Sometimes you don’t need to create something from scratch to innovate. Sometimes it’s just the action of taking a different approach; taking a different perspective on what is possible.
If you’ve read any of my previous thoughts on innovation, you’ll know that I tend to lean on my interests in the non-business world and art to highlight shared lessons we can all take note of. It’ll come as no surprise then, that in this piece I’ll talk about the disruptive experiments in Reggae music from Jamaica in the late 1960s to bring out the shared ideas that are relevant to broader innovation.
Around that time the primary way for Jamaicans to experience and hear their favourite new music was by the touring array of ‘Sound-Systems’ who had access to the latest records before they were released to the general public or radio stations. The System with the best and most exclusive access would get the biggest audiences and therefore were willing to pay top dollar for records.
Recording labels of this era were looking for ways to get more out of their material – to create more ‘content’ from finite recording sessions with paid musicians and artists. Using the newly accessible ‘multi-track’ method of recording, Jamaica’s labels could separate and manipulate what was already recorded to a much greater extent. Through this, they would produce new ‘versions’ or ‘dubs’ of already recorded music and sell them to the Sound Systems. These versions were ‘special editions’ in some way – ranging from subtly different, through to unrecognisable sonic experiments based off the original recording. Dub music was born when music engineers unleashed their imagination on these multi-track recordings, using often home-made electronic and acoustic devices to create reverb; echo; and delay effects on the individual instruments (including the vocals).
This explosion of possibilities and imagination created new sound recording technology and would create the ripples of change that would lead to the remixing and sampling culture that almost all chart-topping music today is part of. From dance music through to hip-hop – the experiments in taking something that already exists and creating something new from those parts, has carried through.
The building blocks of the next biggest things might already be there, waiting to come together in the most exciting way. Experiment and see what’s possible.