ANOTHER post on Walk Off The Earth ?

Ok, call me a toady, a sycophant, a brown nose, a lickspittle, a groupie. But I LOVE this band. What The Beatles brought to rock & roll, Walk Off The Earth has brought to rock video.

They’re innovative, playful, brash, tech-savvy, and indie to the core. (Despite their deal with Sony, they call their own shots.) This is best exemplified here and here.

Their new vid is a cover of my favorite song in the world (this week), “Rude”—a tune originally recorded by the band, MAGIC!

Continue Reading →


More random ruminations

Contract Rock bands don’t use non-compete contracts. Anyone can quit and join another band. Why should it be different in mainstream business, especially hi-tech?

Orly Lobel—the author of Talent Wants to Be Free—thinks non-compete agreements are dopey. After all, Silicon Valley doesn’t use them and it seems to be doing ok. (California makes most non-compete clauses unenforceable.) You still can safeguard your intellectual property through specific trade secret protection, she argues. In an Inc. Magazine interview, Lobel makes three interesting points.

    “Freedom creates more incentive for employees to connect, be visible, network, and develop themselves both within and outside the company—all of which benefits their employer.”
    “Say you can actually get a non-compete enforced; do you really want to develop the reputation as a company that sues ex-employees?”
    “Don’t create lack of mobility—see mobility as a way to seed your company in other places. Even competitors can quickly become collaborators…See it as developing your alumni.”

Speaking of freedom, that’s what always attracted me to the rock & roll life. As a full-time musician in the late 60s and 70s, I loved not reporting to anyone. Today I still avoid having a boss—and most nine-to-five obligations, unless I’m consulting to a client. One solution: I’ve learned to use the Mayan 20-day calendar to make appointments with folks who won’t take no for an answer. The Mayan calendar doesn’t correspond to any other system of scheduling in North America, which affords many advantages. (“Our meeting was on Monday? I had you down for Muluk.”)

Continue Reading →


A bow to Queen

One band we haven’t given full props to until now is Queen.

Driven by the vocal histrionics of Freddie Mercury and the guitar wizardry of Brian May, this band tore up the charts with an insanely eclectic brand of rock, releasing 22 Top Ten albums and 23 Top Ten singles. Their biggest hit, the operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975), has been voted by many as the greatest rock song ever and their appearance at Live Aid (1985) has been hailed as the greatest rock performance of all time.

Here’s one of their later hits, written by Brian May.

But few have paid notice to the intelligence of this band, which belies the doltish I-just-want-to-rock-and-roll-all-nite stereotype of rockers. Brian May earned his PhD in astrophysics in 2007, co-authored Bang! — The Complete History of the Universe (as well as earlier articles on zodiacal dust), and served as chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University for five years. Drummer Roger Taylor already had a Bachelor of Science degree when he joined Queen. Bassist John Deacon had a Master of Science degree in acoustics and vibration technology, and designed equipment for the band. Mercury—born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar—was an Ealing Art College grad.

Maybe an overlooked business lesson from rock is to get REALLY SMART PEOPLE onto your team?

Continue Reading →


What John Lennon and The Beatles can teach us about workforce engagement

Four men on a zebra crossing Inspiration, passion, enthusiasm, motivation, engagement. Call it whatever you want, but in business you need it. Without it your team or organization is roadkill.

As mentioned in a previous post, the lack of employee engagement in the workplace is astounding. Gallup, which tracks this on a regular basis, reports that only 13% of global workers are engaged in their work. Even worse, 24% of workers are “actively disengaged”—who are “liable to spread negativity to coworkers.” (We’ll discuss the costs of this in a moment.)

The “engagement factor” is something the top rock bands have understood and consciously applied. I have previously written about the night that Pete Townshend and The Who discovered the secret in a London tavern in 1964. Subsequently their passionate performances drew young fans by the busload to their early gigs. But how John Lennon and The Beatles discovered the power of engagement is an even better story.

Continue Reading →


Playing chess blindfolded

Chess black The world of rock & roll, where I once claimed full-time citizenship, offers up an amazing assortment of humanity to observe—from musicians to dancers to promoters to recording engineers to disk jockeys to music critics and more.

Given the weird, wild, and wonderful personalities in such a universe, it’s inevitable that people will form stereotypes of some of its inhabitants. This, of course, occurs in other parts of life, but seems to happen more in rock-and-roll land.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson from this: we can do real damage with our “characterizations” of others based on limited information—which can be madly inaccurate and dehumanizing to the individuals we label. Such stereotypes also set up a “self-reinforcing feedback loop” in which we unconsciously look for evidence for our assumptions—and then use whatever evidence we find to validate those assumptions.

A nightclub manager I worked with decades ago presents a perfect illustration of someone unjustly labeled.

Continue Reading →


It’s a great big world

Ok, I plead guilty to Boomer Bias.

I’ve been berating the quality of modern rock/pop for years now—especially in contrast to the rock pioneers (like, of course, The Beatles) who seemed to draw from a bottomless well of imaginative songs that appealed to both head and heart. But something strange is happening in the world of popular music today (especially in Indie Pop and Adult Alternative). The airwaves are suddenly overflowing with intelligent, heartfelt music! Exhibit A:

Two outstanding NY singer/songwriters, Ian Axel and Chad Vaccorino, joined forces in 2012 to form A Great Big World. They’ve already had one big hit, “Say Something” featuring Christina Aguilera (in one of her best—and most understated—performances). With the 2014 release of their first long-playing album—Is There Anybody Out There?—they’re about to find the answer to their question.

Continue Reading →