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Manifesto for Creativity in Music-Making

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Steve Lillywhite's principles for creativity in making music.

Music is the language of the world with no boundaries. It unites and brings people together, regardless of time and space, and it can change the world, affect a mood, atmosphere, and behavior, and capture a moment in time.

Steve Lillywhite epitomizes this magic and wonder as a multi-award-winning music-making pioneer, whose iconic work spans over four decades, producing more than 500 records, including The Scream by Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Crossing by Big Country, Peter Gabriel by Peter Gabriel, Sparkle in the Rain by Simple Minds, The Joshua Tree by U2, Naked by Talking Heads, and Vauxhall and I by Morrissey. He has been Managing Director of Mercury Records, Senior Vice President of A&R at Columbia Records and is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Steve Lillywhite's five principles for creativity are:

1 Set the conditions for people to create without fear

Unleashing the power of creativity can't be subscribed to or bought off the shelf. It's a social system that encompasses values, skills, craftsmanship, relationships, networks, and a way of living and doing. It isn't simply a mandate that gets handed down. Creativity needs to be embraced to allow people to create without fear. It is nurtured, imparted, and practiced, and it takes skill, practice, and persistence, but the results pay off.

"my great skill is unlocking the creativity within other people...I love putting into order the wonderful madness of great creative people...that they can let themselves go, and they will know that I will catch them and not let them smash their head on the concrete floor"

2 Avoid complacency by adapting to change, navigating through ambiguity with curiosity and persistence.

To adapt, grow, and flourish, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of your audience and the market's ever-evolving needs and preferences so that you can make changes to your approach. The golden rule is to avoid the deadly sin of complacency by being aware and resilient by constantly keeping perspective, evolving, and innovating!

Why? In general, people can be shiftless and self-gratifying, and as a result, the future will leave them behind. This is because they can self-destruct through excess and become victims of their own success by cultivating destructive habits and complacency.

Avoid at all costs falling asleep at the wheel, getting permanently drunk on your own Kool-Aid, surrounding yourself with b and c players, getting lazy and bloated, where you can't see the wood for the trees and all the beast of prey, and making ego-based decisions.

"Move your way through life without ever being complacent and never being uncertain...which I think is a negative element in creativity"

3 Embrace originality by manifesting what is inside you and around you with Childlike wonder, joy, and innocence.

Pablo Picasso believed all children are artists, but they lose their creativity when they grow up. Grow into, not out of, creativity, and don't give up the dreams of your childhood and your approach to the world through a child's eyes with wonder and joy.

It isn't something lost with age but rather a skill we often neglect to practice. The challenge is not learning new things, as this will inevitably happen as we explore, travel, learn and grow. Instead, the challenge is keeping our childlike wonder and imagination alive and having the courage to combine those things with our new experiences and insight.

Dream, make, and do. Be present and in the moment. Push forward for the greater good with true grit. Conformity never leads to progress. If you have something authentically different to offer, you'll excite and inspire others to create.

"We never listened to other people's records in the studio. In the process of inventing stuff, occasionally, things would sound a bit like someone else...if it sounded like another band, we would dismiss it and start on another song"

4 Lead without frontiers for the greater good.

Creative leaders have confidence in their ideas, and never give up on bringing them to fruition. It means leading without frontiers by seeing around the corners and fearlessly navigating territory where no one else has ventured. Avoid the mainstream and work to develop a deeper relationship between yourself and your audience. Be authentic, live in the moment with conviction and confidence, and always stay true to yourself.

"Your ego should never be part of the equation. You should always serve the music first"


5 Create and adhere to your own personal constraint's principles and standards.

Creating and adhering to your own personal constraints, barriers, principles, and standards defines yourself by what you are and what you are not and appreciate the difference. This means being acutely aware of your taste and emotions, which will free you to excel at your craft. This ensures that everything you dream about, make, and do is born of substance and integrity. When you are clear about yourself, you can guide your future and attract all the right people to your life and into your creative circle.

"Mediocrity hides behind choice. Because if you have too much choice, everything can be mediocre"


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Founder and CEO of Unknown Origins, a creative studio on a mission to save the world from unoriginality by unleashing the power of creativity. Author of "Creativity Without Frontiers: How to make the invisible visible by lighting the way into the future."

Photo credit: Brian Smale

Attitude. Imagination. Execution.

Unknown Origins. All rights reserved © copyright 2022

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