SXSW 2012


The Question:
Can Printed Electronics Save the Music Industry?

The Panel:
Jon Rogers, Pete Thomas, Tommy Perman, Kate Stone and Kenny Anderson.

The Discussion:

At SXSW we discussed how printed electronics could save digital music in the context of connecting communities to record labels and artists.

Printed Electronics is an emerging technology with the potential to change how we interact. We can now reliably print basic electronic components onto paper and card; and when connected to conventional electronics, has the potential to re-connect digital to physical for album covers, fanzines, merchandise, and getting new music heard.

We raised questions of what does digital mean to independent hyper-local record labels that want to connect with their community and how bespoke digital printed electronics on paper could achieve this and alter the future of digital music and how artists can connect to people.

You can listen to the full discussion here.

The Prototypes:

Mixer Release: This object looks like a 7” record release, but has no vinyl. It instead has an inbuilt mp3 player that the user can remix using a paper mixer built into the sleeve. This object was created to start discussions around piracy; what if there was no definitive version of a song.

Night/Day Release – This object is a CD sized card case release that has a built in mp3 player. The lyrics to the song change depending on light levels, if it’s dark then its explicit, and if it’s light then its child friendly. This object was exploring how music can be reactive to its surroundings.

‘Wireless’ is a paper radio!  It pulls audio content from the internet and plays it back on a piece of paper.  This particular prototype is ‘powered’ by audioBoo and plays audio tagged with #sxpaperapps.

This is an experience prototype of a potential future scenario, and as such, a few non-printed components have been used. In the not so distant future we’ll be able to print the audio speakers and print the silicon required for the chips. Importantly though, the backend of the touchpoints (‘buttons’) is conductive ink, so the user experience is as true as it would be if all of the technology was printed onto the paper using conventional printing presses.


MSC Invite – This invite was printed with conductive ink. When plugged in at the event the invite is turned into a musical instrument. This invite was created to add value to a normal piece of paper with very little expense.

Mike demoing some of the prototypes after the panel.

Paper Headphones – These headphones come in an A2 poster format, but can be popped out and built up into paper headphones. 100 of these were produced to test out the current efficiency of batch production.

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