Friday, July 5, 2013

Pearl Jam: Doing the Evolution

Pearl Jam is about to make a major announcement on Monday, July 8th, at 1:00pm. The band's website currently has a countdown clock leading up to the big event. What could it be? A new album? A new single? A world tour? Like any jammer, I wait with bated breath.

Like many Pearl Jam fans, I have grown up with the band. A once plaid shirt-wearing, angst-ridden kid, who would get motivated for school by singing such Pearl Jam songs as "Leash" ("Drop the leash/drop the leash, get out of my f'ing face"), I have matured over the past 23 years right along with many of Pearl Jam's themes. Today, now a father of two young boys, I continue to take solace in Pearl Jam's songs, which have grown to reflect the sort of awareness about life that only comes with age and experience. You see, like its fans, Pearl Jam has grown up too. And rather than fight change and try to continue being what they once were, Pearl Jam has not only embraced its own evolution, it has become defined by it. It is precisely this evolution that I find most facinating about Pearl Jam, and most relevant to their staying power. And their story in this regard is one that many other artists and entrepreneurs can learn from.

The all-too-often used phrase for today's modern world is "adapt or die." I think I would like to replace that with one simple word: evolve. Pearl Jam never adapted to the idea of having to make music videos, or doing extensive interviews, or pushing a radio-friendly single, or really any traditional method of music marketing. Yet, they did not die. Instead, Pearl Jam consistently made honest music, toured the world, fought for causes they believed in, and were genuinely appreciative of their fans. In fact, Pearl Jam did not "adapt" at all.  But they did evolve, and continue to do so (Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready has gone so far as to call the new album that the band has been working on "experimental," something few 23-year musical acts would dare set out for).

The problem with adapting is that you run the risk of becoming something that you are not, and following the flavor of the month. Long-term success is rooted in authenticity. Staying genuine to your brand and allowing yourself to grow naturally over time just may end up being your greatest strength.

Here's a link to Pearl Jam's last music video, "Do the Evolution", released some 15 years ago -

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