Offbeat is a mobile app that connects invisible products such as music, TV and movies with tangible artefacts and public space. Music, TV and movies use to all be tangible possessions - but the records and VHS tapes were always just a container for the ‘invisible’ and intangible products they held. As soon as technology and legislation permitted, these products left their tangible container and transitioned to a service driven economy through platforms such as Spotify and Netflix. While this is a beneficial in many ways - there was a romance in the tangible product that is now lost. As Jack White observes, dropping the needle on a record was the final step in the creation of music. Something essential to the experience - and something that is now achieved through a mouse click. We can no longer collect, hold and be part of what was once a ritual. But there is “no romance in a mouse click” (Sax, 2017), and for the first time since their constant demise in sales, records have made a comeback. Jack White of the White Stripes and more recently co-founder of Third Man Records note that “In the age of invisible music it is important to have a real, physical product you can hold” (White, 2016). What Jack White is referring to is what David Sax terms the ‘Revenge of the Analogue’ - our desire to return to analogue ideologies. But instead of looking back what analogue, tactile, future could the future hold.
Offbeat draws inspiration from the flaneur of the 19th century. A flaneur wanders for the “sheer enjoyment of the modern city” (Lucas, 2008), and I see the ‘city’ as the collection of stories that fill it. Offbeat enables the modern day flaneur to explore their city through a new lens - the invisible products that populate it. Just as the flaneur of the 19th century is said to “add to the city” (Stahl, 2015), Offbeat encourages users to contribute to the platform, for the people of their city.
Offbeat Records are a tangible artefact that resemble the size and cover art of the CD jewel cases of past. However these artefacts do not contain any media - they contain a direct link to the digital file online. While online service driven driven distribution is so much more efficient, sustainable and reliable that their tangible counterparts - it lacks the physicality. Offbeat Records are a tangible artefact that we can collect, display on our shelves, hand out after concerts and something we can pick up and play - an artefact that make us the final step in ‘accessing’ the invisible music.