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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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Playing the hits

music-1228384__340Since April of this year Paul McCartney has been knocking out three-hour sets for sellout crowds in arenas and stadiums all over Europe and North America on his latest One on One Tour.

His 38-song set list includes over two dozen Beatles’ classics plus an assortment of Wings’ hits. He’s also been playing hour-long sound checks before the main show at each venue, performing different songs for special audiences.

What’s refreshing about the approach of this 74-year-old entertainer, which he spelled in a New York Times interview last week, is his commitment to give audiences what they want.

When asked by the Times reporter what he thought of Bob Dylan’s preference to perform only new songs on his current tour, McCartney responded:

I’ve thought about that a lot…My concern is for the audience. I remember when I went to concerts, particularly when I was a kid, it was a lot of money to save up. So I imagine myself going to my show: Would I like to hear [McCartney] play all new songs? No.

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