director, MarketSite Experience
Miguel Iglesias - Manager, MarketSite Experience

Eleanor Tsang - Senior Producer (Film/video/Guided Tour)
Alexis Menten - Producer (Film/video/Guided Tour)
Jaseung Coue - Producer (Film/video/Guided Tour)
Jason Carreiro - Producer (Film/video/Guided Tour)
Elizabeth Rankich - Interactive Producer (Market Watch game)
Dana Yee - Art Director/CD (Film/video/Guided Tour)
Pakorn Bupphavesa - Senior 3D Animator/Art Director/CD (Film/video/Guided Tour)
Haejin Cho - Senior Designer (Film/video/Guided Tour)
Gary Tam - 3D Animator/Compositor (Film/video/Guided Tour)
Adrian Kays - Editor (Video)
Darcy Bowman - Editor (Film)

Composer – Michael Sweet (Film, Video, Game, Installation)
Executive Producer – Terry O'Gara (Film, Video, Game, Installation)

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