Observations and comment.

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Nurture the freaks and geeks.

This weekend marks the anniversary of a significant event in my young life. In August 1972 my rock group, the Band of Angels (originally known as The Berries, which I mentioned in a previous post), was performing a weekend gig at the Flying Jib, a legendary rock club in Redondo Beach, California.

The Jib was a step up in quality from the half-empty beer bars we had just played in the San Fernando Valley. (On a slow night in the Valley we would record our first set on our trusty Teac reel-to-reel tape recorder then play the tape over our PA system instead of performing live for our second set, just to see if people noticed. They didn't.)

But a Saturday night at the Jib was different and we rose to the occasion, showcasing original tunes in front of a packed audience that was enthusiastic, appreciative, and thoroughly hammered.

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High marks for Generation Z.

Last week I had a terrific opportunity to give a short talk for ninety-one aspiring leaders—ages thirteen to eighteen—at Bentley College, just outside Boston. The participants were attending a series of programs offered by Lead America, an impressive youth leadership organization whose goal is to develop 'leaders for life'.

It was also my first occasion to try Keynote—Apple's slide show application—for my 'Business Lessons From Rock' presentation. (Keynote is amazing. More on that in a future post.)

Some of my talk—usually aimed at a corporate audience—was a bit of a challenge for the younger kids to grasp, but by the end they all understood how they were 'branding' themselves at school everyday and were able to identify those brands—'hard worker', 'fashion queen', 'super jock', etcetera.

They also understood they could be stuck with a default brand (not of their choosing)—'unreliable', 'always late', 'slacker', etcetera—if they weren't mindful of their actions. I'm happy to report that even thirteen-year-olds get the implications of 'brand you'.

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Finally going green.

After hearing Green Day's latest album 21st Century Breakdown—an ambitious follow-up to their critically acclaimed punk opera American Idiot—I've at-last seen the light!

Years ago I wrote off their material as manic-simplistic, but American Idiot—which is now being made into a Broadway musical—woke me up, and 21st Century Breakdown won me over.

Green Day is one of the few '90s bands that has stood the test of time in two simple ways: they're still together (a true accomplishment these days for a '90s band) and their records keep getting stronger.

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In memory of Brian Jones.

In the pantheon of elite rock bands who can teach us valuable business lessons, The Rolling Stones of course deserve premium membership.

Their ability to stake out a distinct and defiant look and sound—which they've capably exploited for forty-five years—is a timeless lesson in branding, and no trivial triumph. (This one-time band of outcasts has grossed billions in the last decade.)

What's all but forgotten, however, is that the Stones in their prime were one of the most innovative rock bands around, thanks in large part to the multi-instrumental virtuosity of Brian Jones—until his untimely death forty years ago today.

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Who gains from conflict?

Great rock bands seem to be case studies in harnessing conflict—a team skill I prize above all others in business these days.

Why? Because if we can't manage the inevitable discord among individuals on our teams, the other qualities we need—creativity, enthusiasm, ambition, independent thinking, etc.—will be suppressed or squandered.

Now if there's one band that mastered the art of leveraging conflict, it's The Who—the fiery quartet that exploded out of the London Mod scene in the mid-'60s to become the most exuberant performers of twentieth century rock.

What you may not know is that the surviving members of the original band—guitarist/songwriter Peter Townsend and lead singer Roger Daltrey—did not get along with each other for much of their career. Yet the un-throttled passion of the Who's music—as captured below in a 1978 video—speaks volumes for their ability to capitalize on that interpersonal tension to produce extraordinary concerts and recordings. (For anyone interested in HOW they managed to pull that off, we can explore that in the comments.)

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