Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read


Advice On How To Stay Relevant From St. Vincent

Vocalist Annie Clark, who goes by the stage name St. Vincent, talks about rethinking rock ’n roll—can app makers benefit from the same advice?

Advice On How To Stay Relevant From St. Vincent

Annie Clark,
better known as St. Vincent

[Image: Flickr user Jason Persse]

Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, talked to NPR yesterday about her new album and shared some of her creative philosophy. One of the main points Clark makes is that even though she loves the rock ’n roll’s past, she’s not interested in re-creating it.

I love playing guitar, and I’ve been playing it for more of my life than not—but I’m not as interested in kind of recreating the old lexicon of rock guitar. It’s great, and it’s an amazing history, but I’m interested in what else a guitar can sound like. —St. Vincent

In tech, just as in music, it's easy to get hung up on the current trends, trying to duplicate or reformulate whatever alchemy worked for apps and products that succeeded in the past. But rethinking a paradigm can reveal huge swaths of creative territory that aren't immediately available. One great example: Biz Stone's new app Jelly, which works like a search engine re-thought for a social networking age.

With the Jelly app, you take a picture of something and ask a question like, What is this? Where did it come from? You might call this something like "social search," as opposed to algorithmic search like Google's. Even a monstrously big company like Google isn't immune to small, smart innovations like this one. When Twitter was first coming of age and beginning to to reach mass appeal, it—much more than Bing—scared Google into changing its direction. Google quickly added real-time social results because it saw people asking their friends and friends of friends instead of its search box.

I think we’re in a world where people feel like they can beg, borrow, and steal from any genre and it’s fair game, and that’s exciting. You don’t want to get stuck in any one thing. —St. Vincent

Doing things differently means remixing, not avoiding the competition entirely. Jelly borrows Twitter's and Facebook's social graph while it also incorporates pictures and visual aspects of things like Snapchat and Instagram. Even though DuckDuckGo, a traditional search engine with a great privacy setup recently announced that it answered over a billion queries in 2013, a paradigm shift like the one Jelly attempts to make is potentially more threatening to Google than direct competition. To dethrone the old guard, you need to constantly be imagining what something would look like if you invented it today, without yesterday's assumptions built in.