It’s a great big world

Ok, I plead guilty to Boomer Bias.

I’ve been berating the quality of modern rock/pop for years now—especially in contrast to the rock pioneers (like, of course, The Beatles) who seemed to draw from a bottomless well of imaginative songs that appealed to both head and heart. But something strange is happening in the world of popular music today (especially in Indie Pop and Adult Alternative). The airwaves are suddenly overflowing with intelligent, heartfelt music! Exhibit A:

Two outstanding NY singer/songwriters, Ian Axel and Chad Vaccorino, joined forces in 2012 to form A Great Big World. They’ve already had one big hit, “Say Something” featuring Christina Aguilera (in one of her best—and most understated—performances). With the 2014 release of their first long-playing album—Is There Anybody Out There?—they’re about to find the answer to their question.

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Hey, what’s the big idea?

clouds A fellow consultant recently inquired about my blog and upcoming book. “What’s the important business concept there?” he asked. “What are you selling? What’s the BIG IDEA?”

A timely question. The B.I. is all the rage now. A book or blog is expected to have a viewpoint or conviction that separates it from the background noise. So here’s mine…

Most organizations I encounter—from the “outside” as a customer or from the “inside” as a consultant—are lacking some of the key success qualities they need to be market leaders. I find them insufficiently:

    1. Innovative (do they look for creative ways to serve customers?)
    2. Inspired (is the workforce passionate about the business?)
    3. Independent-thinking (are they more than industry copycats?)
    4. Brand-focused (is there unique value they offer?)
    5. Mission-driven (is there a difference they intend to make in the world?)
    6. Conflict-savvy (do they encourage dissenting views in their workforce?)

I bear good tidings, however. There ARE teams we can learn from that specialize in these qualities.

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If at first you don’t succeed

Listening to Lake Street Dive on NPR’s Morning Edition this week reminded me what soulful performers these folks are, well-deserving of the national attention they’re finally receiving. Formed at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston—which graduates top classical and jazz musicians and vocalists—the Dive began as a jazz quartet but had to change direction to draw a decent audience, soon blossoming into a sophisticated pop/rock/soul band.

Having the flexibility and talent to be able to do that—to shift gears in response to market reactions and provide a more popular product/service—is a useful skill for almost any business team or organization, especially a startup. How quickly we forget that YouTube began as a video dating site (“Tune In Hook Up”), Shopify as a snowboard dealer, or Twitter as a podcaster. Such is life in the Innovation Economy.

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A Hard Day’s Night

Beatles Last week we discussed the first rock festival. This week we discuss the first rock film. Well, the first consequential rock film. (Even if it didn’t seem to take itself too seriously.)

A Hard Day’s Night, released 50 years ago this weekend, was ostensibly a fun and energetic romp through a typical day in the life of the new pop phenoms, The Beatles.

Because it was the beneficiary of early Beatlemania, the movie was a box office smash. So much so that people forget what an artistic triumph it was. Time magazine has declared it one of the all-time great 100 films.

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A fantasy fair

People on a concert We’ve become so used to the ubiquitous rock festival we tend to forget it once didn’t exist! Amateur historians point to the Monterey Pop Festival (Monterey, CA, June, 1967) as the first, but—as Rolling Stone reminds us—the first rock/pop festival was Fantasy Fair & Magic Mountain Music Festival in Marin County, CA. Sponsored by San Francisco’s KFRC, this concert took place one week before Monterey Pop.

The Doors, Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Fifth Dimension, and the Steve Miller Blues Band were among the 30+ acts who performed for the 36,000 people in attendance on June 10-11. In some ways it was a local crunchy-granola music-and-arts festival, which wound up exceeding all expectations, proclaiming the “Summer of Love” had begun. Most of the performers were pleasantly surprised by the looseness and informality of it and—with no dressing rooms available—they hung out and participated in the event with everyone else.

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