Last week during the first Monday Night Football game I watched the ad for The Johnny Cash Project on ESPN. I was blown away for two reasons.

  1. I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan.
  2. It’s the best use of crowdsourcing I’ve seen to date.
Now I will admit that I have not been a big fan of crowdsourcing for marketing purposes.  But I don’t want to bash crowdsourcing for marketing and communications (that will come in a later post!).


What I want to do is focus on why The Johnny Cash Project is such a great use of crowdsourcing. It allows users to contribute to a single finished project that is a work of art.  Not a shoe or a video download service, but one of the greatest songwriters and legends of country and Americana music.  The Johnny Cash Project allows users to draw a single frame of what will be a music video for Cash’s final song, “Ain’t No Grave.”  There is already music and archival footage that has been assembled for the project.


The Johnny Cash Project


There are several drawing tools available to draw your frame.  No fancy Photoshop tools here.  There are brush shapes and sizes and the the choice of colors are white, black and shades of gray.  You have to be very creative and several submissions demonstrate that.  Once you feel comfortable with your drawing you can submit it for consideration in the finished video.


Another interesting part of the project is the documentary footage consisting of interviews with different artists and regular users that were moved by Cash and submitted frames.  It’s simple and shows the emotion that Cash created in his fans, the feeling of despair, hope and life that comes through Cash’s baritone voice and life experiences.  My favorite quote about Johnny was that he could read a matchbook cover and make it sound interesting.


The end result is that all the portrait frames are strung together and played in sequence over the song. The portraits will create a moving, ever evolving homage to Johnny.  The other cool factor is that as new people discover and contribute to the project, their submissions will update the video playback, so it’s never the same video twice.


Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald started Square Jaw Media to document strategies and techniques he had used over his experience working in marketing and communications since 1990. During this time Brian wrote about many of the exciting Raleigh social media events where great knowledge was being shared and tries to share some of the tips and tricks. . Read Brian's full bio.