How to promote the local music scene and deliver killer content to your news site

(Alert: This idea went from light bulb to blog post in less than an hour. I reserve the right to re-examine this post tomorrow and realize that it was a terrible idea. And let’s be clear: This is just an idea, not an actual unveiling of a new Web site feature.)

The best newspaper stories are inspirational. Maybe a profile inspires hope, maybe an investigative piece inspires outrage, maybe a feature inspires goodwill.

What if a newspaper story inspired music?

What if the news site encouraged its stories to inspire music?

The plan: You’re a local musician. You read our newspaper or news site. You write a song inspired by or in response to a local story. You upload your song to YouTube or to us. We give you prominent space on our Web site to get your name and your sound in front of a much wider audience than your MySpace page.

Obviously, there would be rules. No profanity. Just like in comments below stories, no personal attacks or slanderous material. Keep it about local or state issues.

We don’t care what kind of song it is. Punk band, singer/songwriter, high school a cappella quartet, marching band, bongo player, whatever.

We don’t care how you make your song. Play your guitar in front of your Web cam, have your friend hold a digital camera, have it professionally produced, make a music video, whatever.

We don’t care if you send in audio or video.

We don’t care what opinion you’re offering.

For the artists, it’s a great opportunity for exposure. We could include links to band sites, if they have them.

For the news site, it’s incredibly unique, interesting content provided with almost no staff input. And it’s the kind of participatory activity and user-generated goodness that readers need to associate with our site, not to mention improving our role as a leader in our community.

What do you think? Totally crazy, or just a little bit crazy?

UPDATE: Two interesting responses worth highlighting.

On Twitter, Elaine Helm sends:

I like your idea for news-inspired music. Might be hard to sustain. Would be easier to organize around an event or isue. … Could be a creative way to get people interested in news, not unlike Daily Show or Uncle Jay.

Sustainability would definitely be a problem. We’d have to have some stats ready to give to the bands to show them how many people listened to them, to hopefully incentivize them to do it again and keep the momentum going.

The point about getting people interested in news is an important one. Crazy to think that reading the news could lead to something fun.

Via the comments, Shawn Farner adds:

I have mixed feelings. :) On one hand, I’d totally watch it. On the other hand, it’s taking a source for news, a source you hope readers respect, and turning it into a sort of variety show.

It’s an interesting point and one that would certainly have a lot of people concerned. This content would have to be very clearly introduced so readers know it isn’t the usual content The Patriot-News produces.

Otherwise, though, I don’t see a problem with the newspaper occasionally untucking its shirt. I’d argue we’d have a more compelling, more human product if it happened more often.

  • Bill Fenstermaker

    FANTASTIC concept.

    Hope to see it play out.

    Wish I was more of a musician than a music teacher. Might end up contributing during the “off season.”

    Expect to hear a lot of Randy Newmanish songs.

  • Why the hell not? What do you have to lose?

    Sure it’s a little bit crazy, but that’s what makes it memorable.

  • I have mixed feelings. 🙂 On one hand, I’d totally watch it. On the other hand, it’s taking a source for news, a source you hope readers respect, and turning it into a sort of variety show.

    I guess I’d have to see it in action to really decide. Come on, PennLive!

  • Brianne Pruitt

    We actually had someone write a song, whose title is based on a news story, the Wenatchee Pterodactyl. Amusing news story, interesting song. Here’s some links:
    Original story: http://wenatcheeworld.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071228/NEWS04/696205505
    Initial blog post: http://blogs.wenatcheeworld.com/thay/2008/08/19/the-wenatchee-pterodactyl-the-song/
    Q&A with musician: http://blogs.wenatcheeworld.com/thay/2008/08/26/a-qa-with-the-man-who-wrote-the-wenatchee-ptreodactyl/

  • Definitely a good thought. It would probably require a whole new page within the site, but it’s a new, innovative way for readers and news organizations to interact. Nowadays, that’s always worth looking into.

  • jack

    Nothing new. News inspired songs have been written since the dawn of time. Most of Bob Dylan’s early material was exactly that. I wrote them in the 60s too. The difference now is the 21st century media where they can exposure, but in competeition with media overload that’s almost impossible to grasp and can be considered another form of consumer self-delusion.