It’s a mantra of the Silicon Valley tech community and its paved the way for a close-knit insider culture that embraces start up’s and tech billionaires alike – it’s called ‘pay-it-forward’.
But exactly what does paying it forward stand to achieve in a small concentrated tech community where people should actually be in competition with one another? Well for people new to Silicon Valley, its been the willingness of other successful techies to collaborate and connect with them, that’s helped them get off the ground quickly, get to work and innovate alot quicker.
The fact that you can arrive in San Francisco, tap into an existing network, speed up the process of getting started up and invigorate the entire community into a state of constant innovation – is probably why it’s feels like there’s a gold rush going on. Infact it’s one that Wall Street and investors haven’t been able to get enough of as the technology sector has rocketed with billion dollar valuations running amuck.
Yeah but that’s tech so what does it matter to the culture of music isn’t it as collaborative as ever?
In the music business the idea of a collaboration is hardly a new concept in-fact volumes of music catalogues speak to the power of those collaborations and artists have seen the knock on effect that has amplified their voice to new audiences 100 fold. Working with like-minded creative talents has been instrumental in the building of empires and great music moments.
Without collaboration we wouldn’t have some of the most innovative projects in Hip-Hop; Run DMC collaborated with Aerosmith; Ice-Cube collaborated with Public Enemy; Dr Dre collaborated with Snoop; Snoop collaborated with Pharrell; Pharrell collaborated with Daft Punk; Kanye collaborated with Jay-Z; Kendrick collaborated with Kamasi – and there are countless other collaborations that have created soundtracks to define each unique moment in time.
Diversity up above, unity down below
So if collaboration has already been working in music, why do we even need to start a new thinking around collaboration?
In the latest Cover Story in Wired Magazine, Jimmy Iovine spoke in depth about the thinking behind his new arts academy – USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy and why he believed it was time to approach learning in a different way.
“If you tell a kid, ‘You’ve got to pick music or Instagram,’ they’re not picking music,” Iovine says. “There was a time when, for anybody between the ages of 15 and 25, music was one, two, and three. It’s not anymore.”
So rather then abandoning music for tech, Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre are proposing to bridge the divide between the arts and technology. It may not seem a novel idea to some but the British government has been downsizing and rolling back the clock by cutting funding to the arts while simultaneously driving forward a greater emphasis on ‘STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math subjects). But if there’s one thing that the creative economy of the U.K desperately needs right now more than ever, is for the Arts to be factored in – not factored out – we need to put back the “A” in “arts” and turn STEM into STEAM.
In the entertainment business, everybody is desperately insecure
Speaking about interdisciplinary learning, Iovine has highlighted an interesting state of affairs between music and technology, which is often viewed as a battleground rather than a place for collaboration. The music industry vs tech companies are suffering from a case of insecurity vs overconfidence. While the tech sector has appeared to be forcing the music industry to evolve, both industries have often operated in opposition to one another and looked more like reluctant partners for far too long. There have been rare occasions where there’s actually been a true collaboration between technology and music thats actually moved the needle – and ironically one of those rare occasions was Beats By Dre & Apple.
Culture cannot thrive without new technology and vice versa and so arts and technology have to co-exist and whether we like to admit it or not – they are co-dependent on one another now more than ever before. In the race to appease the unquenching thirst for content – music itself and everything surrounding music culture has now been relegated to a ‘content’ category. But no matter how much code technologist’s write they can’t create cultural products. The essence of creativity is a culture in itself – and Facebook is a shell without the culture that thrives in it.
A new book iDisrupted explores the concentration of content in a handful of social media and search companies, “Without the enormous volume of content on the internet, there would be little point in either search or social media,” but as musicians have been increasingly saying “the revenue from this content accrues to the companies that provide search and social media, not the producers of content.”
The onus is no longer on one industry to innovate because just as much as music needs to understand tech culture, the tech community needs to value music culture. Of the four creative industries of music, books, movies and television – it’s the music industry that’s taken the biggest hit.
Make ‘Culture’ your DNA
While the tech sector celebrates it’s global ‘disruption’ and is rewarding investors and shareholders, the content creators are seeing the arts sector going through a disruption in investment in skills and resources. The New York Times recently wrote about ‘The Creative Apocalypse that Wasn’t‘ – “just as there are more avenues for consumers to pay for creative work, there are more ways to be compensated for making that work.”
The U.K is now following blindly behind the U.S tech sector in mimicking a new wave of tech success with further investment in tech but without the equal investment in the arts. If the lack of collaboration between the Arts and Technology sector continues to grow – we may find everyone hard pressed to find a way to pay it forward.
The reality is that this is the moment to invest in creative and tech collaborations because if anything the signs are showing that the opportunity for a new way of thinking could pay off financially in creating a better future all round for the creative and tech industry together.