A non-compete is a non-starter

concert-768258_1920In my rock & roll days I played in a dozen groups, but not one that required me to promise in writing that I would not leave and start (or join) another band within a year. It just wasn't done. If it were, most of the all-time great bands would never have made it to their first rehearsal.

So why are “non-compete clauses” acceptable in other kinds of businesses, especially hi-tech?

It’s understandable that a company wants to protect its proprietary technology, but that can be handled with non-disclosure agreements. Obviously a company wants to discourage talented workers from leaving and taking their expertise to a competing enterprise.

But when too many companies in a given community demand non-competes, it becomes an innovation killer. It suppresses entrepreneurship in the region—and drives top talent to flee the community entirely to take up work where non-competes aren’t valid. (California, here I come!)

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The plasticity of "Vinyl"

live-concert-455762_1920 Everybody in my circle is debating the merits of the new Home Box Office television series, Vinyl, about the music business in 1970s NYC, produced by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, Rich Cohen, and the Sopranos’ Terence Winter.

So far, not so good. The first installment of the show was packed with hackneyed themes and clichéd performances by misogynistic, chain-smoking, coke-tooting cartoonish characters—mixed with predictable Goodfella’s-style violence. (It also had some flaws, but let's not be picky.)

Episode #1 included a sleazy promo man killing a sleazy DJ and mobsters beating up a black singer for not cooperating with his record label—the usual Scorsese fine touches. But the person getting bludgeoned the worst was the viewer, or at least this viewer. A line from a Boston Globe review summed it up best for me: “It’s a story of excess told excessively.”

And yet…the film helped draw connections in my brain between the wild and woolly rock & roll business and the disruptive brand of American free enterprise in general. At a time when the extremes of capitalism run amok are being assailed daily (and properly) in a presidential campaign season (at least by one party), it’s useful to remember that the libertine spirit of rock & roll—a freedom that underlay both the music and the business—has allowed for both dissolute debauchery and unparalleled creativity.

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Ambition first, talent later: the U2 story

I thought this would be a good time to reprise an earlier post and make a point about the relationship between vision/dream/ambition and talent.

There's only one answer to the question, "Who's the top rock act of the last 30 years?"

This band has grossed more at the box office in the last decade than any other musical act except the Rolling Stones. They've sold over 170 million records, the most of any alt rock group. And they've won more Grammys (22) than anyone—ever.

So it might come as a surprise to learn that when U2 first started out in 1976, they were all talk and no talent. At the time they could have qualified for the lowest talent-to-ambition ratio in rock history. In fact, they could barely tune their guitars or sing on key.

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Time to forgive the Dixie Chicks?

Following up on my post last week about the “woman problem” in pop music, I’m reminded of the fate of the Dixie Chicks—who are finally back this year with a headlining tour of North America, for the first time in 10 years.

The Dixie Chicks, despite being one of the world’s biggest Country music acts at the time, were banned from Country radio in 2003 after their lead singer, Natalie Maines, made some intemperate remarks from a London stage about President Bush and his preparations for a U.S. invasion of Iraq.

After being roundly vilified by Country media and fans for such uppity (and "treacherous") behavior, the Chicks took some time off, before returning in 2006 for their Accidents and Accusations Tour. Their new album Taking the Long Way, debuted at #1 on the pop charts and gave them five more Grammys (for a total of 13). After that they went into temporary retirement to pursue other projects.

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