Joining a band was once the holy grail of coolness. In a time when “seed funding” only referred to money set aside for growing weed, young people convened in garages and basements to bend out-of-tune guitar strings and hope for the day a cigar-smoking record executive would hand them a jumbo jet on which to tour the world and abuse groupies.
Nowadays, the institution of ultimate hipness is the social media startup. The out-of-tune guitar is now a four-year-old MacBook Pro. The slovenly, untrained guitarist, picking his way through a sloppy rendition of an Aerosmith rip-off has been replaced by his 2.0 version: the naive “entrepreneur.” And the cigar-smoking record executive is a chai-guzzling VC.
As with any massively pursued dream, there are talented and driven groups that rise above the horde. In no particular order, here are the successful bands of yesteryear as they would be if they thrived in our era… and decided to iterate instead of jam…
1. Phish = Foursquare
Either you live for Phish or you think they’re the most despicable band ever. If of the former group, you see them every time they come around, and you’ve probably at least toyed with the idea of gassing up the ol’ Subaru Outback to chase Trey and his minstrels on tour. If you’re not a Phish fan, you wish to God that the band would lose their jam-ready fingers to leprosy so your Phishy friends would stop submitting you 20-minute instrumental marathons on car rides.
Same sentiments go with Foursquare: FS users will check in everywhere, even the morgue when identifying a recently deceased grandparent. On the other side of the fence, non-FS users are usually poised to check their FS-obsessed friends into the hospital after being tagged with them at Jamba Juice for the millionth time.
2. Nirvana = Facebook
Nirvana created a wave of poppy, power chord-driven bands that played happily under their heroes’ umbrella. Nirvana re-affirmed that a dominant act could arise from three dudes dicking around in a garage, basement, or dorm room.
Facebook achieved the same feat, and a generation of entrepreneurs now work within the company’s construct.
3. Guns ‘N’ Roses = MySpace
How the mighty have fallen. Axl and the gang reigned supreme until Nirvana offered a catchier and more human alternative, free of glamor and silly antics. The bands hated eachother, and Nirvana ultimately rendered their competitor to novelty status. For the next ten years, Axl roamed the American backwoods mutilating deer, like Big Foot with a severe cocaine problem. Tom presumably followed suit.
4. U2 = YouTube
Bono, The Edge, and the others originally appealed to a mass of fans who enjoyed their stadium anthems, which attempted to sum up the meaning of life with every reverb-enveloped whine. Before long, the band finally Found What it Was Looking For with iPod commercials, self-serving causes, and various hairstyle changes (the latter not applying to The Edge).
YouTube, the beloved guerilla video network, was acquired by Google, which predictably transformed it into the ad orgy we’ve had to come to terms with. U2 and YouTube have retained their fans begrudgingly, while never ceasing to annoy the hell out of absolutely everyone.
5. The Talking Heads = Instagram
The Taling Heads are the most arty and most goofy of any band ever. Nothing else fits this bill more than an iPhone photo of a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, made to look like it was shot on a retro Yashica Mat 124 camera with Velvia RVP100 Film, whatever the hell that looks like.
6. Creedence Clearwater Revival = Pinterest
The realities of both CCR and Pinterest are the opposite of their respective perceptions. Many people assumed CCR were a gaggle of good ol’ boys from Alabama who toured on an old river raft, floating around like Huck Finn. They were actually a refined order of soft-spoken Berkeley hippies. Many imagine that Pinterest is run by a powerhouse of Martha Stewart-type women with strong backgrounds in publishing and photo editing. The reality is that the network was built by a typical group of smelly coder dudes.
Here are some other posts exploring the “startup as a band” metaphor:
1. Shane Snow. ”Are Tech Startups Like Rock Bands?” http://www.televisionsky.org/2010/04/tech-startups-vs-rock-bands/.
2. Yes, The Beatles and Apple are a pretty solid comparison:
3. Charley More and Eva Arevuao. ”Does Your Band Run Like a Startup? A SXSW Question.” http://legallyeasy.rocketlawyer.com/does-your-band-run-like-a-startup-a-sxsw-question-94742.