Carson Conversations Forum | Jeff Nicholas
Jeff Nicholas, Director of VR Creative + Production at Live Nation, speaks at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. His talk: “Cross-disciplinary Team Work and Creative Problem Solving.”
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[00:00:09.709]Awesome, awesome thank you guys.
[00:00:10.715]So, Megan thank you for having me and I will say
[00:00:13.162]it's a bit of a nerve-racking stage to be on after all
[00:00:19.250]I definitely am humbled and honored to be here.
[00:00:22.736]So the topic I was given is cross disciplinary teamwork
[00:00:25.743]and creative problem solving.
[00:00:27.377]So I target that in terms of how across my life,
[00:00:31.716]as a creative, I've worked with other teams and people
[00:00:35.380]from different disciplines and how we might be able
[00:00:37.422]to apply that here at The Carson Center.
[00:00:39.805]But first, who am I, who is this guy.
[00:00:43.165]So as Megan said, my name is Jeff Nicholas, I work now
[00:00:47.609]as a director in creative director, but through the last
[00:00:51.259]15 years I've been at the crossroads of music, tech,
[00:00:54.297]entertainment, and that's taken me into a number
[00:00:58.475]of different realms.
[00:01:00.570]I started as a tour manager, I was an artist manager,
[00:01:03.141]I was a marketing director, I ran a clothing line,
[00:01:06.293]I was a designer, I was a web developer, I learned all
[00:01:09.370]these different skills sort of on the job and on the go.
[00:01:13.049]And that led me to launch an agency about 10 years ago
[00:01:17.673]called the Uprising Creative, where we did a bunch
[00:01:20.510]of work for a bunch of great brands that you may have
[00:01:23.163]heard of and a bunch of artists as well.
[00:01:25.086]The network spanned every discipline that would come our way
[00:01:29.837]we started as designers doing album packaging, it ballooned
[00:01:32.619]into merchandise design, that ballooned into websites,
[00:01:35.370]that ballooned into interactive campaigns, experiential
[00:01:38.052]campaigns, then music videos, content and then taking all
[00:01:41.162]of that and crossing all of those genres together.
[00:01:45.285]I had the benefit of working with some fantastic artists.
[00:01:48.076]The first music video I directed was for Justin Timberlake.
[00:01:50.404]To be able to walk in to a situation like that and really
[00:01:53.112]learn on the job there was pretty amazing.
[00:01:58.448]So a couple years ago after doing all of this and really
[00:02:01.214]trying to figure out where I wanted to go next I had
[00:02:04.094]a gentleman by the name of Anthony Batt from a company
[00:02:06.974]called Weaver walk in to my office and say hey, we've got
[00:02:09.488]this virtual reality thing happening, I think what you guys
[00:02:13.721]are doing in music is interesting and I think you would
[00:02:16.004]have a good time creating content in VR.
[00:02:18.712]I looked down like he was completely insane, I looked
[00:02:20.907]at these cameras, I was like I don't understand, I'm just
[00:02:23.607]really trying to figure out how to tell a story
[00:02:25.916]in the traditional medium, now you're telling me 360
[00:02:28.410]and we can't cut the way we used to and we can't move
[00:02:31.034]the camera and all these things people were saying you
[00:02:33.332]couldn't do, which I'll get to in a moment.
[00:02:35.542]But that led me down a path of leaving the agency,
[00:02:37.979]going independent and working with Hulu and LiveNation
[00:02:41.190]on a new series where we're documenting the life
[00:02:44.382]of an artist and the life of an artist around live music
[00:02:47.722]and their inspirations.
[00:02:48.859]That's called On Stage, our first one was with Little Wayne,
[00:02:51.528]the second one just came out a couple days ago
[00:02:53.299]with Major Lazer and through that process, LiveNation
[00:02:56.537]asked me to consult for them and then they said actually
[00:02:59.287]will you come onboard we're going to create a new position,
[00:03:01.828]we see real value in immersive media for our company
[00:03:05.433]so we'd like you to be the director of the art creative
[00:03:08.715]and production here at LiveNation.
