Rundgren will embark on an unusual promotional tour in July where he will demonstrate his interactive album, the first of its kind. He will barnstorm 20 markets and create one-of-a-kind records to hand out on a CD-I machine and a mini CD pressing machine that he will take with him.
In addition, Rundgren said he would embark on the first interactive concert tour, though he was still working on what that would entail. "in the late summer, we should be going out with an interactive live tour," the musician and future-tech guru said from his studio in Northern California. "I'm not going to throw instruments out in the audience, but the show will be a conduit for interactivity. People will have some influence over the music in real time during the performance."
As far as plans for a more conventional tour, Rundgren said, "I have no plans for anything conventional in the near future. Things will be pretty unconventional for the next several years." Rundgren is best known for pop hits like "Hello It's Me," "Bang The Drum" and "I Saw The Light," but has a long history of musical experimentation.
The interactive "No World Order" disc has hundreds of alternative music segments so that listeners can steer through the song with a Philips CD-I player and joystick, creating an infinite number of versions. For instance, they could add more bass, make the music faster or slower, or find a completely different lyrical message.
"No World Order" has already been released in Japan and is a hot import seller in the United States, largely due to Rundgren's active fan base.
Rhino Records' new Forward Records imprint will release its non-interactive version of the album on July 29 and Philips will issue the interactive version July 5. In each market Rundgren visits, radio contest winners will be invited to a small private CD-I demonstration. According to manager Eric Gardner, "Todd will create a custom record in front of everyone's eyes, using the interactive music database. He will also be carrying with him a portable CD mastering machine, so as soon as he has created this version, he will press a button and a one-of-a-kind CD will come out and Todd will give it to the program director of the sponsoring station. So 20 stations in 20 markets will play their own completely customized version of the single."
Rundgren will also visit retail outlets for CD-I demonstrations and autograph sessions. Contest winners will also be eligible to win CD-I players.
Gardner said both Forward and Philips will use the same art in their packaging and that radio will be initially targeted to two formats -- alternative radio and Triple A radio, a new form of adult alternative with 40 to 50 stations around the country. In phase 2, Rundgren will approach his traditional AOR radio strongholds.
Atlantic Records, which distributes Rhino, will also be involved with promotion and marketing. Atlantic senior vice president Danny Goldberg explained, "In our arrangement with Rhino, there are a specific number of artists that our promotion staff will get involved with and Todd is definitely one of those artists. It's always good to have another genius associated with Atlantic."
He added, "We are tremendously excited about Rhino's new label, and expect it to be just as successful as they've been in their other ventures."
The other component of the marketing effort will come from Philips. Bernie Luskin, president and CEO of Philips Interactive Media of America, said "The album needs to be seen and heard. Within the 16 original compositions, there are over 1,000 music segments. It's a real breakthrough -- sort of elastic music where you can create something new each time you hear it. Call it 'mindwear.' It's all part of the center-stage position that Hollywood is taking in the interactive entertainment industry."
Rundgren will also be creating videos and is excited about the capability of full motion, full sound on the CD-I disks, though he doesn't see how to get much else on the three-hour "No World Order" CD-I.
However, don't expect crude animation if room for full-motion video on the CD-I is non-existent.
"I'm not willing to invest a lot of energy to make little jerky movies," said Rundgren, who was a pioneer in U.S. music videos. "It's got to be high-end. I'm not into video games, and I'm not going to do this gratuitously."