TED Talks have been a consistent source of knowledge and inspiration for several years now. Presenters cover a broad range of fascinating subjects, but it can a bit overwhelming to scroll through the large selection of videos in order to discover the kind of talks you're looking for. So, we've done the work for you and uncovered five incredible music-focused TED Talks that we think you're going to love!
1. David Byrne: "How Architecture Helped Music Evolve"
As an influential figure in the punk scene of the 1970s, David Byrne (of Talking Heads) is respected not only for his musical accomplishments, but also the distinctive thought-leadership role he has earned in regards to the creative process. In "How Architecture Helped Music Evolve," Byrne discusses how venues and other physical locations can influence the songwriting and production of an artist or band. Through his own personal anecdotes with Talking Heads, he explains how the dynamics of their process changed once they started playing at nicer venues.
The idea of context pushing musical innovation is a fascinating subject, and the video proves to be quite useful because once you realize the power of the architecture around you, you'll have a stronger grasp on your creative process as a whole.
2. Adam Sadowsky: "How to Engineer a Viral Music Video"
Music videos going viral can put artists on the fast track to success (we've delved into the art and science of this before). In this TED Talk, Adam Sadowsky tells the story of the effort and engineering behind the Rube Goldberg machine he and his team created for OK Go's famously viral music video for "This Too Shall Pass." For those who want a firsthand account of how to put the right pieces in place to give a video the sensational value that so many seek, look no further than this insightful presentation!
3. Amanda Palmer: "The Art of Asking"
Though a polarizing figure, Amanda Palmer provides a wealth of knowledge for indie artists; she started out as a street performer and worked to become a successful alt-rock artist. The basis of her presentation is rooted in today’s digital reality of music being easily shareable without fans having to support the musician. Palmer correctly points to the fact that artists should hold themselves accountable to their fans alone, and whatever value fans get from artists can be reciprocated by direct monetary support. "Don’t make people pay for music, let them" is the theme of the talk, and her examination of the artist/fan relationship is spot on: fans not only want a great product, but also emotional value that they can relate to and proudly stand behind with their hard-earned money.
4. Megan Washington: "The Thing Is, I Stutter"
Megan Washington is one of Australia's premier singer/songwriters, and the manner in which she pours her heart out in "The Thing Is, I Stutter" is truly inspiring. Admirably so, she reveals how she copes with her stuttering speech impediment, and the courage behind her art is something we can all appreciate. Washington explains the therapeutic idea of "smooth speech" and how singing became a self-prescribed treatment as a child and, eventually, her livelihood.
Every artist has their own obstacles they have to overcome, and watching Megan Washington’s TED Talk should inspire you to pull through any type of adversity, especially if you're someone who struggles with nerves or anxiety during live performances.
5. Kid Cudi: "Hi, I'm Scott"
Well known as a beloved figure by his die-hard fans, Kid Cudi has had an eventful journey throughout his career filled with many ups and downs. "We are all the commanders of our own destiny" was the message of his recent TED Talk delivered at his former high school in Ohio. The talk discusses the fear that came with his move to New York City and how he had to embrace that fear, as well as work many "regular guy" jobs to support his artistic aspirations.
"It’s scary, but if you believe and if you want it, and if you want to work hard enough for it, it can be so," he says. "'Cause there’s no difference from me and you. I just really wanted this shit. I wanted it bad. And I didn’t want to be a failure. And nobody’s a failure in this room. Don’t ever think that. We can all win." No matter how stressful the music industry can be, keeping this quote in mind will help you when you’re down and inspire you to achieve your goals.
Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.