The Creative Process of Coldplay: Take Notes

24 Nov
November 24, 2010

The Creative Process of Coldplay: Take Notes

These are Chris Martin’s notes to himself and his bandmates, one of many such items posted on the walls, a whiteboard and even Martin’s studio piano (he scribbles on it in green marker).

More precisely, these are reminders of key principles which have helped Coldplay become astoundingly successful- a “secret formula” if you will, of philosophical beliefs and strategic tactics that the band employs consistently, covering everything from song construction; to photo / video guidelines; to marketing and public relations positioning; and general business.
In the interview, news journalist, Steve Kroft, framed Martin’s practice as somehow aberrant, stating: “He is a compulsive worrier and list-maker. He sends himself electronic messages, and scrawls notes on scraps of paper, on his hands, and anything else that’s available, lest he forget some brilliant idea. Like many artists, he is openly, gloriously neurotic.”“Neurotic?”I call it pure business acumen- (beautifully) equal parts creative and analytical.

How many new ideas or profound realizations arrive for many of us at unexpected moments? Insights that you just can’t afford to forget? What do you do? Grab a pencil and jot ‘em down, of course! Most designers I know keep idea/sketch books handy and I’ve got plenty of notebooks and post-it notes full of marketing, design, business and leadership lessons that I’ve either come to realize myself, or have picked up from others much wiser than me.

“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth”…

“Always have a point of view”…
“Make an emotional connection”…
“Don’t be afraid that a concept will go over your customers heads. If you assume they’re dumb, they may be smarter than you”…
“Safe is risky”…
“Advertising can’t create product advantages, only convey them”…

And so on.I keep them where I can always be consciously reminded of their powerful truths. If you happen to be the kind of person who instinctively organizes your standards and observations into digital files- congratulations! If you prefer a bulletin board, whiteboard or post-it’s, I can relate. If you use a green sharpie on your white grand piano, then ummm… well, o.k…. maybe Martin is a little bit more obsessive than most.But, based upon what I can clearly see in Chris’ notes, he is a man that is more calculating than confused; more cognitive than compulsive; more analytical than anxious. I see someone who is introspective and intelligent, and not inappropriately impulsive. Creatives, take note.

The “Mysteries” of Coldplay, revealed:

1. Albums must be no longer than 42 minutes, or 9 tracks.

2. Production must be amazing, rich, but with space, not overlayered, less tracks, more quality, groove and swing. Drums/rhythm are the most crucial thing to    concentrate on; difference between “Bittersweet” and “Science of silence.” (A reference to The Verve and Richard Ashcroft solo)

3. Computers are instruments, not recording aids.
4. Imagery must be classic, colourful and different. Come back in glorious technicolor.
5. Make sure videos and pictures are great before setting release date. And highly original.
6. Always keep mystery. Not many interviews.
7. Groove and swing. Rhythms and sounds must always sound as original as possible. Once Jon has melody, twist it and weird it.
8. Promo/review copies to be on vinyl. Stops copying problem, sounds and looks better.
9. Jacqueline Sabriado, ns p c c, face forward/review. (Not sure what this references)
10. Think about what to do with charity account. Set up something small, enabling and constructive. Ref J. Oliver Fifteen (a reference to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant in London)
The Creative Process of Coldplay: Take Notes
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