Southwest Airlines Wants to Be A Music Tastemaker

Southwest Airlines is known for trying to inject fun into air travel, such as employees at an airport gate creating a spontaneous karaoke moment or a flight attendant turning a routine safety speech into stand-up comedy. The $20 billion company embraces an undeniable quirkiness, which is saying something for an airline. So it makes sense for Southwest to rely on the power of music to build its brand, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Since 2011, Southwest has featured surprise pop-up music performances on flights through a series known as Live at 35. The Live at 35 concerts give emerging artists such as Valerie June and Gavin DeGraw a chance to literally sing and strum their guitars in the aisles for whoever happens to be on a flight.

Live at 35 (#Liveat35) is part of a broader artist discovery program that includes efforts such as sponsorship of more conventional concerts in places such as Bryant Park in New York; and a website, southwest.fm, dedicated to sharing music content.

Turbulence Continue reading

Facebook’s Ambitious Vision for Virtual Reality

Facebook wants to make the world better with virtual reality.

At last year’s Facebook F8 event, Mark Zuckerberg articulated a simple vision for making virtual reality mainstream: social VR, or connecting people in the virtual world. But now Facebook has bigger plans. Delivering the keynote at the Oculus Connect conference October 11, Zuckerberg shared a future in which VR improves every aspect of our lives beyond social (naturally, with the help of equipment created by Oculus, owned by Facebook). He also raised eyebrows by announcing that Facebook wants to get one billion people to adopt VR.

Whether Facebook delivers on this vision depends on three factors: accessible equipment, content, and business adoption.

Mark Zuckerberg Updates a Vision

Oculus Connect is an annual gathering of developers and content creators, and because of Oculus’s influence on VR, the event is a bellwether watched closely by the technology industry – making it an ideal venue for Mark Zuckerberg. He used his keynote as an opportunity to redefine VR as a way to improve all aspects of our everyday lives, beyond connecting people socially.

“We believe that one day almost everyone is going to use virtual reality to improve how we work, how we play, and how we connect with each other,” he said. “[Virtual reality] is not about escaping reality. It’s about making it better. It’s about curing diseases, connecting families, spreading empathy, rethinking work, improving games, and, yes, bringing us all closer together.”

He also said, “We want to get a billion people on virtual reality. We have to make sure virtual reality is accessible to everyone.”

He didn’t give a timeline for achieving that goal, but to put things in perspective, in the United States, there are probably only 9.6 million people who use a virtual reality at least once a month according to eMarketer.

Continue reading

Roger Waters Leads a Musical Resistance

When was the last time that popular music made you think?

I mean really made you think about the state of the world and your place in it? The leaders you’ve elected? The choices you’ve made down to the products you buy?

The music of Roger Waters always makes me think. Like when I’m watching him in concert wear a mask of a pig snout and stalk the stage with a champagne glass while his band plays “Dogs.” Or when he examines the plight of the millions of refugees around the world in “The Last Refugee,” a song from his latest album Is This the Life We Really Want?

His songs evoke a time when popular music was a voice for dissent and dialogue about politics and social change – when the Rolling Stones’s “Street Fighting Man” was a rallying cry for Vietnam War protestors and Sly & the Family Stone eviscerated American values with There’s a Riot Goin’ On.

That time is now.

The current political and social unrest that grips the United States and the world has inspired mainstream artists to speak out through their music and actions. No matter what your taste in music is, it’s hard not to notice. For example:

  • In 2016 Beyoncé departed from her usual songs about dancing and grinding to release Lemonade, a celebration of black sisterhood that contributed to the conversation about #BlackLivesMatter.

  • In August, Pink released “What about Us,” with its accusations of betrayal from political leaders.

  • Kendrick Lamar continues to confront American racism on albums such as To Pimp a Butterfly and Damn.

  • (Update: on October 10, Eminem issued a clear and urgent protest against President Donald Trump with his fist-pumping rap freestyle, “The Storm,” which quickly went viral on social media.)

We’re living in an age of heightened activism. Although the groundswell around social justice issues such as #BlackLivesMatter has been happening over the past few years, the election of Donald Trump has unquestionably turned that activism into dissent for many artists (unless you happen to be Kid Rock or Ted Nugent).

According to The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber, the first 100 days of the Trump administration inspired a bumper crop of protest music. As Cat Buckley of Billboard recently reported, 2017 is a year of a “brewing musical resistance” with President Donald Trump the focus of that resistance.

Continue reading

Virtual Reality’s Image Problem

Virtual reality has a major image problem.

I see it whenever I read an article about someone’s grandparents experiencing virtual reality for the first time, accompanied by a photo like this:

Which inevitably makes me think of this:

Or when I visit a VR website and am greeted by this:

Or when I do a Google search for virtual reality, and these images pop up on my screen:

Do you see the problem? It’s simple:

  • Headsets that obscure your face look dehumanizing.
  • People looking at headsets look antisocial.
  • Seeing people enjoying something I cannot enjoy is alienating.

Continue reading