U2, Technology and Relationships
I just returned home from a few wonderful days in Barcelona. It is a magical city with beautiful neighborhoods accentuated by the architecture of Gaudi and the cuisine and culture of Catalonia. It was the perfect setting for both a reunion with friends and a chance to see the world opener of U2’s 360 Tour.
The opening show was nothing short of stunning. While I had seen U2 multiple times before, in arenas and stadiums, this show was stronger for a variety of reasons. The technology—especially the sound, video and the stage—were leaps and bounds ahead of anything I had experienced previously, even in the last few years. From the fullness of sound and lack of echo—in a football stadium no less—to the clarity of video and dynamic lighting, it was really a breath-taking, fully immersive experience.
Yet, even with all that technology, what struck me most was the pervasive and sustained intimacy of the show. I have been to a few stadium shows in my day, and while many have been great rock and roll shows, none have created the level of connection I felt with the band and the crowd. For this reason, I can honestly say there was not a single lull in the show.
But then as I thought about it, I realized that frankly it was the technology that created the intimacy. The massive 360-degree stage, with all its lights and speakers that takes 4 days to build and occupies half a football stadium, actually shortens distances in the stadium, connects people and creates a powerful space for relationship building. And that focus on relationships–building and maintaining them–is the only reason the technology exists.
I like U2. A lot. However, I was reminded, powerfully, that beyond wanting to hear my favorite songs or see a killer light show, a concert is really about relationships. If I had been standing in that show alone, just me and the band, the lights, the video, the music would not have mattered in the same way. It’s the relationships and experience of participation with a community of others that are the real elements of transcendence.
Nonprofits do transcendent work. You need to create that space and those relationships with constituents that bears testament to that. You are not just playing for one or two major donors. You are playing for everyone from the cheap seats to the VIPs. And the experience you create together is what drives your mission forward.
It is your technology that helps create that space, shortens distances and allows you to sing to the donor in the upper deck and make them feel just as important and connected as the VIP in the first row. Without the technology to facilitate the space for relationship, it is an entirely different experience.