“It's not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating, they have to be about change.”- Miles Davies.
This quote really stuck with me as the credits rolled on the brilliant Netflix documentary- “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool”- about the maverick and inspirational Jazz trumpeter.
Change is a funny thing. Unnerving, unsettling, unpredictable.
And at the moment, as we lurch into the randomness of the pandemic, change feels like the last thing we need. In fact, we keep being told how important it is to keep a routine, have a lunch break, take regular exercise, switch off at six.
For a creative, routine is like crows for a farmer. With it, the seeds of ideas don’t grow, there isn’t enough new influence to shape and inform thinking. You are driving around the same cul-de-sac, looking in the same windows.
So, for creativity, change is good.
Then why does change feel so scary at the moment?
A lot is changing in the creative industry as theatres close curtains again, cinemas turn off their screens and TV production all but shouts cut for another lockdown.
As the economy heads downstream, many of us will be faced with crossroads that we were not expecting to hit. So, as we catch our breath and look to the horizon, there are two ways to turn.
We can long for the old way of doing things, when masks were for superheroes and social distancing was just avoiding your ex at parties. Rebuild what was there before and get back to normal as soon as we possibly can, forgetting this ever happened.
Or maybe, the change that is being thrust upon us is an opportunity. A chance to smash some idols, break routine and push things forward.
The past is never perfect and letting go can be cleansing. The need to adapt and re-route can bring out fresh thinking for the future. Fighting change will only lead to it punching you in the face.
The past is never perfect and letting go can be cleansing
I remember being at a music conference in the late 90’s with my old Boss, Tony Wilson.
He’d set up a stand showing off some new tech. MP3’s, they were called, and he was buzzing about how you’d be able to download music for 50p and how fantastic it was.
Heads of iconic record labels, Sony, BMG, London, et al, all walked past laughing at him, like he was a mad scientist, or the drunken uncle at a wedding, before expensing bottles of red at the bar and lines of white from the toilets. The old ways were good for them, no one wanted change.
Then came Napster and the iPod as they were all sat in deck chairs on the beach watching the waves of the Tsunami get closer. The music industry fought change and it left them on the beach.
So let's not fight it.
Maybe theatres embracing streaming as a way to reach audiences makes it more mainstream and accessible. Maybe we say goodbye to Shakespeare for the tourists and hello to new, diverse and contemporary writers. Maybe movie makers will relish telling stories that can be longer as they live on VOD. Maybe Hollywood turns its back on the blockbusters and sequels and adaptations and puts money into new ideas, for a new audience. Maybe Linear TV will go to a subscription model and start investing in fresher thinking instead of cookie-cutter shiny-floor shows, with the knowledge that they can be niche and challenging and exist for more than an hour.
Miles Davis never looked back. He didn’t even own his old records, let alone play them. He embraced change at every turn and kept creating because if it.
Times are going to be tough. Change is going to be hard. But don’t fight it. Let’s take stock. Let’s build, not just re-build.
Let go of the past. Let’s be the future.