No strangers to the file-sharing, music-downloading universe that has reinvented the music industry, the Shins have achieved a cultish popularity by giving Web sites like Napster, MySpace and YouTube unfettered access to their music, videos, touring schedules and merchandise.
The indie-rock band has taken this populist ethos to the next level for their latest video, a live concert cut together from multiple cell phone video clips.
"If you can't beat them, join them," said lead singer-songwriter James Mercer. "We figured this was a cool way to embrace this whole new phenomenon."
The images were shot at the Austin City Limits Festival in September 2006. The Shins then teamed with the user-generated video Web site Current TV so fans could upload their footage to be edited for the video.
They ended up with a mix of images from the stage performance to audience antics to even bathroom shots. "The whole idea of the audience participating in the making of a video … you couldn't have done this 10 years ago," Mercer said. "So it's just embracing the new technology and the ubiquitous nature of video nowadays."
Armed with cell phones and digital cameras, the Austin crowd set out to capture every chord, angle and head bang during the performance of the Shins' latest single, "Phantom Limb." The song appears on the group's third full-length album, "Wincing the Night Away," which was released this week.
Although they're not the first band to turn their fans into filmmakers -- the Beastie Boys did it in their 2006 "Awesome … I Shot That!" concert film -- the Shins are the first to encourage people to upload their raw clips, bytes and images onto a single Internet site.
The brainchild of videographers Alex Simmons and Douglas Caballero, Current TV received approximately 200 spectator submissions and nearly 200 hours of footage for the "Phantom Limb" video.
The editors honored the bond between the fans and the band by ensuring that at least one frame from each submission was included in the video, which was released last month on the Current TV Web site.
While it may be seen as a fun project for fans, Mercer sees this development in media communication as having much larger implications.
"[The] power structure is shifting," he said. "People with creative ideas are winning in a way that is unprecedented. You have a lot of power in your bedroom on your computer to express yourself and be creative. It's pretty beautiful."
Although the video is occasionally grainy, shaky and unfocused, the nearly five-minute clip is anything but average. From close-ups of the band to fans dancing to the music, the "Phantom Limb" video is an all-inclusive experience of this live concert.
By choosing to forgo typical rock star trappings like flashy light displays and million-dollar set designs, the Shins not only saved a bundle on this video but also created a lasting tribute to their fans.
"It pays to be Web-savvy nowadays," Mercer said. "There's just a lot of power there if you know how to use it, and it's cheap and easily accessible. So it's just a smart thing to be aware of as a band, [given] the amount of recording and production and artwork and distribution that you can achieve … with your computer."