As I write this post, I am in the homestretch of the arduous process of downloading my entire 2000-plus CD collection onto iTunes. I'm on the "W"s (currently working on the complete Tom Waits catalog) and the end is nigh.
The so-called (hey, he was in the "S's) reason for this ongoing task was to ostensibly re-discover some of the rarely-listened-to music that's been sitting dormant on shelves in my old place and in drawers at my new place.
But as I load and unload disc after disc, it's the familiar stuff that swings the baton of attraction. For every Treble Charger "Maybe It's Me" trying to worm its way into my Sonomax custom Soundcage earbuds, there's a Thin Lizzy "Jailbreak" standing in its way.
So, cut to a conversation about I had over dinner on Wednesday with my wife Lynn and friends Thane Calder (head of the Cloudraker ad agency), Caroline Losson (VP Marketing at dairy giant Natrel) and Dan Wise (entrepreneur and musician extraordinaire).
We were discussing the differences between comedy and music as live performance; the prevailing thought being that when it comes to former, people demand new material, as opposed to the latter, where "play again what I know" is the predominant command. Or, as my wife put so succinctly and profoundly, twisting an age-old adage:
"When it comes to music, familiarity breeds contentment"
Just think about it. At a live concert, there's no greater impetus for a trip to the bathroom than the phrase "Now, we'd like to do a couple of tunes from our new album." The cynical amongst us may even believe that playing new tracks at a concert is a conspiracy designed to drive beer and t-shirt sales. But I digress...
A few months ago in a post about standing in the rain at a Green Day concert, I compared and contrasted music and comedy, coming to the basic conclusion that music plays in the heart and comedy in the head. Take this a step further and you realize that:
Familiarity is a plus to things that work in the heart...
a minus to things that work in the head
Think about it at a business level. The "heady" tech business demands innovation and novelty. If each new Apple product announcement doesn't fully and completely tear peoples' heads open with a bang, it's deemed to be a disappointment. And it ain't just in tech. If the makers of cars, golf clubs, sneakers--I can keep going--don't change their look-and-feel every new product season...they're toast.
On the other hand, look at business leaders. Very heart. Unless they're scandal-ridden rogues, people like their leaders long-term. Steve Jobs coughs and Wall Street trembles.
It goes deeper, and gets paradoxical. Continuing the Apple analogy, people love the company ("Stay the course! Steve is eternal!") but are vicious with its offspring ("What? No new iPhone before September? That's an outrage!").
So where the hell am I going with this? This is what all this musical/comedy, head/heart rambling taught me this week:
You can keep giving people everything that they want but if you don't change things up, you'll never grow. A band that keeps playing the same tunes over and over again is merely a cover band, even if they're playing their own music.
On the other hand, you can't ignore the emotional connection that comes with the familiar.
But there's a fine line where familiarity's contentment morphs into contempt. What to do? My suggestion--a solid hug combined with a firm shake.
Now to apply it as Just For Laughs makes its major programming and thematic announcements on May 10.
Where's that Treble Charger?
(P.S. Found the great image atop this post here.)