Toronto, the High-Tech Hub
For the past six months, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my career in high tech, where I want to take it, Toronto’s role in my high-tech career and conversely my own role in Toronto’s standing as a hub for high-tech. I said “Watch this space!” in an earlier article about ideas Toronto can borrow from Silicon Valley and Seattle, and promised to talk about what it would take to build up Toronto as a high-tech hub and a livable city. Here’s the first of my thoughts on the topic, and it’s about punk rock.
A Sex Pistols Concert
Over at the excellent blog Zen Habits, Brian “Copyblogger” Clark talks about a very important punk rock performance that took place in Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976. The band was called the Sex Pistols, who were still unknown at the time.
Only 42 people attended, and Clark writes that “Attendees ranged from the local mailman to a few rebellious school children”. However, also among the audience were these people, luminaries of the British alt-rock scene, who along with the Sex Pistols would define the new music scene of the 1980s and whose influence can still be felt today:
- Tony Wilson, who would go on to start Factory Records (home of New Order and later, Happy Mondays) and Manchester’s Hacienda club (featured in the movie 24 Hour Party People)
- Martin Hannett, who would go on to become a legendary record producer
- Paul Morley, who would go on to become a music journalist for the Brit music magazine NME
- The Buzzcocks
- Mark E. Smith of The Fall
- Mick Hucknall, who would go on to become the lead vocalist of Simply Red
- Steven Patrick Morrissey, who would go on to become the King of Mope and lead vocalist of The Smiths
- The founding members of Joy Division
“This tiny concert,” writes Clark, “is considered on par with Woodstock and Live Aid in terms of importance, due to the influence the audience went on to have on popular music by creating the independent music scene.”
This concert is an object lesson in the power of gathering like-minded people and giving them a little inspiration. As Clark puts it, “that small group of people spotted the changing dynamics in music and took action, because if the Pistols could do it, so could they. By seeing the inevitable future they became important players in that future.”
That’s what I hope DemoCamp accomplishes for high-tech in Toronto. It should gather like-minded people together, show them what their peers are doing, and inspire them to go forth with their own creations, see the future and become important players in that future.
The folks at local Ruby/Rails development shop Unspace certainly understand this and have even taken up the punk rock spirit in creating their own Ruby conference, RubyFringe, which may someday be written up as the Ruby equivalent of the Sex Pistols concert. I hope to see more independent conferences like this.
The Sex Pistols concert was influential because it was set up by musical innovators and attended by musical innovators. Can you imagine what would’ve happened had it been organized by Manchester’s City Hall?
It probably would’ve gone like this: City Hall likely would’ve organized it as a showcase of Manchester musicians who performed in inoffensive, accessible, “safe”, commercial, “radio-friendly” styles. The guest list would’ve been organized by the chamber of commerce and would’ve included the media, representatives from major record labels and talent agencies, politicians friom all levels of government, local business owners, people from the tourism industry and of course, major media outlets.
None of the “nobodies” who attended the Sex Pistols concert would’ve been invited.
In the end, the city would have declared the event a success, but in the long run, it wouldn’t even rate as a footnote in musical history.
Is such a limp promotional event in the works? Yes — it’s called Toronto Technology Week. I’m sure the folks behind it mean well.
The Six-Letter Word That Determines Success
Clark’s article closes with these lines:
Why did I just tell you a story about punk rock and independent music? Well, lots of people can spot trends and have great ideas, but only some do anything about it.
So, what’s the six-letter word that determines success in life?
What are you getting done today?