When culture gets stuck

Classical music wasn’t always ‘classical’.

Geeks spend a lot of time worrying about the cutting edge, focusing on creating digg bait, reaching the early adopters, making something cool enough and fresh enough to capture attention and to spread.

We spend very little time thinking about the other end of the curve.

That’s where culture gets stuck.

Once something makes its way to the mass market, the mass market doesn’t want it to change. And once it moves from that big hump in the middle of the market to become a classic, the market doesn’t just want it to not change, they insist.

So classical music gets stuck because the new stuff isn’t like the regular kind, the classics. French food got stuck, because no restaurant could risk its 3 stars to try something new. A convention can’t change cities or formats. Schools can’t start their curriculum over… the culture gets stuck because the masses want it be stuck.

That’s because the late adopters and the laggards have plenty of money and influence–while the early adopters have a short attention span and rank low in persistence.

Inside most fields, we see pitched battles between a few people who want serious change to reinvigorate the genre they love–and the masses, who won’t tolerate change of any kind. Hey, there are still people arguing vehemently about whether Mass should be in Latin or not.

History has shown us that the answer is crystal clear: if you want change, you’ve got to leave. Change comes, almost always, from the outside. The people who reinvented music, food, technology and politics have always gone outside the existing dominant channels to create something new and vital and important.