Magazine article Marketing

Techknow: It's Bowie's World - We Are Merely Living in It

Magazine article Marketing

Techknow: It's Bowie's World - We Are Merely Living in It

Article excerpt

The pop star's pragmatic, optimistic futurism serves as a case study for marketers in how technology can facilitate a great customer experience, writes Mel Exon

When I woke up this morning David Bowie was dead.

The news hit us all hard. He was all the things we knew him to be: iconoclast, maker, musician, writer, self-consciously an artist. He was magical and mercurial in ways most of us don't get close to. You can't 'be a bit Bowie', but he made it OK to be different. His songwriting and his recordings may have been the way he had most impact, but he also thought about the experience of music and the relationship between artist and audience, more than most. I suspect he understood mass communication and what technology can do in that context better than the majority of marketers.

I'm reminded of an interview Bowie did with Jeremy Paxman in 1999. The only clue you get that this is 17 years ago is the fact that Paxman looks alarmingly young. Meanwhile, Bowie is a latter-day Dorian Gray meets Marshall McLuhan; his usual charismatic, clever, ageless self. But what's extraordinary is the prescience of what he has to say. Watch the video ( By the end, he has, in essence, described the internet as if he's in 2015.

'(In the past) music had a call to arms to change things, now it's a career opportunity. The internet now carries the flag for being subversive...

chaotic... There is a new demystification process going on between the artist and the audience (enabled by the internet)...

The idea is that the piece of work is not finished until the audience come to it and add their own interpretation...

what a piece of art is about is the grey space in the middle That...

is what the 21st century is going to be all about.'

What's particularly striking is his focus on the change in how content will be consumed and the human experience he imagines will come to be enabled by the internet (while others at the time were talking 'dotcom bubble' and writing the thing off entirely).

I've written here before about how this past year or so has felt like a transitional period in technology. No major breakthroughs hitting the mainstream. …

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