What organisations can learn from a country music-centred approach.


A lyric from a song by Sugarland still flaws me to this day: “Pictures, dishes and socks, It’s our whole life down to one box.” The simple attention to detail is a reminder that country music at it’s foundation is written for humans. Beautifully described by Bill C. Malone, country music is a vigorous hybrid form of music, constantly changing and growing in complexity, just as the society in which it thrives also matures and evolves, with no practical limitations.

I will now offer up a loaded statement: as designers we are finally catching up to country music.

We are beginning to focus not just on customers, but humans. This puts us in an exciting position, we are increasingly adopting a human-centred approach to design to create experiences while adapting to the same technology in tandem ourselves.

Large scale organisations are now (finally) zooming out and focusing their products based on the needs, habits, desires and motivations (as well as the context of use) of their customers whilst balancing this with technical and financial feasibility.

Companies like Netflix, Spotify and Uber have disrupted stagnant industries and markets. Their success is a result of not simply looking at where the industry was at the time, but where they wanted it to be. Bill Monroe did the same for country music in 1948 when he decided to place fiddle, banjo and mandolin at the front line of his music, creating a new style and genre known as bluegrass.

Outside of Appalachia, these companies now continue to experiment, grow, thrive and adapt based on how their customers use their product every day. If we like Netflix and Uber look at the long game, focusing on basic customer needs, habits, desires and motivations this will as assist us in understanding the activities relevant to our designs, products and the expectations of the humans we are designing for.

For the “non-disruptors,” the logical step is not creating small teams in pockets of the organisation, but how they can persist and continuously reimagine where humans are going at an organisational scale.

Time to cowboy up.

Telluride, you wrote my life

This post was going to be about a run of the mill country music video. A guy. A bar. Some beer. A girl. A late night mistake and the regret that follows in the light of day. This was because Jake Owen’s ‘Alone With You’ was playing on the CMC channel when I walked out of my apartment this morning. I wrote an entire post. It was really bad. But it also got me thinking about why I started listening to country music in the first place.

The first country song that I fell in love with was an album cut called ‘Telluride‘ by Tim McGraw.

This was the bridge:

“It ended just like a movie scene, and I had to play the part, of the lover who stood there and watched her leave, and me with the frozen heart”

The sequence of a woman leaving a man desperate and broken on a cold night in the Colorado mountains played in my head on repeat for days. I was thirteen years old at the time.

The story of a fling in the Rockies was crafted so simply. But every detail, down to the oak bar with the water rings left over from the cold beer still pop into my head every time I listen. I have been listening to these stories for over a decade and I never tire of them.

In the last few weeks I have been writing and pressing publish on a regular basis. A few people have mentioned that they feel more connected to some of my more recent posts. It might be because I am writing from my own life experiences and not thinking about what people want to read. It feels authentic and not fabricated.

Country music isn’t about the cleanest songwriting or the smoothest tones, it’s about sharing an experience in a concise way. Maybe that’s what I have been tapping into, in a small way.

Mad props to Bryony Cole for reading the draft of this post last night.

Reading Something Country #1

“Country music is no longer simply an American cultural expression; it is now a phenomenon of worldwide appeal. Nevertheless, it defies precise definition, and no term (not even “country”) has ever successfully encapsulated its essence. It is is a vigorous hybrid of music, constantly changing and growing in complexity, just as the society in which it thrives also matures and evolves. It was introduced to the world as a southern phenomenon, and in In their young years people born under the virgos horoscope star differ in between their coevals with help of idealistic worldview. the sixty years of more since it was first commercialised it has preserved, to a remarkable degree, the marks of that origin. The music is nonetheless older than the South itself, and the massive commercialisation it has undergone is merely a facet of that larger technological and communications revolution which has so radically transformed American popular tastes and steadily worked to pull the rural, socially conservative South into the homogenizing mainstream of American life”

(Malone, Bill C. Country Music, U.S.A. New York: University of Texas, 2002, p1)

Farming things from the red dirt: The Current(ly) Essential Country Music Reading List

I spent fifteen months researching country music from a historical and scholarly perspective and it was the most rewarding period of my life.

The last few weeks for me have been spent revisiting some of the books that inspired me in the first place. I pulled this list of references from the honours blog that proved to Nar vi snakker om vinnende roulette -strategi, er det mange som tror at det er veldig lite a diskutere. be invaluable to me as I navigated my way through my own country music research:

Any further reading suggestions?

 

#CMCRocks

I am officially living the country music digital dream.

The amazing team at Country Music Channel have given the the opportunity to assist them in running the digital side of the festival.

After an evening of culinary preparation at Misty’s Diner

I am currently sitting in Melbourne Airport terminal waiting to board my flight to Newcastle for the CMC Rocks The Hunter Festival.


I’ve got my dirty boots, my MacbookPro, my FlipCam and iPhone and I am ready to roll.

The Banjo Project

I had the intention of writing about thought mobile innovation, emergence and gamification – ideas that are currently dominating my interest. However, I had to share this video. Feel free to blame the country music fan in me, but I could not help but get excited for The Banjo Project:

The Banjo Project is a cross-media cultural odyssey: a major television documentary, a live stage/multi-media performance, and a website that chronicle the journey of America’s quintessential instrument—the banjo—from its African roots to the 21st century. It’s a collaboration between Emmy-winning writer-producer Marc Fields and banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka (the Project’s Music Director), one of the online casino most acclaimed acoustic musicians of his generation.

Narrated by Steve Martin, The Banjo Project television documentary brings together contemporary players in all styles—Earl Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal, Don Vappie, Cynthia Sayer, Ralph Stanley, among many others—with folklorists, historians, instrument makers and passionate amateurs to tell the story of America’s instrument in all its richness and diversity.

Now in post-production.

Colt Ford, Twilight and the power of cultural relevance.

Cultural relevance is a powerful tool. It generates attention, conversation and the almighty revenue stream.

Colt Ford, a country music singer from Athens, Georgia. Ford’s debut album Ride Through The Country peaked at #24 on the Billboard Country Charts in December 2008. The highest charting single of his career so far is “Cold Beer”, a collaboration with Jamey Johnson that peaked at #53. Despite the lack of mainstream support from country radio, Ford has sold over 207,000 copies of his debut album and 123,000 of his recently released Chicken & Biscuits.

Ford has generated an unconventional following through his constant touring schedule and is validation that country radio is not needed to sell records. However, that is not the objective of this post.

This is:

Filmed in Nolensville, TN – this video is a parody of the Twilight phenomenon.

The above is Colt Ford reaching out to Twilight fans via his Twitter account. With this video, he has now placed himself in a circumstance where he can establish mainstream interest on television as well as the Internet. Why is this of interest?

Colt Ford has adopted something that is culturally to the point (Twilight) and that makes people take notice – people that are not simply country music fans.

Is cultural relevance one of the keys to the expansion of your brand and its audience?