Pop Vulture

E-Musicians Phone It In

Sunday, March 9, 2008

It's a common story in the music industry: An artist posts a video on the Web, that clip goes viral, and before said artist can book his next no-name coffeehouse gig, he hears Ryan Seacrest introducing his song on a Top 40 radio station.

Well, if ever a music act was meant to be discovered on the Internet, it's iBand, an electronica trio from Austria whose "instruments" are handheld electronic devices. An iPhone or iPod Touch provides a melody with indie software company Moo-Cow-Music's Pianist application, which gives users one octave of piano keys at a time to play on their touchscreens. Another supplies the base beat with the PocketGuitar app, and a third provides the percussion with Moo-Cow-Music's Drummer program.

The band's first video employed a Nintendo DS using Electroplankton, a quirky music game, to create the rhythm section, but sadly, the DS was kicked out in favor of the iPod Touch.

The band -- made up of one-name artists Marina, Roger and Seb -- posted its first song, " Jam Session," on YouTube on Feb. 17. The eerie ambient tune -- reminiscent of Mark Snow's "The X-Files Theme" -- struck a chord with viewers. Thousands chimed in to voice their approval. By Feb. 18, a fan club had sprouted up on Facebook. (It has just a handful of members so far, but, hey, it's been only a few weeks.)

The three manually dexterous members of iBand are far from the first people to post videos of themselves playing music on iPhones. But most other iMusicians, such as a guy who kicked out a Beatles medley on PocketGuitar and a fast-fingered fellow who tapped out Coldplay's "Clocks" with the piano app, just seem to be messing around, not composing original music. IBand has its own Web site, http://www.iband.at, where in several videos you can see what performers the players have become, adding "costumed" hands and vocals.

The band has a lot of fans on YouTube, where its debut video garnered about 2 million views in two weeks. Among its biggest fans are users named the Princess Aurora, the Prince Philip and the Mistress of All Evil (or perhaps they're all the same person), who have spent countless hours slapping alternate soundtracks onto scenes from Disney's "Sleeping Beauty." And, judging by the YouTube commenters and the fan club contingent, iBand seems to be huge in Germany. Look out, Hasselhoff!

-- Christopher Healy

© 2008 The Washington Post Company