Content, Up In Smoke

In the late nineties I was an apprentice in Zürich and developed a serious addiction to vinyl.

Good vinyl costs proper money and apprentices don’t make proper money.

So, I did what many addicts do, I gave up food in favour of my fix. As the J.B.’s sang “Givin’ Up Food For Funk”.

Thankfully my friends’ parents would often take pity on the scrawny Scottish weirdo and feed me. In my bedsit I ate very little, except rice.

To further subsidise my record collection, I played records in nightclubs and soon had developed an addiction for making people dance. “Pick ’em up and put ’em down” as the Fatback Band sang in Njia Walk.

For the clubs to want me to play my records, it was important that I drew a bigger crowd than others who played funk records. This meant making people aware of my funk nights. Which in turn meant making and distributing flyers.

A good friend had Photoshop and a Mac, it was laborious at the time, but somehow I managed to knock out flyers for my events.

My flyers printed on card, off I went with pockets full of them to find funkateers who would enjoy my music.

In the late 1990s, Zürich also had somewhat of a cannabis epidemic.

An enterprising law student had identified a loophole in Swiss law that allowed him to sell cannabis with impunity.

Any and every club night was filled with people smoking funky cigarettes.

Any and every flyer that was handed out ended up being torn up to make filters for spliffs.

A ripped flyer often ended up missing the venue, the date, the DJ’s name.

Before smart phones, this was a problem.

All my hard work, and people were missing the message thanks to them ripping up the flyer.

Abuse of the medium was destroying the message.

At the time I had never heard of any of the psychology, gamification or behavioural economics that I now look to for inspiration. I had to solve the problem if I wanted to fill clubs and make money for records though.

How do you stop potheads from ripping up flyers? It turns out you can’t.

But, you can make flyers out of material that is unsuitable for their purposes.

I started printing minimal flyers on rubber.

I filled a 500 capacity club on Saturday nights with potheads who loved my record collection and couldn’t smoke my flyers.

Simple solution to the problem.

Sometimes the message isn’t the problem, it’s the medium.