Not so long ago, the best way to share music was by making plastic sing.
We scratched music into 7″ oily black discs in hundreds of neat rings. To get it out, you would scrape a tiny sliver of metal along the ridges.
The size of the disc changed the normal length of songs because you could barely fit four minutes of music on one side.
At first, A and B side was just a label to tell you what song was playing.
Then record labels began only to put the song they wanted radios to play on the A-side. For a couple of decades, the ‘B’ became synonymous with bonus; a special place where artists could try something out knowing their label would just shrug and say, “Make it quick.”
That little creative freedom has spawned dozens of unexpected hits.
There were many ‘B-sides’ that were as much of a hit as their flip-side. Sometimes more. I Will Survive and Ice Ice Baby are just two examples of this.
We can’t always know what people will like — even ourselves.
Always listen to the B-side because you might like it even more than the A-side.
We all know that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.
But the next best time is now, and we need trees planted now more than ever.
Mass tree-planting is back-breaking work. And there are only so many trees you can plant on a balcony before you start getting complaints.
But what if it was as easy as listening to a song? Or perhaps even a 30-second ad?
Well, that is how easy it is because some clever bloke decided to make a 30-second track and use the money it earns from streaming to plant trees.
We should all be planting at least six trees a month to offset our carbon. So, add the song that plants trees to your playlists and play it for a few minutes every day. That’s all it takes.
You can even use this method to make a small amount of money for yourself. But better still, if you could make a “song that does something,” what would it do?
A song that cleans up litter? A song that saves the bees?
Now that anyone can write a song for change, what will yours be?
A lot of the science we learn in school is wrong.
It’s mostly either oversimplified or partially disproved by the time we hear it.
One myth is that the right brain is creative, and the left brain is logical, right?
The right side of the brain is best at novelty: identifying new problems and solving them, learning new things. Experimentation.
The left side of the brain is concerned with sorting the results and recalling them when needed. Matching them up.
When a student plays an instrument, their right hemisphere is firing all the time. But Miles Davis, the right side would be only simmering gently; the patterns of chords and melodies neatly delivered from the left side.
Even that is a gross simplification.
But it’s clear that by performing a creative task every day, creativity becomes muscle memory.
That’s why experts can see all sorts of patterns that a novice may miss. They just pop out. And those experts can get so used to seeing those patterns that they forget to experiment with them.
Art is experiementation. Science is experimentation remembered.
Now, remember your art.
There’s a lot that goes into winning at a professional level.
Most of it is off the field of play.
Training. Practice is everything when perfecting a skill and learning to play together. But we need more than that to reach the top.
Harmony. Harmony is more than teamwork.
Great teams are a symphony of minds. And that goes for all those involved, not just those doing the running around.
Harmony is every person playing their part in the same story — singing from the same hymnsheet.
Harmony of purpose and place is at the core of every world-beating business and every world-beating team.
There are few things worse than hearing the same tired old tune played badly.
Life’s great lessons have always been taught to music.
Sometimes these lessons are obvious. But often, they’re hidden deep in the third act or the bridge, where they leap out and smack you round the back of the head to make sure you’re still listening.
In The Music Man, it’s this:
“Pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.
Don’t delay the chance to make a little bit of progress towards your goal, however small it may seem.
It doesn’t have to be full. Just don’t leave it empty.
If you put in just a little bit today, you’ll end up with a very full tomorrow.
Earl was a troubled child of no determinate birthplace.
His teenage mother would frequently take him to the ER with severe bronchial asthma, probably worsened from sleeping on the floor with the roaches.
By the time Earl was old enough to start school, his mother had knocked out his two front teeth.
When Earl was 7, his aunt got him drunk.
When Earl was 9, his mum locked him in his room all summer.
When Earl was 10, his mum sent him to an orphanage.
When Earl was 14, he was stealing a living on the streets.
When Earl was 16 he was sent to prison.
There, he committed to music and began selling mixtapes on his release.
When Earl was 28, he released three albums in two years. They all went multi-platinum.
Earl was imprisoned 30 times. Earl was a pastor. Earl was bipolar. Earl loved dogs and orchids. Earl was an artist.
Earl was a very troubled man who turned his hurt into some of the greatest, most honest art ever made.
There’s a lot to say about Earl “DMX” Simmons. But nobody can ever say he didn’t give us everything he had.
X gave it to us.
And for that, we’ll remember him forever.
You might not know Wilko Johnson is but he was a pretty cool dude back in the 70s.
His band — Dr. Feelgood — was so cool that it inspired some people you probably have heard of: Paul Weller, The Who, The Jam. The list goes on.
Back in 2013 he was diagnosed with cancer and the Doc gave him a double-fistful of months at most.
He said, “It was like my life was complete. The idea that death is imminent makes you realize what a wonderful thing it is to be alive. By the time I’d walked home, I was almost euphoric.”
Wilko then did what any self-respecting punk guitarist would do. He turned down chemotherapy and went on tour.
“If it’s going to kill me, I don’t want it to bore me,” he said.
Wilko is still touring today — more than seven years after his date with death. That raging punk rocker just wouldn’t put down his guitar and die.
We are vividly alive.
Take a moment today to enjoy it.
Words are great, but music is the best thing we’ve ever made.
It took me a long time to realize what a powerful tool it is.
We’re the only animal that responds to music at a physical level.
It’s so powerful that it can even relieve the symptoms of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Music fuses to our core. It entangles our emotions and weaves through our memories.
In many ways, the music you listen to is you.
I bet you even know what tracks would change your mood right now; to put a swagger in your step or a tear in your eye.
Or go back to a time in your life. Like time travel— our brains whisked through time hitched to a couple of bars of The Libertines or No Doubt or Bob Dylan.
Maybe people who “don’t listen to music” are a bit scared of its power, and they’re probably right to be. It’s light we can feel — and it’s powerful magic.
Careful how you use it!