At last: a business book on the Beatles! Richard Courtney (a real estate broker, columnist, and Beatles collector) and George Cassidy (a business writer, analyst,and songwriter) have recently co-authored 'Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles'.
It's an easy-read, full of practical & pithy lessons (from the Beatles' successes and failures) that you can apply as an entrepreneur, business owner, manager, or employee.
Here's one example: get better business guidance than the Beatles got. 'For all his other virtues, Brian Epstein was grossly inexperienced in negotiating licensing, merchandising, publishing, and recording contracts.' This may have cost the band a billion dollars in today's money!
Last month I caught up with Courtney and Cassidy at a Beatles festival. Here's an abbreviated version of my interview.
JO: How long have you been following the Beatles? Do you remember them from the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964?
Courtney: I do remember them on Ed Sullivan. I ran across them when I was eight years old in November of 1963.
JO: What's your overall evaluation of their manager, Brian Epstein? You mention his shortcomings in your book, but what do you think were his strong points?
Cassidy: I think it was his persistence and his methodical approach. He had numerous rejections… but he got them on Parlophone, which was very much a comedy and jazz and left-of-center type of label where they finally found a home. Also, he had a keen sense of the visual identity.
Courtney: That had a lot to do with his training that gave him a theatrical perspective. He recognized them as a great visual act.
JO: Good point. The Beatles haircut was so revolutionary for the time. Back then all anybody talked about on the street was the Beatle haircut.
Courtney: It was [the subject of] every interview with them.
Cassidy: It wasn't really any longer than Elvis's hair but it was just a different style. It was so different looking, everybody reacted to it very quickly.
JO: Why haven't more artists and songwriters followed the Beatles' approach? I'm amazed there aren't more artists and writers who haven't taken apart what they were doing.
Cassidy: It's hard to do that without sounding like the Beatles. But they lad a laser focus on the melody and lyrics. I do think that today that that kid Bruno Mars—not to compare him to the Beatles—has the same focus on melody and very simple, accessible lyrics.
JO: What do you think is the greatest Beatles song or track?
Cassidy: You can't argue with 'A Day in the Life'. That has the whole package… production and writing.
For their next book they're thinking of taking the same approach with a different act. I'm going to suggest Rebecca Black.