The death of the 3 minute pop song?

I am very lucky to have contributed a song to this unique album of 100 songs which are just 30 seconds long. The album 100×30 is the brainchild of Marc Christopher Lee and was featured in The Independent just recently:

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Click on the logo to read the article

Marc was interviewed on ITV News in London on Friday 11 December with the story. The concept reminded me of the work of Bill Nelson who produced several albums of simple musical illustrations, each one unfinished and recorded pretty much as is, without further refinement and so on, to preserve the musical ideas as they were conceived of at birth.

Click on the image to view ITV News

Will it be a Christmas Number One?  Buy a copy to help

Here’s some of the tracks from 100×30 – you have got time to play them all as they are 30 seconds each!! No wasted space 🙂

I interviewed Marc Christopher Lee at The Virgin Lounge last week on the ideas behind the album. I’ve discussed the importance of the theory of constraints for creativity and it is clear that the constraint of less time can produce creativity in music as much as the opposite. Find out more and download the album at 100×30, which features Mungo Jerry and Owen Paul amongst many others. Has the 3 minute pop song just died? Did brevity kill the prog rock star? Perhaps not, as David Bowie contemplates a 10 minute song for his new album, but the 30 second song is ripe for an age when only 50% of people can get all the way to the end of a song on their smart phone.

 

Click to download the album

Click the picture to download the album at http://www.100×30.com

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About the Writer:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585. Check our new book out for Bloomsbury “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“.

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Do It Yourself – Disrupting the Music Industry

Come join us at The Virgin Lounge in Eagle Place, London on Friday December 04 at 3 pm where I will be talking with Mark Christopher Lee, leader of cult indie band “the pocket gods”. Mark was discovered by the late John Peel who liked his song written about his local curry house – “Ballad Of The Peshwari Naan” and was called a “wilful maverick” by Tom Robinson. Mark has just released an album called 100 x 30. Mark explains the concept:

“I wanted to do something to help musicians gain fairer royalties from the music industry/streaming giants with an album of 100 songs all 30 seconds long – For example Spotfiy pays out a tiny royalty of 0.007p per track over 30 seconds. This gave me the idea of recording an album of 100 songs that were 30 seconds long each. Why write songs that are any longer? All the songs were recorded on laptops in garages from just a few takes in a lo-fi style – the album is all about ideas and creativity as opposed to perfectionism and over production – technology allows people to record great quality music at low cost at home which is very punk and empowering”.

In my business life, I’ve written about the theory of constraints on a number of occasions and this project is a classic exercise in using constraints as a spur to creativity. See Constraints and Creativity for more information.

100 x 30 - Click to view the website

100 x 30 – Click to view the website

Mark has written and recorded 72 albums since 1998. As well as an indie legend, having previously played bass in Jesus and The Mary Chain, he also runs his own indie label which is now home to 20 or so aspiring new artists, many of whom are favourites on BBC 6 music as well as home to more established acts such as the legendary songwriter Larry Weiss, who wrote million sellers Rhinestone Cowboy, Bend Me Shape Me and Hi Ho Silver Lining. 

100 x 30 features Mungo Jerry, Owen Paul (My favourite waste of time), Tom Greene of The Orb et moi – I contributed a 1984 inspired track under the name “The Pigs of Freedom” called “Anaesthesia Politica”, which sports 3 verses, 3 chords, a 3 second guitar solo and comes in at 33 seconds long – just 3 seconds over Spotify’s budget to qualify as a song 🙂 I am looking forward to my 0.007 pence royalties from them!!

City AM picked up the story recently, comparing us with Taylor Swift – I’m not sure the comparisons are valid, but take a look for yourself:

The first time we have been linked to Taylor Swift - Click to access City AM article

The first time we have been linked to Taylor Swift – Click to access City AM article

Please contact the London Eagle Place Lounge on 0207 439 8802 to register your place. It’s absolutely FREE!!  All event details here.

