Although the music industry may use the term branding for marketing a product or band it is not used in the context of music itself. Though it could be interesting from a brand point of view to see how co-creation works in music. In many genres there are examples of co-creation from jazz to pop and rock.
But where rock bands would co-create in the studio and later just reproduce the outcome in gigantic tours without changing a single note, the jazz approach is different.
Recording sessions in the studio were rather an interruption of playing in clubs or being on a tour. So things that where tried out and tested on stage could be easily brought into the studio and studio experiments could easily be tested life with the experience of the direct response of the audience.
It is legitimate to call Miles Davis a strong brand that managed to develop, innovate and co-create new musical styles and genres over several decades starting from the 40s to the 90s. When you listen to albums like Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue, Bitches Brew or Tutu we encounter many different sounds, styles, genres and musicians but in all of the songs we hear and feel the ‘musical essence’ based on directions from the charismatic personality of Miles Davis. Although the essence is not explicit or defined by words we could see this as the brand itself that was co-created by Miles and his musicians.
In other words Miles the person is the brand ideology (mission, vision, values) and together with his musicians they were branding together.
An important role in the changes of musical innovation was the recruitment of young musicians that where willing to go where Miles wanted to be, or already had chosen a direction where Miles wanted to go. Miles did recruiting based on his vision and was actively looking for change of his own brand through co-creation.
Start with a sketch
Miles Davis self did not compose in the way that he came to a recording session with a fully written-out score. Most of the time either Miles or one of the band members came up with an idea or rough sketch that then was developed further.
In Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pur l’echafaud e.g. he let the band react directly to parts of the film that were shown in the recording studio via a big screen. Based on small instructions from Miles the band collectively reacted to actions and emotions.
The musicians did not always understand what he was doing, or what he wanted, but they trusted and respected him to make something outstanding. It was like: start with a sketch, learn together, build consensus for change and innovation.
Listen and play
Most of the musicians were talking about Miles as the ‘best listener who ever led a band’, he heard what everybody else was playing and with his voice and the ability to show new possibilities he was the glue to make it sound like a whole band. His instructions were famous in being vague, showing the right direction and also leaving enough freedom for own interpretation: Don’t bang just play! You listen and you play!
Brand influence and the creation of new brands
“Everyone who played with Miles, feels a bond with each other” Herbie Hancock. Playing together with Miles was special and also inspiring to go on with musicians that had the Miles-experience in working together.
Bringing yourself in a co-creation with a big brand can also have a very positive effect on your own brand or personality. Nearly all of the musicians that played with Miles became later famous musicians and bandleaders themselves and created their own sound. Especially the ‘In a silent way’ players were dominating the jazz and rock development of the 70s and beyond.
The music of Miles Davis and the music thinking that is inspired by him can be a learning and inspiration for branding, communication, co-creation, new thinking about design and design of organizations and creative processes. Christof Zürn
Want more Music Thinking inspiration?
Music Thinking Weekly created by #Musicthinking tags on Twitter – just subscribe to Music Thinking Weekly
Want more info on co-creation, innovation an branding?
I had the chance to read an early version of the new book of Nicholas Ind and to co-create and share with him some thoughts about co-creation, innovation and branding. I am looking forward to an interesting read! Brand Together: How Co-Creation Generates Innovation and Re-energizes Brands