Business-and-music-related observations and comment.

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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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Memorializing the Dead.

I've consumed rock & roll books by the truckload in recent years—and loved 'em all—but Living With the Dead, by Rock Scully with David Dalton, is the only one that had me guffawing from the start. (Scully was the road manager of the Grateful Dead in their first two decades and has especially colorful tales to tell of the early days.)

Having briefly lived and partied with these space explorers in their very early days I confess a certain bias towards the celebratory accounts of their exploits.

I can personally attest to their inspired and well-intentioned lunacy. Some band members were still novices on their instruments at the time, but the emerging genius was unmistakable. Reading-up on the Dead now reminds me that from a business perspective—my usual angle here—the Dead have been one the most influential rock & roll business teams in pop history. How, you say?

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The rap on Southwest.

Through good times and bad, Southwest Airlines stays on brand as a no-frills, low-cost, wacky-humored carrier.

Here's a video of one of their flight attendants on a flight to Oklahoma City this month doing his safety announcement as a hip hop rap—with passengers stomping and clapping along.

Note: In a tight economy this kind of customer service (keeping the passengers musically entertained while imparting necessary information) doesn't cost the company a thing!

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