"Adapt or Die"
is my favorite line from Moneyball, also my favorite Brad Pitt movie.
Here's the story in a nutshell:
Brad is the manager of the Oakland A's. They can't compete with teams like the Red Sox, who can afford to pay huge stars multi-million dollar contracts.
However, Brad uses baseball statistics--one of the most boring things in the world--to discover things that every other team in Major League Baseball had missed.
They hire different kinds of athletes who are completely undervalued by the current baseball stats system, and they end up building a winning team!
It's a moving and inspiring movie because Brad was simply willing to look at things differently, and was brave enough to act on his radical insights.
He innovates in the world of baseball--a game with rules that have hardly changed in over a century. The message is clear:
Innovation is always possible, risky, and necessary.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, many arts organizations died. Other older arts organizations survived after a lot of stress and adaptation . But the economic shift also created something else...
The classical startup culture.
These new classical music startups are like the Oakland A's, but they're not competing with the Red Sox of the arts world.
Classical Startups serve a completely different purpose. A startup's purpose is to innovate and experiment constantly.
Classical Startups don't have to please a crowd of 2,000 people with their ideas. Much of the time, all we need to do is sell 30 tickets, and we can bring a wildly innovative idea to life for a night.
Large organizations can't take risks like that. We can.
Therefore, it is our civic duty as startups to experiment wildly, rather than try to become micro-versions of what larger organizations already successfully do.
This approach will not only create a fuller richer arts scene for our individual communities, but will ensure that larger organizations have a place to turn when they themselves are looking to innovate.
Our economy will undoubtedly face new problems as we enter the next era of human civilization, and in order to aid larger arts organizations in the transition, startups will need to provide blueprints for them to follow.
The future of the art world depends on these startups, and these startups must now recognize their value to the overall arts ecosystem.
"Adapt or Die."
Startups are the key to a new state of mind, one that will position the entire art world to more easily make transitions as larger societal, technological, and economic forces continue to shape our world.
As the value of classical startups in the overall arts system because more and more appreciated, my personal hope is that a growing number of large arts organizations take it upon themselves to support startups popping up in their local communities.
Large arts organization will have to decide independently how to best support local startups, since each local community art scene is completely unique.
However, an extremely basic way to support startups is through online promotion of their events and programs. Larger organizations can begin to promote events happening out in their larger community, not necessarily just ones happening at their own venues or as part of their own programs.
This vastly increases awareness of these innovative and experimental projects, by simply hitting the "share" button. Through that awareness, startups can move towards financial sustainability, allowing them to continue experimenting and innovating.
"Adapt or Die"
is not a mentality I wish on anyone in the arts world. With startups and larger organizations working together and supporting each other, perhaps we can begin a new mantra for Brad Pitt's next movie, maybe something like...
"Experiment and Share."