I spent the day yesterday listening to Ryan Adam's 1989 album on repeat. (If you are living under a rock you might not have heard that yesterday musician Ryan Adam put out a cover album of Taylor Swift's hugely successful 1989.)
This release got a lot of coverage in the music media and I read a few of the articles that talked about how this album came to be. Now, if you're more cynical than me, you might say I should take what I read with a grain of salt. But humour me for a minute and assume that this did not all originate as a ploy to create a monster hit.
What struck me most about the album is that this whole thing started off as an experiment. Ryan had just separated from his wife around the same time he came off tour. With a lot of free time on his hands and the natural restlessness and angst that comes from big life changes, he started playing around with Taylor Swift's music.
A lot of things happened between his making the music and it turning into a huge hit, but the seeds of the album's success were planted well before any marketing department got a hold of it.
It made me think about how so many work environments leave little room for true experimentation. If every single marketing activity you do has to generate immediate "ROI" you are going to be less likely to try these random, seemingly inconsequential things that might end up being a huge success.
Getting space and budget to experiment is not an easy task for any marketing leader but I think it's essential in order to have the freedom to try things that might fall flat on their face. Once in a while you will do something that will land you the equivalent of the top spot on iTunes.