[00:03:10.410]So that's what I'm doing now and that's now blossomed
[00:03:12.565]into I'm actually the global creative director for our group
[00:03:15.759]and our group is focused on amplifying the artist and fan
[00:03:19.453]connection through live stream and expansion content
[00:03:23.292]and other emerging media types.
[00:03:25.415]So really what that means is we're taking the fan
[00:03:27.980]and the artist and we're trying to put them together in new
[00:03:30.392]ways so VR and immersive media plays a huge role in that.
[00:03:33.657]So that's just a little bit about me.
[00:03:38.107]What I do everyday in every aspect of my current role,
[00:03:41.133]and in every role I've ever had, has been solving problems
[00:03:46.525]in a creative way, creative problem solving.
[00:03:49.721]What that looks like is we might have a story that we're
[00:03:52.633]trying to tell about a brand, might have a story that
[00:03:54.968]we're trying to tell about an artist, we might be trying
[00:03:57.127]to figure out the best visual for something, we might be
[00:03:59.492]trying to figure out how to connect with a fan in a better
[00:04:03.229]way or how to provide an experience that can move
[00:04:05.480]the needle and change the way somebody thinks about
[00:04:08.775]But every one of those decisions, the minute ones
[00:04:11.469]to the larger ones are all creative decisions even if
[00:04:14.879]they're veiled in a business format or a marketing need
[00:04:18.359]or some sort of legal ramification of what we're doing.
[00:04:21.640]The interesting thing about the creative process for me
[00:04:26.103]is that there is no straight path, so we go to school
[00:04:31.193]and we learn that there's this way to do it and you go
[00:04:34.447]and you sit and you make your list and you work through
[00:04:36.670]your process and bang your head into the table and you try
[00:04:39.625]to eat the creativity out and try to make it happen.
[00:04:44.186]But the reality is, if anyone in here has tried to do that
[00:04:47.566]knows your best idea is not coming from sitting and staring
[00:04:50.846]at a computer screen.
[00:04:52.315]Your best idea is going to come from that moment when you
[00:04:54.652]take a walk down the street to clear your head or for me
[00:04:56.940]when I go get coffee or in the shower or whatever it is.
[00:05:00.602]So for me, once I have the understanding and my teams
[00:05:04.365]once we have the understanding of the problem we're
[00:05:06.876]trying to solve and the creative solution that we're
[00:05:09.543]trying to come up with or at least what our KPI's are,
[00:05:12.212]what our indicators are for what success would look like
[00:05:14.693]in our project, we leave the project alone.
[00:05:17.117]We walk away from it and we start to think about it
[00:05:20.169]and in an academic scenario, that starts to look like
[00:05:24.219]people goofing off, that starts to look like people
[00:05:27.071]leaving class, that starts to look like things that don't
[00:05:30.651]exist within the framework of the education system,
[00:05:34.315]which is why I had a very hard time in the education system.
[00:05:37.708]And so that's one of the things that I point to as we start
[00:05:41.094]to develop the curriculum for The Carson Center is how do we
[00:05:44.236]make sure that we're giving people ample room to be
[00:05:47.156]creative, to think, and to do all of these amazing things
[00:05:49.607]that every other speaker before me has mentioned.
[00:05:53.521]Then, the second part of that is once you're out and getting
[00:05:56.909]inspired, I like to use the self can't reveal itself to self
[00:05:59.776]and what I mean by that is, I'm not a mirror to myself.
[00:06:03.900]I know what's going on inside my head, but if I only focus
[00:06:06.610]on what's going on inside my head, and I don't verbalize
[00:06:08.914]it to you, then I can't really see it for what it is
[00:06:12.653]and I can't really see where it can go and I can't allow
[00:06:15.196]that inspiration that's happening inside me to come out.
[00:06:19.900]So this is about collaboration, this is about saying
[00:06:22.124]talking to someone to anyone about those ideas that I've
[00:06:25.475]just had and then hearing their feedback and hearing their
[00:06:28.428]ideas so that we can then work together to build much
[00:06:31.165]bigger ideas that come from outside of self.
