12 Most Compelling Business Lessons from Rock Stars

12 Most Compelling Business Lessons from Rock Stars

Business is a lot more fun when you learn from rock stars instead of text books. If your ears are open, you’ll find that many essential business lessons are coming through your speakers. Turn it up to “11” and sing along to the 12 Most Compelling Business Lessons from Rock Stars, adapted from the pages of the book “Brand Like A Rock Star: Lessons From Rock ‘n’ Roll To Make Your Business Rich and Famous.”

1. Be as unique as KISS

There was nobody like them. They wore elaborate make-up, spit blood, breathed fire, and blew stuff up on stage. Because of that, they got noticed. Getting noticed is the first critical step in marketing. If you don’t get noticed, you don’t exist… and you’ll never have the chance to prove to anyone how great you are.

2. Be as consistent as AC/DC

Every album has the same iconic font. Every picture of the band has Angus wearing a school boy outfit. And they never sing about starving children in the third world or the angst of a relationship that ends badly. If your business isn’t consistent, people will never know what to really expect from you.

3. Be as hated as Nickelback

The whole world hates Nickelback. Yet they’ve sold over 50 million albums and continue to sell out concerts everywhere, every night. Nickelback knows that if just 10% of the population loves them, the other 90% don’t matter. Having people hate your brand is a positive thing. It means they know you and understand what you’re about. As long as you have people who feel just as strongly towards you, having haters rocks.

4. Be as PR-savvy as the Sex Pistols

They only ever had one album, but they made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because they shocked the world with their antics. Manager Malcolm McLaren carefully constructed chaos around his band everywhere they went, making the news at every turn. He knew that if people were talking about his band, they would come see his band and buy their records. He was right, and the same applies to your brand.

5. Be as gracious as the Grateful Dead

They gave away their music. Fans were invited to record and share the live shows. The Grateful Dead knew that spreading their music, even for free, would result in more ticket and album sales. It was a brilliant move and helped make them one of the top-grossing live bands of the 1970s and 80s. Does your company give something away in order to build a tribe of passionate followers? It doesn’t have to be product. You can give away time, knowledge, and expertise.

6. Be as focused as Bob Marley

When Bob Marley started making music, the word “reggae” didn’t exist. That’s how small his niche was! He became one of the top-selling stars in music by being intensely dedicated to his craft. Bob Marley didn’t make any other kind of music, and never compromised in order to reach more fans. Great brands have that same focus, clearly establishing a singular point of differentiation.

7. Be as human as The Beach Boys

Their 1965 hit “Barbara Ann” was full of mistakes. People were drunk in the studio, singing along to a song that they didn’t know the words to. And the Beach Boys left them all in. The song connected with people because it was real… it actually sounded like a party-in-progress. When your business exposes some flaws, intentionally, it becomes human, allowing people to fall in love with your brand in an entirely new and personal way.

8. Be as brave as Johnny Cash

His career was over. When Johnny Cash went into the studio to work with hip hop and rock producer Rick Rubin, he was a long-since faded star. It took guts to work with Rubin, and to record covers of songs by Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, and other alternative rock stars. Johnny Cash went out on a limb, and the result was a series of albums that revived his career and cemented is status forever. Have the bravery to take a few calculated risks, like Johnny Cash did, and great things could happen.

9. Be more humble than Axl Rose

He spent 18 years and a reported $13 million dollars making the most expensive album ever recorded, Guns N Roses “Chinese Democracy”. For 13 years we heard how epic this album would be, and when it finally came out it was a monumental let down. Yet musically, it wasn’t that bad. It is remembered as a failure because of hype. Hype is empty. Instead of selling us empty hype, create honest anticipation for your brand.

10. Be as true as Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan did whatever he wanted. He went electric when everyone wanted him to sing folk songs. He recorded a Christmas album when people least expected it. Bob Dylan has remained true to Bob Dylan. Great brands have that sense of purpose. They have a set of internal values and they remain true to them, quickly finding out that there are millions of people who share those very same values.

11. Be as rare as Led Zeppelin

The 2007 Zeppelin reunion concert broke records for ticket demand. Over 20 million ticket requests were made for the 20,000 seats at London’s O2 Arena, crashing servers instantly. Since breaking up after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, Led Zeppelin has rarely played together. When supply is that low, and demand is that high, the value of a ticket goes way up. There’s nothing wrong with working the supply-and-demand equation in your favor. Keep demand high and make your product somewhat scarce, and you’ll increase the perceived value for your brand.

