Rocket Science: Ed Erenberg
On intelligent pop, climate change, overreliance on influencers, and Spinal Tap moments.
Ed is the CEO & Co-Founder at Cheerity. He’s a musician, inventor and game designer.
What are you listening to right now?
I actually just finished a new album myself, but I haven’t released it yet. I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff, like the new Sparks album that came out a few months ago, A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip. That’s been in rotation the whole summer for me, just brilliant, masterful multi-genre pop which I really enjoy.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Guerilla Toss, which is more of an indie band that’s high energy, almost a cross between electronica, rock, and a jam band kind of thing with an energetic young female vocalist that’s almost like a Bow Wow Wow feel. It harkens back to things that I also like, like Devo and XTC, that are extremely angular intelligent pop.
Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment on stage?
There were so, so many. I can think of countless shows where things would blow up or there were cancellations because of things like tornadoes or something … I mean, you name it.
When I was coming up and gigging a lot in the ’90s, my band (Atomsmasher) would play shows at places like CBGB and Brownies. I remember being berated by a heckler once who got really personal. She was relentless. I ended up stopping the show right in the middle, and the entire show broke down on the heels of these weird existential questions that this woman was raising about what we were doing.
Also, we were one of those bands that always had the same core membership, but the bass player always revolved. At one point, we had a heavy metal, head-banging kind of a bass player that did not mesh well with us. It was very discombobulated on the stage, and at one point he and I had a real fight on the stage. He was head-banging and I was just trying to play these songs, and I think that was the last show we played with the guy. It was literally a breakup on stage with the bass player.
What’s a tech buzzword that needs to die?
“Reach” as a metric needs to die in general, because it’s not really about reach. It’s about what you do with it and what the output of it is.
I feel like when I talk to people about social media and how they’re using it, I’m constantly getting a misunderstanding about how things really happen. In order to kickstart things, you gotta get it out there, like any other medium. You can’t rely on the idea of “organic social” and self-perpetuating virality of social media.
I’d also love to hear the term “fake news” banished from the planet. Not that it doesn’t exist, it just doesn’t matter. Anyone who believes in it doesn’t care, and anyone who doesn’t believe in it thinks it’s an anathema. So it’s not really driving anyone forward in a positive way.
What’s a common trap you see new charities and nonprofits fall into?
That’s a great question. All the time, I see an overreliance on influencers who are only transactionally involved in promoting a charity. The charity gets somebody to do something that does not result in a meaningful interaction.
In other words, simply broadcasting a message briefly, with no way to drive that traffic to somewhere to seal the deal, doesn’t work. I see this over and over. I see it with big charities. I see it with small charities. With some of the political nonprofits that we work with, however, I see a much more adept viewpoint of the reality of promotion and how specific you have to be in order to get meaningful results out of promotion.
Having a semi-famous someone say, “Go to our website,” or mentioning the name of the cause isn’t really going to tie back to action. You can’t have someone who never authentically participates in cause-based activities to all of a sudden start marketing your cause because it’s not really authentic.
You’re better off investing in something that’s truly meaningful to your target audience, something that gets them to say, “Okay, I’d love to stay in communication.” Now you’ve got somebody who maybe just shared what you did on social media. They put their face to it. You have an email to communicate with them. If you can get even a small number of those people, that’s a concrete return.
What’s a recent TV recommendation?
I haven’t watched a lot of TV per se, but I did watch the Charlie Kaufman movie on Netflix, I’m Thinking of Ending Things. I loved it. I thought that was amazing, a great movie from start to finish.
As far as TV goes, are you familiar with Wonder Showzen? My son is just old enough to have delved into it with me. So we have been moving through that recently and that has been a shock that such a thing ever existed on any network. It’s been great watching it again. It’s crazier than I even remembered.
What’s been a recent deep dive into a random subject?
I’ve been reading The Number Ones column, which dissects all the number one songs from the beginning of the Billboard Chart up to the present. I’ve been loving this.
One week will be something like Duran Duran’s A View to a Kill and I’m like, “All right, that’s cool. I’m going to listen to that, do a little Duran Duran research and re-familiarize myself.”
He’s right in the middle of the ’80s right now, so it’s a golden era of trashy pop music to dissect. The songs of that era were incredibly well-written songs, but the production had a certain flatness that became more and more prevalent as it went on. Even the songs I didn’t like at the time I like now because they had such a universal appeal.
What’s a small thing we can start doing tomorrow to battle climate change?
Eliminate meat from breakfast. That’s a small thing you can do that won’t change your life, but, if we all did it, it would have an incredible effect on reducing emissions worldwide.
There’s a great book about this, We Are The Weather, that gets into more of the details. You can eat eggs, just hold the bacon. Of course, you could do it for humane and health reasons, but the impact on climate is huge.
And for meat eaters, you don’t have to do an about-face, which is what I like about that approach. You commit to one thing for one meal, you don’t have to commit to some massive life change.