[00:06:36.655]This one will be controversial in this room, I believe that
[00:06:41.853]there are no experts and yes we call people experts
[00:06:44.930]because they have lots of experience in a particular piece
[00:06:48.395]of knowledge or a particular area of focus.
[00:06:52.903]But the reality is, any one of those people that you might
[00:06:55.438]call an expert will tell you that they are continually
[00:06:58.237]learning, you have to continue to learn.
[00:07:03.568]And so when I say experts (mumbles), what I'm saying here is
[00:07:06.962]once we've gone through these first two pieces, we have
[00:07:09.275]to get out of ourselves and we have to put that ego aside
[00:07:11.584]and say even though I have 20 years of experience in this
[00:07:14.336]particular area of focus and this person has no experience
[00:07:17.388]at all in this area of focus, but they have another path
[00:07:19.929]that they've taken and a bunch of experience there,
[00:07:22.825]it's just as valuable and if I'm closed off and I say I'm
[00:07:25.834]an expert or I look at you and I say well you're the expert
[00:07:28.385]so I'm going to take your word for it, then all of a sudden
[00:07:30.540]what we've done is closed off our ability to collaborate
[00:07:32.779]in a real, multi-disciplined way.
[00:07:35.562]Collaboration is the key, so if we're not collaborating,
[00:07:39.279]if we're not getting outside of ourselves, if we're not
[00:07:43.060]moving beyond the computer screen, if we're not then talking
[00:07:46.683]to people and interacting with each other, bringing other
[00:07:49.440]ideas to the table, then we are not going to be the best
[00:07:52.118]versions of ourselves and our ideas will not be
[00:07:54.272]the best versions of our ideas.
[00:07:57.451]So that takes me to does cross-disciplinary team work.
[00:08:00.489]And what I interpret that to mean is everything I've just
[00:08:04.797]talked about with regards to collaboration, but taking
[00:08:08.146]all of these different disciplines that we all focus on,
[00:08:10.592]so whether you're a business person, you're a scientist,
[00:08:13.267]you're a student, who has no idea what they're wanting
[00:08:16.717]to do, you're an artist, you're a designer, it doesn't
[00:08:19.977]It's saying if we're all in a room together, and we're
[00:08:22.139]all tasked with a problem or if I'm tasked with a problem
[00:08:24.620]and I can't figure it out, why not bring in these
[00:08:27.314]other disciplines and why not talk to each other and work
[00:08:30.050]with each other to try to find solutions that are outside
[00:08:33.050]of our core path.
[00:08:36.926]If we do that, we all bring something very very very unique
[00:08:40.928]to the table that cannot be discounted.
[00:08:43.259]Now I'm not going to say I can walk into a business meeting
[00:08:46.355]with an MBA and know more about what's happening in
[00:08:50.336]the business world than that person is going to know,
[00:08:53.672]that's not what this is about.
[00:08:54.678]What it is about is to say I have personal experience
[00:08:56.508]and you have personal experience and you have personal
[00:08:59.420]experience and we all have these personal experiences
[00:09:01.900]that shape the way that we look at the world.
[00:09:04.978]So in my background I've got what happened to me as a kid
[00:09:07.691]and what schools I went to and where I moved and all of
[00:09:09.661]these things that make up the way that I look at the world.
[00:09:12.671]As soon as I see a creative problem that I'm trying to find
[00:09:14.961]a solution for it, I immediately go to certain things
[00:09:17.961]that seem obvious to me.
[00:09:20.125]Like this is the way it is, of course.
[00:09:22.524]But then if I talk to you about that and I get outside
[00:09:26.818]of myself and I express my opinion to you, you're going
[00:09:30.337]to look at it and go well maybe that doesn't really make
[00:09:33.296]sense to me and the reason why it doesn't is because I've
[00:09:35.756]got this point of view but I see where you're coming from,
[00:09:38.896]here's where I'm coming from, here was my solution to that
[00:09:41.505]and here's how we take those two different points of view
[00:09:44.729]that sometimes are in line and sometimes are diametrically
[00:09:47.610]opposed and we take them and we put them together in a way
[00:09:50.347]that creates something new, because I go oh wow your point
[00:09:52.986]of view and where you're coming from actually if I add that
[00:09:57.467]to where I'm coming from, we now get to a place that's so
[00:10:00.019]much bigger than we could've gotten to on our own.
