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Business lessons from the Dead

The March issue of The Atlantic carries an engaging article, "Management Secrets From the Grateful Dead."

In it, Joshua Green writes: "The Dead's influence on the business world may turn out to be a significant part of its legacy… The band pioneered ideas and practices that were subsequently embraced by corporate America."

This is not headline news to blfr readers (see my earlier post and comments) but it's nice to see some mainstream acceptance of the notion that rock bands have a few things to teach us in business matters.

Green goes on to argue that the Dead were savvy businessmen who jumped all over merchandising as a key revenue source and were ahead of the curve in their "customer first" orientation and determination to deliver superior customer value.

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Cloud illusions: Joni Mitchell weighs-in on web backups.

Confused about the risks/rewards of cloud computing? Squeamish about storing your data and apps on the internet—on remote servers and computers? You're not alone.

In fact Joni Mitchell expressed ambivalence about the cloud decades ago in her brilliant song "Both Sides Now" (video below). She noted the fairy-tale promises of web-based computing ("ice cream castles in the air") and yet she saw both sides of the issue and even questioned her initial love affair with it.

Sure, storing data & apps on the cloud assures unlimited storage, lower computer costs, universal document access, increased computer performance, improved data reliability, device independence, easier group collaboration—but there are still downsides.

Of course Joni couldn't go into detail in a three-and-a-half minute song, but she recognized that using the cloud requires a continuous internet connection, entails some loss of control, and runs the risk of proprietary data being stolen or lost. (That was her precise point in the now-famous line: "Something's lost but something's gained in living every day.")

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Books that rock.

It's time I give some overdue props to three R&R books that can provide us business wisdom and life lessons.

In 'Shoulda Been There: a Novel on the Life of John Winston Lennon', Jude Kessler affords us an intimate view of Lennon's troubled young life, until the time that Brian Epstein took over management of the early Beatles.

There's much to learn here about how the most commercially successful musical team in history came together, despite their adolescent differences and jealousies.

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Elvis: alive at 75.

Today marks the seventy-fifth birthday of Elvis Presley, a fellow I too often overlook in my rock & roll ruminations. (I tend to favor revolutionaries like Chuck Berry and Little Richard who broke the mold with their strikingly original tunes in the mid '50s.)

But given the biases of those times it took a white guy to make this new music acceptable to a wider demographic swath, and Elvis was the one who lit up the pop world with his bluesy singing and pelvic swagger.

He was also the lightning rod for bizarro attacks against "the devil's music" from religious conservatives, many of whom assumed Elvis was black until they saw him on TV. (Also who knew R&R was a KGB-engineered Stalinist conspiracy?)

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The greatest rock & roll record of all time.

I was recently asked if I could name one record that epitomizes rock & roll—one track that embodies its spirit and pulse, in all its insolent glory. A preposterously tall order I thought. But I was already hooked.

So I pondered the great rock tours-de-force over the years, from 'Satisfaction' by the Rolling Stones to 'Rock & Roll Hoochie Coo' by Rick Derringer to 'Old Time Rock & Roll' by Bob Seger. I thought I might even include a recent tune for my short list: Green Day's 'Know Your Enemy'.

But the truth be told, these songs—and many other such classics from the last four decades—rocked more than rolled. The real heart and soul of this musical revolution, in my humble opinion, is best captured in the swaying, fluid rhythms of its 1950s pioneers—the true R&R architects—who had some swing in their rock.

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