Leveraging the tech: REM

My love of REM’s music is no secret. Put simply, I feel that they are one of the most important bands of all time, and their music is sort of the soundtrack to my life.

In my teaching, I often use them as an example (I sometimes have to put a moratorium on myself because I reference them so often) of the right way to do “it.” That is, the right way to handle band dynamics (veto power, equal division of songwriting); the right way to build a career (tour, tour, and, uh, tour); the right way to build a team (long-term relationships with lawyers, managers, agents, guitar techs, producers), and the right way to matter (constant integrity and adherence to core values).

I’m delighted to add to this list: The right way to innovative/leverage technology. Have a look at the web page for their current tour.

The site is a repository for fan created content. They say it more clearly:

Welcome to R.E.M.’s Tour 2008 Site, where you can see the content other R.E.M. fans have created at shows on the 2008 world tour, as well as post your own. Just tag your Flickr photos, YouTube videos, blogs, and Tweets, and they will automatically be collected here on our site.

So…REM fans can easily upload/disseminate their photos, Twitter tweets, blog posts, etc. to the REM Tour 2008 site simply by tagging their content appropriately.

I’ve been prattling on for several years now about the need for bands to give their fans tools that allow them to not just be passive recipients of the band’s music, but rather active contributors of the creation of the content.[*]. The REM Tour 2008 site demonstrates precisely how to empower the fans using the new tech.

As far as I know the only ones who are getting this right (or even trying) are REM and Cash Music. (I’m sure there are others, and I’d be delighted to be informed of who they are.)

Jim Collins said it very accurately in his book, Good to Great, “Technology is an accelerator.” If you utilize technology in a manner that is consistent with your core values and strategic plan, it will accelerate your success. If, on the other hand, if you flail aimlessly from whatever technology is current to the next, irrespective of the tech having any connection with your goals or values (assuming you have set goals or determined values), it will accelerate your failure.

You see this flailing on a daily basis just by looking at the teeming masses who set up a MySpace/Facebook page for their music, and then wait impatiently for things to start happening. When it inevitably does not, these people (often wrongly) assume that it’s their music that is flawed. In point of fact, their music has nothing to do with it. They’ve simply not found the link between the use of technology and their goals.

The best part about this for me is that the next time I ramble on in class about this approach, I’ll be able to point to the REM Tour 2008 site as empirical evidence of the theory being put into practice. Hurrah! (…we’re all free now…what noisy cats are we…)

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[*]REM has always had a wonderful relationship with their fans; exemplified by the Christmas 7″ singles that were sent out to fan club members many moons ago.

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