Why Country Music is Just Like Tech

Why Country Music is Just Like Tech

I can’t help it. I’m the guy who notices the background music. Good or bad.


At red lights I open my windows to hear what’s coming out of the car next to me.  In elevators, Muzak covers of Talking Heads make me crazy. But sometimes I get surprised – – pleasantly surprised.


The first thing I noticed when I walked into San Francisco’s Moscone Center for the Google Developers Conference last month (other than the 80-foot Google logo on the wall) was the banjo riffs of “I Will Wait” from Mumford & Sons. Nice touch.


Standing in line “waiting” for my badge, I was completely fixated by the music and by the thematic perfection created by the well-chosen song.  I imagined the Stanford educated, dutifully recruited and painstakingly interviewed Google Event Planner who carefully choreographed every detail – – including the soundtrack.  I started sequencing the next couple of songs in my mind: “The Waiting” by Tom Petty, the Chili Peppers’ ode to waiting in line “By The Way”, maybe even Rihanna’s “Willing To Wait”.  Did my musical insights have what it takes to be a Google event producer?


Apparently not. The next track was Brad Paisley followed by The Band Perry.  No more “waiting” songs. Country music was welcoming me to this tech event. EDM and classic rock may be what coders listen to while working — but apparently someone decided that country music was a better way to welcome us.

Was the choice of music random?  Just an accident?  I keep reading that folks way smarter than I – like Picasso and Deepak Chopra – reject the concept of accidents (a view I’m still getting my arms around).  I had plenty of time to think about this.  Apparently there is a disproportionately large number of engineers whose name begins with “L-M-N” (and almost none with “I-J-K” names – but that’s a different blog post).


If there are no accidents, is it possible that the soundtrack for RFO Basic! and Android SDK for Java is good ol’ fashioned country music?  Let’s look at this.


Our “forefathers” who coded NES games using Family Basic couldn’t imagine the capabilities of Rails any more than Hank Williams could understand Taylor Swift’s wardrobe. And isn’t it possible that Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard were the 8-bit programmers of their time? They relied upon simple structures and rudimentary tools to get their message across.  So how did we get from Lefty Frizzell to Tim McGraw? Is it the same way we got from Martin Fowler to Ruchi Sanghvi?


Heck yeah!


Curiosity, dissatisfaction with the present, resilience in the face of failure and hard work — the best catalysts for country music themes are exactly what are driving our best engineers.


I’ve heard that “foodies” are the groupies of our time. That may be true, but coders are the superstars. I was at SXSW 25 years ago and let me tell you – – it was mighty similar to the crowded halls of hyper-motivated virtuosos at Google I/O 2013.


If Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton were Millennials, they’d be writing code, not ballads. And they’d be working damn hard at it, too — ‘cause country stars know that success is about working, not worrying — and definitely not whining.


Country music is also a good reminder that the people who use our apps and our handsets are real people. Wonderful people busting their asses to raise their families, make ends meet and relax a little bit on the weekend. Our customers aren’t just other coders and engineers — or folks obsessed with trying to figure out how to become the next David Karp. Apps that get shared in Palo Alto are nice, but the mobile apps that folks use to connect and share moments with friends and families, to improve lives, and to reach out to each other at both critical and casual times – that’s the software they’ll feel good about when they stop at a light and “On the Road Again” is coming from the car in the next lane.

Larry Lieberman is chief marketing officer of ooVoo – the world’s largest independent video chat app with 78 million registered users (adding 100,000 new users daily).  This summer, ooVoo releases a new experience in social video for PC, iOS and Android devices.  Larry is a marketing innovator who has been rewriting sales and business rules since he was a tour roadie for Pepsi working with Tina Turner, Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson.  


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