Phase Transition and its Impact on Artistic Innovation

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Illustration by Ayo Arogunmati

Water exists in two phases. There is the solid phase, where water freezes at a certain temperature and there is the liquid phase, where the particles breakup with an increase in the temperature. Scientists call this change a phase transition. In a similar way, artists go through their own form of phase transition. There is the grind phase, where artists are seeking attention and respect and if the artists transitions out of this phase, they can enter the mass market phase, in which their music sells itself simply because they are present on the record. However, the artist, who still believes they are authentic and true to their core fans may not realize that they have entered the mass market phase, thus signaling a selling out or lack of authenticity to their earlier fans.  

Safi Bachall, a scientist who has also led a company as a CEO noticed through his experience that companies, like water have two transition phases – the innovation phase and the steady state phase that diminishes the innovativeness of the firm. He derived a formula for calculating the phase transition period for a company described as – phase transition equals equity multiplied by management span squared multiplied by fitness divided by salary or better denoted as (M = E x S^2 x F / G).

 Nipsey Hussle is widely regarded as an artist who remained authentic until his untimely passing, but there was an understanding that he was entering a phase transition, which may have not been calculated scientifically, but was nevertheless captured in how he presented his music and his work in his community. Nipsey embodied the key ideas presented in Bachall’s phase transition model, having high equity interest in his ventures, low management span with very few intermediaries and decision makers beyond him and a very high fitness level for the type of art he was presenting to the public. In short, it was not possible to pay him a salary to lower his phase transition that results in diminishing innovation by the artist. He came into public conscious through his music but it was his marketing prowress that catapulted him beyond just a good rapper. The $100 mixtapes that he sold, the concept store in his neighbourhood, and the venture capital programs he was developing made him less prone to a quick phase transition to appeal to the masses and sell out his authenticity as many have experienced before him. 

While art should limit the amount of science in the creation process, there is an urgent requirement for the artist to not only state that they want more equity, but to prove it out with models to capture how quickly or slowly the phase transition is likely to happen to them in their career. The opportunity for artist is now when there is still a winner take all as more streaming services enter the market. The artist should be leaning out the management levels, reducing the salary burden while increasing the equity and fitness component of the model presented to manage the phase transition.