Here’s “Anaesthesia Politica” – I described it as a 1984 inspired Psychedelic Political Punk Poem!  An entirely new genre of music I think 🙂

and the slightly longer “Pestonomics“, released last week in support of Cancer Research UK:

Click to buy the track for Cancer Research UK

Click to buy the track for Cancer Research UK

… and two  of the album tracks:

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About the Writer:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Seasick Steve

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As part of my role at The Academy of Rock, I was blessed to witness a performance by Seasick Steve the other week at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone. In case you are not aware, Steven Gene Wold is a 73 year old blues musician who left home at the age of 13 to avoid abuse by his stepfather, travelling as a hobo on freight trains for much of his early life. Having worked with people such as Joni Mitchell and been a studio engineer and producer, he made his breakthrough at the age of 62 after an appearance on “Later with Jools Holland”, thus proving that it’s never too late to start a new career in the music business.

Steve is living proof that less can equal more in life. Amongst the guitars he plays he has the one pictured above, made from car hubcaps and a broomstick. He also plays a one string guitar, a neat demonstration of the theory of constraints and his famous three string Trance Wonder, pictured below:

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Amongst the artists that we interviewed at the Ramblin’ Man Fair were Bernie Marsden, Marillion, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Bob Wayne, Jess and the Bandits, The Temperance Movement, Blue Oyster Cult, Aaron Keylock, The Quireboys, No Hot Ashes, The Rival Sons, narrowly missing Vic Reeves, Ian Anderson and Saxon. Check out our interviews with Music Giants at Interviews to see these in due course.

We finish with some of the great man’s work with one string, three stringed guitars etc.

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For more on Music and Business grab your copy of The Music of Business.

Check our offerings on the blues and motivation at Keynotes.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out

Welcome Constraints

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In the film It Might Get Loud, guitarist Jack White says that technology makes us lazy and laziness is bad for creativity. He is right. My first guitar cost £10, the strings stood about an inch (slight exaggeration but not much) from the neck which made my fingers work much harder to play the instrument than normal. As a result, people tell me that I can bend strings an incredible amount akin to Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd, even though I don’t use particularly a light gauge of strings.

White often uses low-quality instruments to force him to play differently, although the Gretsch he is pictured with above is not one of them!  He says:

“If it takes me three steps to get to the organ, then I’ll put it four steps away. I’ll have to run faster, I’ll have to push myself harder to get to it.”

This is something I completely understand as a musician and a scientist.  Some of the best music I made was written using poor equipment where there had to be some kind of struggle to extract something from it.  I spent a lot of time in the 1980’s and 1990’s chaining reel to reel tape recorders together, reversing and splicing tape to create sounds that had never been heard before.  Admittedly a few of these nobody ever wanted to hear again either!

Contrary to popular opinion, constraints are useful for creativity in all walks of life.  James Dyson would not have invented the Dyson vacuum cleaner if he had not become frustrated at his vacuum cleaner which “did not suck”. Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have not built the Great Western Railway without feeling frustrated that he could not get to Cornwall quickly, and so on.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge - one of the many of IK Brunel's achievements

The Clifton Suspension Bridge – one of the many of IK Brunel’s achievements

It’s important to separate what I call “real constraints” from “imaginary ones”.  A real constraint might be a law of physics, an imaginary one simply an assumption such as a way of doing things that has become a habit or paradigm within an industry. In my own experience, I was partly responsible for developing the world’s first AIDS treatment.  A real constraint was that of time.  We needed to collapse the traditional drug development process time to bring the drug to market as quickly and safely as possible.  At that time Wellcome was renowned for making tablet formulations and this would have been our “paradigm response” to the situation.  In the event, we elected to formulate the product as a capsule, something we were very inexperienced with but which would deliver the quickest route to market. This committed us to a rapid learning programme of work to develop the product. In doing so we eliminated the artificial constraint of “we always do it that way”.

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When we design creative thinking sessions for companies seeking to rethink their strategy, products, services and internal processes, I like to boundary the topic under study with the real constraints that surround it.  These should not be too many – too many constraints tend to stifle ingenious thinking and no constraints tend to produce unfocused creativity.  Some disagree with me on this, saying that creative thinking should be a no holds barred affair.  Long experience in working with people and companies that look for commercial creativity i.e. ideas that have utility suggests that this is wasteful and often does not lead to execution as the ideas developed do not pass the obstacles that are in the way of execution. The theory of constraints is well documented and mostly forgotten by people who think only about the positive side of business improvement.  I wrote recently for Sir Richard Branson on this topic in terms of the internal barriers to innovation and you can read the post at Virgin.

