The Planetary Jam

IIn this post, Josh Urban outlines his plan for an interactive tour to harness the power of music, and create a music video with the world.

If you’re like me, you might have pretended to play air guitar on a broom. After all, it’s practically a flying V! And, if you’re reading this, you’re probably imaginative enough to be building a career in music. I’d like to invite you to join me in an outlandishly fun experiment in creativity, unity, and changing the world by shifting people’s perspective of it. And yes, it involves a broom…and a train.

The Idea

The Planetary Jam

Music is a bridge to common ground, and musicians are the workers who construct these possibilities, with guitars like hammers and spiky hair instead of hard hats. I’m off to do my part in construction. I’m doing a completely interactive tour, traveling the east coast by train, and worldwide via social media. The idea: Get the whole world jamming. The strategy: Make a music video with the planet, bringing everyone on an interactive tour. You’re invited! Here’s a blog about what the project is, why I’m doing it, and the ideas behind it. I hope it will it give you some ideas for your own career, and you can join in this experiment! By the way, here’s the official website of the project.

All Aboard

The Planetary JamI’ve recorded a song called The Planetary Jam, and I’ll be videoing my journey by rail, playing street music with a GoPro camera strapped to my head. In addition to my acoustic guitar, I’ll be playing a cigar box guitar, and a home-built broom guitar. It’s a one-string contraption, similar to a diddley bow, and I’ve electrified it. It’s a magnet for people walking by on the street. “What is that?!” they ask. It’s super easy to play, so after I give them a quick lesson, I pick up my guitar, and we jam. It sounds rockin’, looks rockin’, and brings a lot of smiles on the street. Plus, it winds up on a lot of Instagram accounts! I’ll be recording these street jams of strangers becoming friends, as well as the travel footage, for the final video. But that’s me…What about them (and you?)

What about them (and you?)

The Planetary Jam

Guitar and electric diddley bow jam in Richmond, VA.

People the world over are invited to participate in three different ways, by: Playing a broom like an air guitar as they video themselves dancing to the song (and there’s a special dance, too!), joining in the tour stops in person, or musicians sending in tracks as guest artists for the final mix. Anyone anywhere can post their footage and audio back to the hashtag #JURT (Josh Urban Rail Tour) on social media, where I’ll see it, and splice it into the final video. This taggable tour opens up the playing field, my stage becomes yours stage, everyone is involved in the construction of something bigger than them, and everyone goes on tour. This format has worked great on previous projects, and I’m excited to bring people along with me.

The Big Idea

Through all of this collaboration, the focus is on what brings us together, not what divides. Oh yes, we’ll notice that we’re all different. But by rallying around music, and a project, perhaps we’ll build some common ground. I like the theory that the world is all in our minds. Change a perception, and change the world.

About this common ground…

The Planetary Jam
I’ve noticed that music has brought me face to face with those I disagree with in every possible way. Since we have to work together to finish the gig, get through the radio interview, learn the guitar, etc, I have time to see the other person. After it’s all over, I emerge with not only a tolerance and respect, but a genuine friendship, seeing that they’re much more than their opinions, and realizing that there’s more than one right way of looking at something. I’m very grateful to these new friends, and our views no longer divide. Indeed, they’re often the source of friendly banter, and a new dialogue exists. Looking around, I’ve found that my case is not unique. Music can turn enemies into friends, even in the extreme cases of the Christmas Eve truce in WWI, where enemy soldiers sang carols and exchanged gifts on the battlefield, inspiring generations with the question of “What if?…What if we had kept building that friendship?” So, I’m off to see what I can do in the matter of getting the world to jam. I’d like to scale up my experiences of building common ground through music. Will you jam with me?

Details, Details

Here’s how to join in:

  • For Video: 1. Grab a broom, listen to the song, and video yourself rockin’ out to it. You can do the special dance (check out my YouTube channel), or just your own thing. It doesn’t have to be the whole song, just a bit where I can splice it in to the final cut. 2. Post it back to the tour using the hashtag #JURT on social media, or email me the file. 3. Get it in the video!
  • For Music: Musicians, feel free to send in tracks as guest artists! The song is in the key of D minor, and I’ll be posting an instructional video on my YouTube channel on how to play it. I’d suggest for guitar players to send in a short solo for the outro segment of the song (but any musicians are welcome, no matter what you play!) Here’s a version of the song without any lead guitar. Remember to post the file back to the tag #JURT, or send it to me.
  • For Remixes: I’ll be uploading the individual tracks, too, under a creative commons license. So, if you’re a DJ and you’d like to remix it and release your version, that’s awesome! Guitar players, go ahead and rewrite all the solos, and release it as a joint cover. I’d like to see it really take off. Just note: those versions won’t be part of the final video soundtrack. That being said, let’s get a lot of different mixes out there! And please send them to me – I’d love to hear them, and I’ll post them on my networks.
  • In person: I’ll be playing along the east coast of the United States, and worldwide on Google + hangouts. Check the site for a calendar. I’d love to see you out there! Let’s jam!

Nuts and Bolts

For my fellow industry guys ‘n gals, here’s a few things that I’ll be trying on tour, and other things that I’ve learned from previous trips.

  • Networks: Facebook will be the hub (especially the Facebook group.) Twitter will be my location announcement for jams, a good way to propagate the message, and an easy way to build connections with new tour members on the street. Instagram will be the expected star of the show, as people like to take pictures of the broom guitar anyway, and following back is oh-so-easy. I’ll be painting the #JURT tag on it, so it will be even easier for people to connect. YouTube will be the host of the video, and I hope to get lots of post-tour mileage out of it.
  • Media: It’s been fun contacting media about the tour, as it’s not just a music project. It’s got crossover appeal and human interest, and I’m curious to see how this one compares to the previous tours, which did very well in that respect.
  • Street performance: Previously, I’ve solicited donations while performing on the street. But lately, it’s struck me as a barrier for people to stop and watch, so I won’t be collecting tips while I perform on tour. The business reasons are to support the song and the video, and if I can get more involvement for the loss of a few bucks in tips, it seems a wise investment.
  • Open source sounds: I’m releasing a creative commons mix of the song, letting people add their own instrumentation, mixes, remixes, and interpretation. I’ll also be uploading the individual sound files, so listeners will have complete flexibility if they want to add or modify. Propagation is key, and since I’ll be donating any iTunes profits to charity anyway, I’d rather see it spread far and wide than make me a few bucks. I’d have to turn around and spend that on advertising anyway. Plus, I’d genuinely like to see what people can do with the song!
  • The Planetary Jam

    Photo credit Noah Urban/

  • Profits: are not the goal, either on the human side, or the business side. From a financial perspective, I’m looking at the tour expenses as a music video shoot and promotion for the song.

In Closing 

I’m looking forward to making a music video with the world…and you! I hope you can hop on this party train, and join me in changing the world through changing people’s perception of it. I’ll let you know how it all goes afterwards, from the social connotations right on down to the effectiveness of the networks and logistics. Stay tuned for a follow-up post. Check out the official site in the meantime for details, hop on board at the Facebook group, and get ready to have fun! Let’s rock. Let’s jam!