If at first you don't succeed

Listening to Lake Street Dive on NPR’s Morning Edition this week reminded me what soulful performers these folks are, well-deserving of the national attention they’re finally receiving. Formed at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston—which graduates top classical and jazz musicians and vocalists—the Dive began as a jazz quartet but had to change direction to draw a decent audience, soon blossoming into a sophisticated pop/rock/soul band.

Having the flexibility and talent to be able to do that—to shift gears in response to market reactions and provide a more popular product/service—is a useful skill for almost any business team or organization, especially a startup. How quickly we forget that YouTube began as a video dating site ("Tune In Hook Up"), Shopify as a snowboard dealer, or Twitter as a podcaster. Such is life in the Innovation Economy.

Of course taking a radical change in direction to thrive as a business is not a new phenomenon. Ask Hasbro (who went from selling textile remnants to making toys), Nintendo (playing cards to video games), Avon (books to beauty products), or Tiffany (stationery to jewelry).

Agility, adaptability, and flexibility: useful organizational aptitudes in any era.

As a side note… On Morning Edition Lake Street Dive mentioned a humbling experience that occurred early in their career when they performed at a club and not ONE person showed up. (The members of the opening band were their only audience.) It reminded me of a time 20 years ago when I performed at an open mike in a darkened church hall near Harvard Square and was disappointed at the lack of any audience reaction. Once I got off stage, outside the glare of the spotlight, I realized I had performed for an empty hall. The other performers had all gone home and the emcee went for a walk. (I SWEAR it was the best performance of my life!)

For more on Lake Street Dive, check here.

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  1. a. Remembering the desired outcome at a high level ("We want to perform music people will come out and enjoy") prevents us from getting stuck in a certain tactic or strategy ("Let's form a jazz quartet!")

    b. I have read the band's name as an address (Lake Street Drive) every single time until you referred to them in this post as "the Dive." So much for my reading abilities.

  2. Apparently lots of folks have done the same, because reviews often say, "That's Lake Street DIVE." Don't see many folks referring to them as LSD tho.

  3. I've expected to hear from some critics that the band is too lean and sparse at times (which I like, however). When it's just trumpet, bass, and drums there's no chordal instrument whatsoever. But I haven't heard a peep of criticism from anyone about their minimalist arrangements. But this reviewer was complaining about the opposite, which surprises me.

    Perhaps that night LSD's rhythm section was overplaying on a couple of songs, to compensate—as all rock or pop trios have to do at times, to fill in the "middle."

    The reviewer added in a comment to his post that could use better arrangements and songs. I think they have excellent material and arrangements. What they DO lack is a hit song—with a hook you can't get out of your head. But that will come in time.

    1. I'm thinking you're right. They seem to be broadcasting on an odd wavelength at the moment, in between this and that. Here's hoping they either tune to something just right for them, or others tune into what they're into right now.

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