This weeek, I'd like to talk a little about INNOVATION.
First, a simple definition:
Inventions make you smile; they impact you qualitatively like the fun idea of mashing "Hey Ya" with Charlie Brown footage in the video post above--innovations bring new customer value into the marketplace; they quantifiably change your life, forever alter the way you approach your profession, recreation, or both. With the advent of an innovation like YouTube, this suddenly means the world is a different place: political candidates sweat a little harder when they're near cameras and microphones.
Let me start by saying this discussion was prompted by two conversations I had yesterday: one with Julian Haring, a computer animator from the Atlanta area, and one with Control Z, who like all of us, is still quite upset he does not have his flying car and Holographic TV.
I was meeting with Julian to discuss the first Metropolis video, which will most likely be an extended video for the songs "Violet Stars Happy Hunting" and "Many Moons." For the video, we are considering the creation of several CGI environments so we can bring the world of Metropolis to life--and we're reaching out across the world (literally) to do all this on a Ramen noodle budget.
(This does NOT mean these CGI environments will happen. This means we are investigating the possibility as we refine the video treatment and prepare for production. At Wondaland, we truly believe in Underpromising and Overdelivering...)
Some of you might already know that there's a lot going on over here at Wondaland besides music. Yes, we do produce for Outkast, Janell Monáe, etc. But we also invent and we're working on true innovation. This is why we often introduce ourselves as inventors, instead of music producers, songwriters, screenwriters, artists, etc.
To help in this regard, we have several companies:
- Wondaland Productions, which produces music for the Wondaland Arts Society ;
- BlabStar LLC, a tech company that promises to change social networking, E-commerce and music distribution forever;
- Blak Milk Productions, which spearheads our graphic design efforts, designs logos, album packaging,and merchandise design;
- WISM, which as a production entity owns the scripts for Slasher and Adam's Song. In addition, like a young budding WETA or ILM, this company handles our art direction, video/film pre-production, storyboarding and will one day handle all of our post-production computer animation and special effects, as well as serve as an in-house film and video production concern.
The trick here, of course, is that the film industry wants to out-innovate the pirates. How do you create a 3D experience in your home without the special glasses, multi-million dollar projectors, screens, etc? How do you create lasting competitive advantages if you're a movie studio, theatre owner? And folks like James Cameron and George Lucas really believe that the only way you can beat "free" or satellite delivery is through the creation of a communal, beautiful experience that can only be replicated with expensive technology in a cushy theatre near you.
As with the music industry, my thoughts here are two-fold:
- The Pirates can't be beat. Especially in a digital arena, where products, code, etc. can be replicated and distributed with the click of a button without any loss of quality. These folks need to read Phillip K. Dick's "Man and the Android" where Dick delineates how the police in his neighborhood in California are treated by the rising anarchist movement: "As we say in California, where I live, when the police come to investigate a burglary in your house, they find, when they are leaving, that someone has stripped the tires and motor and transmission from their car, and the officers must hitchhike back to headquarters." I believe all these major media companies better get ready to hitchhike...that is, find new systems to monetize their content.
- Can quality trump convenience? In other words, can the quality of a 3D communal cinema experience truly trump the convenience of having it in lesser-but-still-HD-quality at home on your plasma screen. Or in even lower resolution on your iPhone. If the rise of the MP3 is any indication here, I would bet on convenience--not quality. But that being said, I think cinemas are here to stay: they've lived through the rise of b/w, then color TV, the arrival of cable, VCRs, DVDs...
I think the cinema is part of the fabric of America. A date and a movie, and then a trip out to Lovers Lane is probably how most of our parents were born.
Now MUSIC, on the other hand, is a whole 'nother story. As our friend Rapheal Tisdale, who was a VP and the chief general counsel for Capitol Records for many years, has reminded us: the music industry has always turned to outside tech firms for the technology that controls its business: the CD, MP3, online stores, subscription services, etc.
And there is no way you can protect your industry without actively bringing those processes in-house or brokering deals QUICKLY and EFFICIENTLY with the upstarts. So go ahead. Act snobby. Act provinicial. Overcharge people for your bland, cookie-cutter products for twenty years. And you are guaranteed to kill your market by turning even your die hard customers into pirates.