What do Headlining Bands say about a Technology Conference?

10 Sep What do Headlining Bands say about a Technology Conference?

Somewhere along the way technology conferences became music venues. Anyone catch Green Day at Salesforce’s Dreamforce last year? What about Maroon 5 at Oracle’s OpenWorld? As I am writing this, U2 is playing at Apple’s iPhone 6 Event. And let’s not even talk about South by Southwest (SXSW) determined to keep both conferences and Austin, Texas, its place of origin, weird.

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure when this phenomenon started to occur, but I do remember attending technology conferences in the mid-nineties where the main focus was on, um, technology. That said, could this be a good thing?

What can we tell from the headlining bands that a technology company selects to attract the masses and set the tone for their event?

Dreamforce Vs. OpenWorld, a battle of the bands

To investigate this concept further (and have a little fun) let’s look at two of this year’s top technology conferences; Salesforce’s Dreamforce and Oracle’s OpenWorldMeet the contenders.

In Salesforce’s corner, wearing a puffy white cloud with a bold red circle with a line through it, is Bruno Mars. Yes, in case you missed him performing the halftime show at this past year’s Super Bowl, you need only attend Dreamforce to catch Bruno live. He will be at this year’s Dreamforce Gala performing a UCSF benefit concert. Who is Bruno Mars?

“Billboard’s 2013 Artist of the Year, Bruno Mars is a critically acclaimed singer, songwriter, producer and musician. The 18-time GRAMMY nominee and multi-GRAMMY winner has sold over 130 million singles worldwide. His current album Unorthodox Jukebox and his debut album Doo-Wops & Hooligans have a combined certification total of 74-times platinum worldwide. According to Billboard, Mars scored his first five Hot 100 No. 1s faster than any male since Elvis Presley. As a singer, songwriter and producer, Mars has an impressive catalog of 22 Hot 100 hits.”

In Oracle’s corner, wearing leather (the same as they have for 41 years) is Aerosmith. Who is Aerosmith? I can’t believe I just typed that, but in the spirit of equal and accepting…

Aerosmith is the best-selling American rock band of all time, having sold more than 150 million albums worldwide, including over 70 million albums in the United States alone. With 25 gold albums, 18 platinum albums, and 12 multi-platinum albums, they hold the record for the most gold albums by an American group, the most total certifications by an American group, and are tied for the most multi-platinum albums by an American group. The band has scored 21 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, nine number-one Mainstream Rock hits, four Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, and ten MTV Video Music Awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, and were included among both Rolling Stone’s and VH1’s lists of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. As the band’s principal songwriters, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry received the ASCAP Founders Award and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013.”

An accurate reflection of both companies?

So what does a chosen musical act say about the company that hires them for their conference? To answer that, I think we look at both entities’ past performance(s).

From a Salesforce perspective, you have one of the fastest growing (don’t call it) software companies matched with a singer who, according to Billboard, “…scored his first five Hot 100 No. 1s faster than any male since Elvis Presley.” His current album is titled Unorthodox Jukebox. If traditional software is a Jukebox then you might as well replace the first world of the album title with Salesforce. Can you think of a more proudly unorthodox software company? And yet, while I am sure many of you laughed when I asked the question of who he is, there are generations of people who may not be aware of who Bruno Mars is or what he is doing.

From an Oracle perspective, you have one of the oldest and most successful software companies of the world matched with, “the best-selling American rock band of all time.” Steven Tyler and Aerosmith are responsible for laying a good part of the foundation for what Rock and Roll is today — much like the foundation that Larry Ellison and Oracle set when they created a their initial database platform and the enterprise applications that followed. Both entities have been through a lot. In the late 70’s, internal conflict took a toll on Aerosmith that led to the departure of 2 key band members. In 2005, a serious security vulnerability in Oracle database password management was published by Joshua Wright of the Sans Institute and Carlos Cid of the University of London. Joe Perry and Brad Whitford returned to Aerosmith in 1984. Oracle closed the underlying security hole with its release of the 11g DBMS in 2007. Both entities have stood the test of time and continue to go on producing. It is also not lost on me that both Aerosmith and Oracle have chosen red as their primary color.

What if Benioff and Ellison combined conferences and sang to each other?

The stage is black. The kinetic energy of the crowd builds as developers and salespeople alike begin to slowly sway in anticipation of the act that will follow. And suddenly, with a blinding flash, the crack of pyrotechnics and enough smoke to put both companies in the cloud, the two men take the stage. Marc Benioff singingRunaway Baby and Larry Ellison singing Dream on.

Full Disclosure: Last year I spoke at Dreamforce on the topic of “The Intranet of The Future”. This year I am speaking at OpenWorld on the topic of “The Top 5 Reasons Social Initiatives Fail”. After this post, it is quite possible that I will not be speaking at either conference next year 😉

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Andy Jankowski

Andy is a Social Business researcher, advisor and keynote speaker. During the last 19 years he has served as a trusted advisor for several leading organizations including Andersen, Ernst & Young, JP Morgan Chase and Oracle. He is a career long student of enterprise communication and collaboration. He has both written for, and been written about, in Forbes and The Huffington Post. Andy is a frequent conference speaker and an avid road cyclist. He enjoys connecting people and dots.

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