The world between zero and one
Recently: An event with close to 200 business consultants. Invited by dear friends I nonetheless marveled anew at the parallel worlds out there and the bubble I live in. Hi how are you, what do you do? Finance, mergers, charts, make money, save jobs, save our economy. Live on planes. 80 hours weeks.
And what do you do? Music? Arts?
A moment of silence. Every time, for many years in such situations: That short moment of silence before the floodgates open.
When the business people figure out that the “music and arts people” also live for their work and on planes, and don’t even try to save such pathetic things as the economy, but rather think they are saving the world…that’s when interesting conversations ensue.
It always turns out that most of these hard-core business people are genuine music or arts lovers. They all have a favorite song, or composer or visual artist or writer. Being pragmatists by profession, they are of course also always highly curious about the mechanisms behind the larger system that might be “the arts industry”. And in recent years when these two worlds meet – arts and business – conversations always end up circling around two very human topics: Our basic wellbeing in the digital world, and the topic of physical product vs digital service.
How do artists, who depend on physical product for their work and livelihood (instruments, paintbrushes, steel and wood, etc.) deal with the schism of devoting different parts of their being to their craft, and at the same time to the merciless pressure of selling it to a world made up increasingly of individual digital components (every manager and every digital community circle must regularly be fed)…
And how on the other hand can those humans who spend their lives in front of screens and devote their being to making money from – and encouraging ever more – streams of data, find salvation in pressing yet another button at the end of the day to listen to their favorite song in badly compressed quality? They all seem to love book shops and timeless stories and beautiful melodies.
Certain age groups claim to be missing the days of browsing through stores and listening to physical music product, but that’s nostalgia for lost youth. That ship has sailed. Or has it?
Haptic perception and search for material quality and beauty is not just another retro marketing trend, but a real human need. Just watch small children for a few hours and observe what makes them happy, and what makes them angry or sad. They are our future. All of ours.
The answers to these key questions?
Obviously we are already seeing a reversal or at least readjustment of certain trends. Using collected data to appeal to our basic needs of experiencing something real, preferably together, is the only way to stay relevant: Last year Amazon – perhaps ironically – started brick and mortar bookshops. Google sells physical product, Spotify is turning their playlists into a new form of concert culture.
Institutions and companies that address the above mentioned needs will be the only ones surviving this very exciting transition in history. And those people, artists and chart-and-graph-thinkers alike, who don’t just train knowledge, but learn and develop it, who are allowed to grow and work in groups, who put their foot in the door between zero and one, who know how to listen into themselves by searching out regular moments of quiet and beauty….only those people will break out of the growing army of digital slavery and be the successful ones.