Re: Members - Ólafur Arnalds' OPIA and the power of creative community

Written by Shaun Burton

In the hush before a concert, all eyes may be on the conductor. But as soon as the orchestra begins to play, the soaring music reveals the wonder of many people coming together to create something beautiful.

You can see - and hear - the magic of people in tune with one another in online community OPIA. It was founded by composer Ólafur Arnalds (with a little help today from Levellr), but the power and creativity of the collective comes from its members: fans, musicians and artists sharing their art and collaborating to create something greater than any one individual.

Ólafur is a Grammy and Emmy-nominated Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and producer who won a BAFTA award for the atmospheric score to hit TV series Broadchurch. His haunting album re:member, which recently turned five years old, combines his ethereal musicianship with a custom-built high-tech musical system Ólafur named Stratus.

In 2019, OPIA began when Ólafur's shimmering sound birthed a one-day festival celebrating the marriage of modern classical and electronic music. And in July 2023, Levellr helped Ólafur relaunch OPIA as something new: a travelling festival, record label and community hub centred on a Discord online community.

"In an age of social disconnect and streaming algorithms I’ve felt an ever-growing need to create a place for people to meet, to talk and create, to inspire and be inspired", Ólafur told fans. "My hope is that OPIA can host an environment where creativity thrives through real life experiences and connections."

How is Ólafur using Discord?

Ólafur and his team set up the space, but only to lay the foundation for a truly collaborative, almost open source musical experience. Member contributions are the focal point of this collective, rather than announcements or releases by the artist.

Here's how OPIA works:

◦ The focus is on community-generated content (CGC), particularly music and art.

◦ Ólafur opens possible avenues for collaborative work between members by suggesting creative prompts.

◦ Regular events include a bi-monthly Composer Competition, in which the community votes for the winners. The most recent culminated in a live listening party for the winners and their compositions, hosted by Ólafur.

◦ Exclusive Discord presales for events like the OPIA community launch event in Berlin, which sold out.

◦ Demo submissions to the OPIA label are only accepted through the Discord server.

◦ Passionate fan mods with genuine care not just for the artist, but for the community and its purpose.

Why Discord?

As a messaging app with servers forming dedicated safe spaces, Discord is perfect for fostering community and collaboration in ways that other platforms can't match. Most platforms are focused on broadcasting to an audience, whether via traditional media, social media or even forums like Reddit. Discord, by contrast, is geared specifically to real-time interaction.

A musician stands up from his piano and points into the crowd at a concert.
Ólafur Arnalds' OPIA collective turns the spotlight on the community.

The beauty of this kind of community is that it can be shaped to the purpose and philosophy of any artist, sports team or brand. Some communities delight fans and superfans with exclusive access to their favourite artists and brands, while others, like OPIA, open up to something new.

The community's collaboration has already borne fruit.

What are the results?

Ólafur and his team have been blown away by the quality of demo submissions from the community. The team are so excited by the community’s creative output that they're looking to curate and release a compilation of members' work. Management are even considering signings based on the work so far.

The range of conversation shows the versatility of a Discord community. Members have in-depth and insightful chats with each other about the finer points of music production, as well as sharing simple highlights from their days such as meals they've put together.

The value of this community was summed up during a live listening party by a member named Kenny, a composer and musician from the Scottish Highlands who won a recent composition competition. A software developer by day, he's also a multi-instrumentalist making music under the name WESTHEART.

"It's amazing to see what's happening and all the hard work that's going on", Kenny told Ólafur and the community tuned into the live Discord event. "It's phenomenal for everybody that's on here, so I applaud you guys. We love being a part of this community and it's fantastic to see it grow and expand."

How is Levellr in tune with OPIA?

An OPIA member's journey begins on a custom landing page, driving email marketing opt-ins and collecting audience location data. This granular data is particularly useful when, for example, planning IRL events. To celebrate the launch of OPIA , Ólafur is hosting an intimate one-off improvisational show at Silent Green in Berlin on October 18th with performances by JFDR and Sofi Paez -  the latter discovered by the team through the community!

In the month since launching with Levellr, OPIA community membership increased by more than 25%, and participation rate increased by 55%.

On a day-to-day basis, Levellr supports management and moderators with Discord troubleshooting and building on fresh ideas and suggestions. But the opportunity of partnering with Levellr is much bigger.

Levellr brings the expertise to make a brand team's most exciting ideas real, completing technical implementation of elements like OPIA's demo submission process and listening parties. Levellr's facilitation of multiple communities across genres and markets also means we can expand and develop creative concepts with the benefit of insights gained from other spaces. For example, data from across Levellr communities helps individual community owners understand the perfect timing to roll out engagement touchpoints. In OPIA's case, Levellr helps Ólafur and the management team see the potential for future competitions based on the multidisciplinary artist talent of the community.

"It’s been so great having Levellr on board", says Árni Þór Árnason, of Ólafur’s management and co-founder of OPIA. "It really feels like we’ve taken the server to the next level and more ideas are coming to us every day."

Just as in an orchestra, every member of the OPIA community has a part to play. The power of community lies in people playing and evolving in harmony to create something more magical than even a founder as imaginative as Ólafur Arnalds could dream.

Levellr works with clients from Fall Out Boy to Starbucks, and can unite your superfans too. Contact Levellr today to find out how you can build a community which works for your brand.

With thanks to the OPIA team (Hildur Maral, Árni Þór Árnason) and brilliant mods (Ben, Brian, Heikki, Paul and Sofi), for bringing us onboard and being a joy to work with.

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