It's not complicated

Yes, I’m partial to any organization or business that’s doing something different, something that's uniquely original.

Hey, if your products or services are like everyone else’s, why take up real estate? Even better if you’re doing something different AND it’s simple (and fun) to understand, use, or grok. That’s why I, and apparently a few others, appreciate companies like Apple, Google, Twitter, Amazon, Zappos, and Southwest Airlines.

Same with rock acts. If you’re not separating yourself from the pack, who’s going to notice you? But if your music is different, original, and easy to grasp—i.e. catchy—then you’re home free. (Think: Bowie, Prince, Madonna, or U2.) The early pioneers of rock lived this philosophy: Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Elvis. (Listen to Richard’s “Keep a Knockin’” or “Rip It Up“ if you’ve forgotten how brilliant and uncomplicated great rock can be.) And the band that resurrected rock & roll in the 60s—and changed the world in the process—wrote the book on it. The Beatles had a knack for cutting remarkably innovative but simple-sounding tracks, whose wizardry and sophistication were not immediately obvious (e.g., “All You Need Is Love" or “Yesterday”).

After 58 years of rock, it’s not easy for a new artist to find uncharted territory to stake a claim on. But there’s at least one band that has. Walk Off The Earth owns the video medium and is using their amazingly creative clips to catapult them into the pop mainstream. This tune, "Gang of Rhythm," is garnering radio play as we speak:

I love the fact that their vids have such a simple, fun, and captivating look that belies the serious artistry behind them. Walk Off The Earth always comes across as Down To Earth. Even though their most recent work (like this Volkswagen commercial) is more professionally arranged and produced (and doesn’t have quite the organic DIY look of early videos like this), each clip is accessible and entertaining.

In a similar vein, reading about Twitter in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, I learned that a single tweet—a technological marvel of minimalism that allows only 140 characters—contains complex metadata invisible to the user, including “31 publicly documented data fields." (If, like me, you don't have a clue what that means, check out the piece here.) The article goes on to say, “There’s some sophisticated, supple, and even revolutionary technology at work. Appreciating Twitter’s machinery is key to understanding how an idea so simple changed the way millions of people advertise their existences to the world.”

Creative simplicity in the foreground. Sophisticated artistry in the background. Good for business. Good for rock & roll.

Here’s an earlier post of Walk Off The Earth.

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  1. Amazing how much this reminds me of a video from another new(ish) group: Leftover Cuties' "One Heart" --

    It's easy to make things look as complicated as they are. I could talk all day about how tough it was to make a client's book sound just right.

    They don't care. They just want it done.

    Some of us geeks wanna look inside the box to see how it's done. Most folks (read "our prospective clients") want to put stuff in *this* end and have better stuff come out *that* end.

    Related, somehow, I'm sure: despite the marvelous complexity of their music, Yes' guitarist Steve Howe frequently recorded entire albums with 3 instruments: a Les Paul, a mandolin, and a steel guitar.

    1. A lot of us have to look inside the box. When I was in college EVERYONE started doing serious deconstruction of rock songs, especially Beatles stuff. I was just doing that a few minutes ago with McCartney's new "New" song. Another example of an easy-to-grasp (and easy-to-sing) "product" with layers of complexity embedded in it.

    1. Yes, yes. 37signals, for those who don't know, is a web app company that focuses on the basics. "I love competing on easy," says co-founder Jason Fried. I've got to do a post on them some day.

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