[00:10:05.096]Another part of that is some of the biggest breakthroughs
[00:10:07.290]come from naivety.
[00:10:09.984]If being naive really allows us to think in a way that
[00:10:15.103]you're not able to think when you have these rules
[00:10:18.204]and restrictions laid out in front of you.
[00:10:20.738]I think the biggest example of this that I have is my wife
[00:10:24.285]runs the Techstars Music Accelerator and they have a demo
[00:10:26.912]day two days ago and all of the startups that were in that
[00:10:32.462]demo day were fantastic, but there's one in particular
[00:10:35.230]called Popgun, they're basically creating an AI musician.
[00:10:38.141]And not in the way that they're going to have a holographic
[00:10:41.922]musician that has created AI music, it's going to be
[00:10:44.444]performing it, that's not their intention.
[00:10:46.026]What their intention is, is to use the neural network
[00:10:48.221]in deep learning to create a way for AI to help artists
[00:10:52.700]produce different kinds of music, to collaborate
[00:10:56.426]with artists, to do all kinds of things.
[00:10:58.417]And I'm going to try to describe it because I'll do it
[00:11:00.658]a total disservice, I've already done it a big disservice
[00:11:04.125]there, so look them up Popgun.
[00:11:06.876]But the reason I bring them up is because what they're
[00:11:10.029]doing and where they've been able to get to with their AI,
[00:11:13.340]far surpasses anything that anybody has said is possible
[00:11:17.146]with AI and music.
[00:11:20.170]They've gotten to a place that Google has said is years
[00:11:24.635]away from what's possible.
[00:11:28.171]They can now play into this AI and it will playback as
[00:11:31.934]a jazz musician would, based on no metadata, based on
[00:11:35.887]no understanding of an instrument, based on no understanding
[00:11:38.909]of what's actually being fed into it and it can play
[00:11:42.672]Google, you press a key, it'll play a key back, that's how
[00:11:45.886]far they've been able to get with it.
[00:11:47.738]These are 19 year old kids from Australia, everyone around
[00:11:50.604]them said you can't do it, everyone around them said,
[00:11:53.727]it's going to take years, but they had a collaborator
[00:11:57.691]who's been in the music business for about 20 years
[00:12:00.444]who protected them from that and said you know what guys,
[00:12:03.056]what you want to do is really interesting, go, do it.
[00:12:07.916]And in three months they've been able to create this thing
[00:12:09.982]they said would take years, because they didn't know,
[00:12:12.264]they were naive to the fact that there were these rules
[00:12:15.946]and these borders and this understanding that it wasn't
[00:12:23.135]So bringing all this together, all of our different
[00:12:25.258]perspectives, all of this focus on trying something new,
[00:12:28.837]working together, I think that's where we get to this
[00:12:34.313]I laughed when I put this one up, but sharing is caring.
[00:12:37.420]And what I mean by that is really if we're sharing our
[00:12:39.787]knowledge, if we're reaching across the aisle and we're
[00:12:42.570]seeing scientists who work with artists, who work
[00:12:45.610]with business people, who work with all these different
[00:12:48.150]disciplines, if we're working together to solve creative
[00:12:50.460]problems, there is no stopping what we can do.
[00:12:52.779]And that's what we've got the opportunity to do here
[00:12:55.264]at The Johnny Carson Center, you guys are starting this
[00:12:57.516]from the ground up.
[00:12:59.059]We're in a place where the curriculum can be written
[00:13:01.066]in such a way that students who come through mixed
[00:13:03.563]with the faculty and staff who's working in the program
[00:13:07.288]can really move the needle and can really make big change.
[00:13:11.949]And whether that be something as grand as helping humanity
[00:13:16.370]or something as small as helping a brand with their
[00:13:20.305]If we work this way, we can really really make that change.
[00:13:24.502]So that's what I've got, thank you guys for having me.
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