Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Collaboration for change: an example from the entertainment industry

Disclaimer: This post has some political content.

The music industry has a long history of coming together for big projects meant to raise awareness and funds for good causes. Charity concerts, albums, and tours feature artists from all over the musical spectrum (and sometimes related industries, such as movies) to combat AIDS, fight poverty, help disaster victims, or call an end to violence. It may be useful to reflect on some of these as collaborations outside of science.

In addition to collaborative performing, we might stand to learn from the music industry's experiences with sharing. There is still a battle going on over the issue, but I think it's accepted that being more open with your music is the way to survive. Indie bands offer their music for free on their websites, artists make a name for themselves online, and, as Radiohead demonstrated, you can release your album as a user-priced download and benefit. With the explosion of video content that is YouTube, practically everything you'd ever want to see or hear is now free and shared.

Today is Super Tuesday in the US - the day when most state primaries happen, determining the presidential candidates for the election in November. A few days ago, a group of artists released a music video which has been subsequently proliferated on other websites and YouTube. The video endorses Barack Obama in a creative, artistic, and very moving way, bringing a diverse group of musicians and performers together to send a message. They recorded the video in 2 days, and reached millions in less than that.

Even though this example is politically charged, I think it encapsulates the power of openness and sharing as a mechanism for accomplishing something much bigger than one individual could achieve.

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