Applied music

Serpent in the V&A Museum, London.

I read something today that reminded me of learning to play a musical instrument. For those of you that have never had the pleasure, it’s an interesting process.  I play several instruments (not as well as I used to) and the thing that always stuck me was how hard it was to make something that you KNEW could produce beautiful music actually to do so.I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of learning to play. However, first you need to understand how the thing works – where to put your hands, your mouth (OK, not if it’s a piano), and how to hold it comfortably. Then you learn which key makes what note. Things such as tone and vibrato are a long ways away. The biggest thing, to me, was the frustration of listening to a great player and being unable to make the very same thing I held in my hands make a sound that was even close to what I was hearing.
So what reminded me of this? A piece from John Bell that comments on a Times article by Randall Stross on social advertising.  The article says that advertisers are not getting much out of ads on social media.  John’s point, with which I agree, is that “it’s not the ad network inside Facebook that is at fault but how it is being used…”

We are all very early in understanding how people on social media want to interact with marketers.  I think it’s pretty clear that banner ads are not the most important thing but I also believe that consumers will react positively to messages what are useful to them and are delivered in a way that keeps the conversation moving forward.

While we can all debate the current status of television or radio, that business model – free content in return for some advertising – has served both the consumer and the business very well for a long time.   It’s not really a question of if these media and marketers are going to work together.  There are too many business plans that depend on that.  But like learning an instrument, I think we’d all acknowledge that social media can make beautiful music for marketers and users alike.  We just need to learn to play them a whole lot better.  And just as people like Coltrane and Hendrix took existing instruments to new places, I’m sure we’re going to find out even more even after we think we’ve learned to play.

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