This past weekend I did what I’m sure every responsible mid-40-something with two teenage kids would do: I hopped a plane to see a weekend of Phish shows in Chicago!
This is not new to me. In fact, this summer marks the 20th anniversary of the first of my countless Phish shows. Back in 1993, I learned about Phish through a bandmate of mine who brought over a CD (remember those?). I was hooked. By 1995, email listservs (remember those?) began to pop up, allowing fans (er, phans) from around the world to find out who had recent live recordings. Once you found your “new best friend” with crispy soundboard (SBD) or audience (AUD) tapes, you’d send them blank cassettes (and these?) with return postage (and that?), and voila! A week or two later, you’d have your music.
It was magical.
Just a few small things have evolved since then, right? Hi-speed Internet, music streaming, massive storage capabilities. In fact, when I arrived home this past Sunday afternoon, I decided to purchase the live high-definition Internet stream from the final night’s show in Chicago. I listened to the first set of crystal clear music on noise-canceling headphones, watching the show on my HD TV from multiple camera angles. This all cost me $14.99.
Then it started to downpour in downtown Chicago, taking down the concert entirely. When the band took the stage over an hour later, the live stream had been knocked out of commission.
What happened? The Internet went crazy: “How can this happen?” “You guys SUCK!” “I want my money back!!!!”
Of course, all of this reminds me of my favorite Louis C.K. bit on Conan, where Louis excoriates people who “feel like they’re owed something they didn’t know existed only 10 seconds ago.” Or when people complain of slow cell phone calls—“GIVE IT A SECOND! IT’S GOING TO SPACE!”
I understand I’m talking like the old “get off my lawn” guy, but seriously. Technology happens so fast that people forget that it wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t do anything you can do now. It used to be that your generation didn’t understand the generation before it. Now inter-generational advancement in technology happens. Just a couple of years ago, you had a lot of friends who didn’t have a smartphone. Some did. Some didn’t. Did you hate your friends who didn’t? Of course not.
What I learned—once again—over this past weekend is that people’s expectations of technology have no memory. If something new and cool happens in advancement, then we have no memory of what happened prior. Whatever’s new has been that way forever. While sending blank cassettes with return postage used to be amazing, now live HD streaming video of concerts is the new boring. It’s never good enough.
Think about that for a second in your own world. What happens when you or your competitor decides to change the game to a new normal that, quite simply, makes your way of doing things entirely obsolete? I experienced it yet again this weekend, and it’s amazing to see it happen in a blink of an eye.