Business-and-music-related observations and comment.

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A Beatlemania revisit

the-beatles-509069__340So many thoughts after seeing Eight Days a Week, Ron Howard’s documentary on The Beatles’ touring years! Any Millennials who just don’t get the big fuss about this band should watch it.

Between 1963 and 1966 these four mop-tops generated more fan hysteria on a larger scale than any other musical performers in world history (easily eclipsing the glory days of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley). And this film captures that.

Eight Days a Week also gives us a good idea of what made this band simultaneously the biggest and the best popular music act ever—AND perhaps the most effective small business team in the last half century.

As I’ve been pointing out for the last decade—on this blog and previously on www.tompeters.com—The Beatles did so many things right as a small company:

    • The Fabs were radical innovators who took career-threatening risks to promote their “product.” They burned the rulebook for what a band had to look like, sound like, and act like. From image & fashion to song composition to record production to album packaging and more, The Beatles forced rivals onto a new playing field.

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Business lessons from busking—part 3

guitar-case-308468__340Street performing for tips ("busking") continues to provide me with insights on life and business.

I played the street decades ago but recently took it up again on weekends, initially so I could earn a few bucks as I learn to play slide guitar. But it’s become the gift that keeps on giving.

Here are a few more realizations I’ve had—in addition to lessons I’ve posted here and here. These aren’t quite blinding epiphanies, but notions I’ve previously considered that have been resoundingly confirmed.

1. Perseverance, resilience, stick-to-itiveness is a habit or trait that’s woefully underappreciated. (“Grit” is the trendy term for it.) We all know the value of talent. But talent can be developed and enhanced over time, and perseverance is the key. You gotta keep at it.

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Recognizing talent

After doing some research on what songs topped the record charts 50 years ago, I discovered—as I wrote in a recent post—that the Top 10 songs on today’s Billboard’s Hot 100 compare quite favorably to the Top 10 a half century ago.

That was a surprise to me, given that artists like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Lovin’ Spoonful, and Supremes were in their prime, releasing some of their finest records then. Yet too many vapid, empty-calorie hits (like “Sweat Pea”) dominated the 1966 singles charts and made me appreciate our current batch of hits.

My conclusion was that while in 2016 we clearly don’t have hit songs of Beatles’ caliber we also don’t have the cringe-worthy mediocrity of “Hanky Panky” and “Wild Thing.” For example, the #1 song in the US this week is “Closer,” a very respectable offering by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey. In case you can’t get past its slick production, here’s the tune performed by Walk Off The Earth, a quirky Toronto band that we hope to see at the top of the charts soon.

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Auditioning for Tina Turner

interview-1371360__340I've been seeing lots of articles lately about how to ace a job interview. Perhaps because the economy is improving and hiring is up? Or because so many Millennials don't stick with the same gig? Either way, if you're dusting off your resume and re-entering the hiring process, I thought I'd dust off this article I wrote years ago and re-post it for you.

In the rock world the job interview takes the form of an audition. You come in and play, because if you can't cut it musically there's nothing to talk about. But the principle's the same: you want to make a killer first impression.

This was a lesson learned the hard way for me thirty-five years ago when I was making a living in music. I had heard that the Ike & Tina Turner Revue—one of the hottest R&B groups on planet Earth at the time—were looking for a drummer. I was playing piano in honky-tonk bars at the time but drumming was what I did best, and somehow I managed to get an audition.

I remembered seeing Ike & Tina open for the Rolling Stones at the LA Forum when Tina upstaged them with a wildly feverish performance that forever put her on the map as a powerhouse singer. The Ike & Tina Revue were scary-good.

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Confronting my Boomer bias

top-95717__340Ever notice how our minds can selectively choose data that reinforce our biases but ignore or forget data that challenge those biases?

This is what locks our prejudices into place of course. When new information arises that would call into question our preconceived beliefs—about individuals, groups, or just about anything—we tend to discount that information or quickly forget it. If we don’t, we encounter “cognitive dissonance”—a kind of mental stress associated with trying to reconcile contradictory information.

This explains how we can hang onto a business model or strategy too long, ignoring any “disconfirming data.” The global recording industry, for instance, has shrunk to half its size in twenty years by clinging to old notions about what customers want and how they should be satisfied. (Every business needs to watch out for this, especially now, as I've written about in recent months.)

On a personal level, I ignore disconfirming data all too often, and this week I discovered another instance of it. This is a somewhat trivial example of it, and doesn’t carry any serious consequences (since I don't produce or distribute records), but it may kick up a fun debate.

Being a serious pop music archeologist, I love to check out Ye Auld Record Charts and reminisce about the great singles and albums of bygone eras. Betraying my Boomer upbringing, over the last year I’ve been enjoying the 50th anniversary of the release of some spectacular records.

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