I was walking down Broadway, my heart still thumping from the twenty-minute workout I endured five blocks back and I could see the guys already. Four young black kids holding about a half dozen CDs each, hustling people as they walk by to take one, enjoy it, and possibly follow them later.
I wasn't sure of their business model but I didn't care to stop and ask. If you've been in Manhattan lately, this selling strategy is not uncommon. Usually, someone has a CD player, they hand you a copy as if it's free, ask you to take a listen, and then follow up with the hard sell. (Some price akin to a record store, whatever that is.) Or at least that's been my experience when I'm too polite to listen to whole pitch for myself, knowing I'll say "no thanks".
Somehow these guys were different. I tried to powerwalk through them and when I didn't respond to even look at the disc held out in my walking path by one of the guys, I heard him say, "C'mon, be nice."
Another guy matched my pace and walked alongside me, asked me where I was from. I lied (or did it come out naturally?) and said Brooklyn. He moved on quickly, asked if I liked hip-hop. Maybe take a listen, it's free. I said, without stopping for a minute - "I don't have a CD player." He froze on the corner, shrugged his shoulders that suggested it was a familiar response for him and he disappeared back into the crowded streets.
There are plenty of worse ways to market music but offering the technology of a decade ago when just about everyone in the city has the ubiquitous white headphones plugged into their iPhone is backward. Even the thought that this particular guy had to say, with some audacity, it was free was a bit telling of the whole pitch. Of course! It should be free!
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, had this mindset implanted in my subconscious earlier this week. He gave away the tools of his trade in an hour-long talk for Google and General Assembly called Tools for Entrepreneurs: Making Something People Will Love. Ironically, the things Ohanian has laid his hands on, playing Cupid for the digital public, are also the things that disrupt the natural order. It is the essence of technology today. No one likes a new Facebook interface update but we can't stop raving when a new website reinvents the way we eat (Yelp), travel (Hipmunk), rant (750words), or read (Pocket). It is a love/hate relationship but it's hard to believe someone pushing CDs on the streets of Manhattan will disrupt my entire life.
Why not make something to radically shake up our lives, not just our day? Why not use the tools available to your advantage? The resources are there to be better, you just need to sit down and find what you need. The world is wide open, we just need to use our eyes.
Until next time...
I explode into space.