Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 1, 2008 8:30 PM

Marketing Needs To Understand That Social Media Is Like Punk Music

Crazy snow storm and New Year's Day - U2 could not sing closer to the truth - "all is quiet on New Year's Day." I decided to stay in, get some rest, get primed for Twist Image in 2008 and clean-up whatever was lying around (both digitally and literally) for this one last day. It turns out that the documentary, American Hardcore, was on TV. Here's how Wikipedia describes the flick (I just love how Wikipedia has an entry for everything):

"This documentary film addresses the birth and evolution of hardcore punk rock from 1979 to 1986. The documentary boasts extensive underground footage shot during the height of the hardcore movement, as well as exclusive interviews with early hardcore punk music artists from bands such as Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and many more."

Now, while the Punk scene was developing, I was ears deep in the Hard Rock - Heavy Metal movement, but still dipped my toes into the murky pond that was Black Flag (I'm still a huge Henry Rollins fan), Bad Brains, etc... I got completely caught up in American Hardcore - less for the music, more for the culture. The whole D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) spirit, and how the bands created these social networks in every city - from places to squat to people who helped the bands poster the town to promote an upcoming show - really made me think about how Social Media is now growing. The Punk movement was all done in the spirit of growing the music - getting it out to more and more people, and that seems to be the exact moment in time we're at with Social Media.

While we've moved to online Social Networks to get the word out, the gigs and house parties that these bands were having looked strikingly similar to an unconference like PodCamp (without all the spit, blood, fighting and tattoos). Even the in-depth interviews highlighted similar language to the kind that we use to discuss and dissect the merits of Social Media. These punk kids were hanging out at the venue for the whole day, connecting to one another, trading music, and fighting the local authority to have their voices heard.

I had a realization: Social Media is Punk rock, and it's exactly the reason why mainstream Marketers are grappling with it. It's new, it seems weird, it's different and it does not work the way they are used to working. It calls for new rules and the D.I.Y. spirit conflicts with everything they've learned in school and trusted in the workplace.

It took many years for Punk rock music to be accepted (some might argue that it still has not been), but when I see bands like the Sex Pistols doing a reunion tour and the mass appeal of the Screamo movement, we can agree that it's not so underground anymore.

So if Social Media is Punk, what will it take for mass appeal? For the next little while, it will still be relegated to early adopters - people who do, instinctively, go online right away to find out any and all information. While that's becoming more and more commonplace for more and more people, I think that what made Punk so seminal and important to our culture is how from that nucleus came other unique, diverse and powerful voices and art - and those are in the mainstream. If anything, that's my true hope for Social Media. We're going to get beyond the early adopters, we're going to transcend the technology and Social Media will simply be Media, just like Digital Marketing will simply be Marketing.

The other powerful insight is that even if you don't like Punk, you can't deny the visceral power, energy and passion that comes from the music and its fans. It's that direct link to non-conformity and anti-establishment that makes it so attractive. Don't think - even for a second - that everything we're doing online was not developed by people who had that exact same spirit and drive.

So, never mind the bullocks - here's the social media.

By Mitch Joel