For many years, I’ve used my “fried egg model” to describe the essentials needed to specify a problem or opportunity that is amenable to ingenious thinking.  I was delighted when Charles Handy told me he had thought of something similar for his book “The Empty Raincoat” but later decided it was too fanciful.  The fried egg model requires there to be enough “thinking space” between “the demands or goal” and “the constraints” to provide an arena for productive creativity – “the choices”.  This is why it’s a fried egg and not a boiled one sliced through the middle!  Here is the fried egg I always carry in my bag alongside my computer as I’m sure we all do …

The Fried Egg Model - Demands, Constraints, Choices

The Fried Egg Model – Demands, Constraints, Choices

Andy Wooler offered me this excellent additional example of the use of constraints from the world of music via Arnold Schoenberg’s use of “Serialism”, of which one expression is the twelve-tone technique. We wouldn’t have the magnificent “Rite of Spring” without it. The technique requires that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another whilst preventing the emphasis of any one note. This constraint did not get in the way of exciting music and some thought it was a breath of fresh air. Of course, as it is music, not everyone agrees!

To finish, here’s that first guitar that taught me the value of constraints – I was hold it was a Hofner Futurama by the insurance salesman that sold it to me for £10.  It was heavily modified with “Brian May” Burns Trisonic pickups which were its crowning glory.  It taught me to be strong!  I eventually managed to buy another one for a similar price although his one was so bad in construction and playing that I had to take a saw to it.  It was 1977 after all – the year of punk!

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Guitar Book Collage

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. Connect with us on our Linkedin Company Page and join our group The Music of Business where we discuss parallel lessons from Business and Music.

Blood, sweat and tears – A climate for high performance

You gave a tremendous reaction to the post on Constraints and Creativity the other week.  This prompted me to gather some more material on the topic.  This time, we look at the impact of the built environment and creativity, via a conversation I had with Bernie Tormé, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, GMT and Ian Gillan.  This is a short extract from the book “The Music of Business“.  The history of rock’n’roll is littered with examples of brilliance emerging from rather shabby recording environments.  Bernie gives us a bird’s eye tour:

Here comes the Sun

“When I visited Sun studios in Memphis I was astonished.  It’s just a shop basically, that produced some of the greatest sounding and culture changing records ever made.  The same is true of Chess in Chicago, Stax, Motown in Detroit, scruffy shopfloors.   Editor’s note:  Here is one of the products of those scruffy shopfloors:

I would also have said the same about Kingsway (earlier called the original De Lane Lea) where House of the Rising Sun was recorded, and virtually all of Hendrix’s early output up to Wind Cries Mary. All the Gillan stuff and lots more. It was a complete claustrophobic dump.

Deep Purple at De Lane Lea Studios

And IBC in Portland Place where all of the early Who stuff was recorded.  All of those places sounded wonderful with a decent engineer.  And as for Regent Sound, where all those initial Stones hits were made, an absolutely horrific place.”

PC:  So what happened later on?

“I remember lots of grandiosely stunning studios from the 80’s.   The ones in the 70’s were far more workmanlike, like garages.  Funny what happened in the 80’s.  Part of a bubble I suppose, like all the other bubbles.  It was more about attracting “clients” with the bells and whistles rather than a decent sounding room and an engineer who knew how to use it.  Hence all those electronica records. I must admit to never liking places like The Townhouse etc.  I did a bit there and lots in the old Marquee studios, lots of glass,  marble, stone and polished steel.  Both looked great and sounded like complete shit. I am ranting…….”

Ranting aside, I think Bernie has spotted a very transferable point here, that having it all does not necessarily lead to great results.  Sometimes desperate conditions produce greatness.

Bernie  offers exclusive guitar lessons in his barn studio in the garden of England, plus opportunities to stop over at his holiday cottage and record your dream record.  Contact me for further details.  To get hold of a copy of The Music of Business, click on the links in this slide presentation for the various options: