Last night, I took the kids to see Bruce Springsteen as part of his "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" tour. One of the most amazing concerts any of us have seen. We all enjoyed it immensely - whether or not you're a Springsteen fan, you can't help but love this phenomenally talented band singing some of this country's greatest songs. If the tour schedule says it's coming your way (Chicago, NY, NJ and Philly are still to come), do not miss it. The horn section is unbelievable, and it's clear that the band is having every bit as much fun as the audience.
But this is not a concert review - if you want one, go read the one in the SF Chronicle.
It's actually a "mashups are so cool" blog post. I know it's more than a little geeky, but as I was enjoying the show I started thinking about Springsteen's concert as one big mashup. This was particularly clear when he played some of his old standards, but morphed them into the style best suited to the band he's touring with and the other songs on the set list. Songs like "Open All Night" reinvented - and reinvigorated - by a virtuoso banjo player, screaming trumpet, and the audience singing along and going wild.
Of course, this is nothing new in the world of performing arts. Covers have existed since the first Gregorian chants (and symphony and opera...). And through mashups, whole new performance genres are invented, from rock opera to Disney on ice. Not to mention the classic mashup worlds of hip hop and rap. What starts off as a novelty becomes popular, and then profitable.
We've had mashups in tech for a long time too. Innovation is built on "prior art". And how often do VCs here some variation of "our startup is a cross between Successful-IPO-Company-A and Hot-Idea-Of-The-Moment-Company-B"? Identify a compelling "mash-up" proxy to describe your product or company, and it's a lot easier to get investors or customers to understand where you are going. Rapid innovation is often driven by the introduction of new tools to easily adapt the technology that came before.
But it appears that these new Web 2.0 API/Web Services based mashups are different. Easy-to-use APIs and services can be deployed by people who have an idea, but lack programming or sysadmin skills. Just as blogs gave a voice to millions of people around the world who would not have thought to "publish" for the world to see, stronger and more flexible APIs willl bring millions of new creative minds to the application/service development world. And we'll all benefit.