When something or someone has unusually wide appeal and acceptance by consumers it’s natural to ask why. Why has this particular thing been so widely accepted by humanity? What is it about Facebook, that movie, that actor that has engendered such widespread acceptance?
I was recently thinking about this question as it relates to the band Pink Floyd. The first paragraph of their Wikipedia entry describes them as:
One of the most commercially successful and influential rock groups in the history of popular music, they have sold over 200 million albums worldwide, including 74.5 million certified units in the United States. In 1996 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The easy answer is that they make good music. But so do a lot of bands that never achieve their degree of fame and longevity. What is it about Pink Floyd that brought them such wide and longstanding acceptance?
To me, part of the answer of their brilliance, and why I would hypothesize their music is so widely appreciated by millions is the “complexity” of the music. That is, when you listen to their music what you hear is its complexity. There are so many complex sounds that are melded together so skillfully (perfectly?), and so people are hearing a symphony of sounds that fit together so well and therefore have a deep appreciation for their music. This appreciation is the same appreciation we have in seeing the perfect symphony in a complex act such as the riders in the circus that rotate in perfect sync around the ball of death.
(Of course complexity alone is not enough to engender an appreciative response, otherwise the most complex music would be the most popular. Rather, in the case of Pink Floyd, the music both ‘sounds good’ and is simultaneously sufficiently complex to generate a strong response.)
Music is the Right Sound at the Right Time
Another hypothesis I’d put out there about Pink Floyd is that part of the excellence of their music stems from the clarity they had to recognize that music is not about musical instruments. That is, they recognized that music is about ‘sound’–specifically, the right sound for the right point in time in the music. It need not come from a traditional musical instrument—indeed they leverage sound from many different sources in their music that are not traditional musical instruments. They asked the question “what is the right sound (not instrument) for this spot in the music?” They experimented with various props, using new techniques with synthesizers, for example, or a high pitched woman at various points in several tracks to bring in the right sound at the right time. The genius in this was not the trial and error that finally led them to the ‘right’ sound for the specific point in the track, it was the recognition that the search for the sound was not to be limited by the musical instruments in their repertoire. It’s not ‘think outside the box’ thinking it’s ‘there is no box’ thinking.
My two cents on what I’d consider to be the greatest band in the history of mankind
- About the Author
Nathan Safran is a former Analyst at Forrester Research where he covered the Digital Home. While at Forrester, Nathan authored research studies on trends, attitudes and behaviors of consumers toward technology adoption and use.
Nathan has been quoted as a subject matter expert in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fortune magazine. Currently, Nathan heads the Research Department at Conductor, Inc an SEO Technology Platform firm.
Nathan writes at exceljockey.com about the intersection of Business, Technology and Psychology. See the About page for more info. Follow Nathan on Twitter: @Nathan_Safran