12. Be an experience like Jimmy Buffett

Where can you see thousands of people wearing coconut bras and grass skirts, drinking margaritas? A Jimmy Buffett concert isn’t about the music, it is about the unique experience. Great brands don’t sell products, they sell experiences. Those experiences are what we are buying into. Give your customers a really cool experience instead of pitching them another product that they don’t know they need.

Think about it! What rock stars have affected the way you might think in business. Let’s discuss in the comments.

Featured Image Courtesy by Anirudh Koul via Creative Commons.

Steve Jones

http://www.brandlikearockstar.com

Steve Jones is the author of “Brand Like A Rock Star: Lessons From Rock ‘n’ Roll To Make Your Business Rich and Famous”. The book examines the core marketing strategies of rock’s legends and shows how to put those lessons to work in your business. Steve is also an active blogger, in-demand speaker, broadcasting consultant, and a ridiculously passionate fan of great music.

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20 comments
jodineibeme
jodineibeme

I say rock on. You are so right on.

Nobody realizes what Johnny Cash did. How brave it was for him to do something so different.

What's wrong with Nickleback? I didn't know there was such a love hate for the band.

dbvickery
dbvickery

Wow, that was a trip down memory lane. I loved the attributes you came up with for each artist. I thought the NickelBack one was funny yet candid. That 10% can do wonders for the pocketbook. And as a Dad that works out at Lifetime Fitness, I get misty eyed every time I see the video for "Never Going to be Alone". I have two daughters, so you will understand if you watch the video ;)

spofcher
spofcher

Steve - After reading your list, I am going to have to go out and buy your book.

I luvved that you included Johnny Cash. His music with Rick Rubin was some of the most amazing that I have heard. I saw him in concert about 12 years ago and he converted me into a strong fan.

JodiOkun
JodiOkun

I Love Rock ..and do I dare say there is nothing like a good Guns and Roses song..Great post Steve

sharongreenthal
sharongreenthal

How about: "be as current as Lady Gaga?" Is there any artist who defines this moment more than she does?

PaulBiedermann
PaulBiedermann moderator

Awesome post, Steve! Love your penchant for using rock stars to explain branding. No one does it better, and it’s a crystal clear way of explaining how having a great product is one thing, but being unique and doing your thing is what really stands out and creates fierce loyalty.

Adding to what’s been said here on the Beatles: how about compassion and striving to rise to a higher standard than “just” your great “product”. And along those lines, how about Bono and U2 too?

Welcome to 12 Most — keep ’em comin’!

PegFitzpatrick
PegFitzpatrick moderator

Welcome to 12 Most Steve!

Love your first post - what a nice spin on branding! (humor for people who remember records)

Music certainly influences us and our moods. Musicians also fill media with their concerts, relationships and antics. Great examples! Can't wait for more from you.

Positively,

Peggy

Shonali
Shonali

You left out ABBA! I'd say, be as groundbreaking as ABBA. Though they're considered kitschy (sp?) now, they were one of the first bands to innovate music videos, not to mention being the first pop band from a non-English speaking country to enjoy success in English-speaking countries. They're still one of the top sellers - I believe they sell 2-3 million albums a year (Wikipedia), which is pretty amazing given that they broke up in 1982.

Yes, I'm a fan. A HUGE one!

Latest blog post: Letter From Jamaica

grooveradio
grooveradio

Agreed on The Beatles. I compare them to Apple in my presentations, in that every time they recorded something new, they pushed the limits and demonstrated new ways to use technology. And interestingly, they did it all on "Apple Records". Coincidence?

KDillabough
KDillabough

I watched the Nickelback spoof video on "funny or die", and they certainly have their own sense of humor about being hated. Works for them:)

And Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville? Who else has created an empire out of one song?

And KISS? Love 'em or hate 'em, they are a quintessential brand.

Great post: love music: love the connection. Cheers! Kaarina

NancyD68
NancyD68

Nice list. I would add "be as innovative as The Beatles" these were four guys who did not let success trap them. They created new and unique sounds that are still being copied today.

grooveradio
grooveradio

@spofcher I'm honored and grateful that you'll be buying the book. Make sure you send me your address and I'll send a signed/personalized cover insert. Or use Kindlegraph if you go digital. Johnny Cash is amazing, and I compare his comeback to the revival of brands like Old Spice... brands we all wrote off as irrelevant but managed to come roaring back in ways we never expected.

grooveradio
grooveradio

@JodiOkun Thanks for the kind words. I agree on GnR! There is a chapter in the book about them, although it deals with the way Axl managed to ruin "Chinese Democracy" by creating false hype instead of honest anticipation.

grooveradio
grooveradio

@sharongreenthal You could also cite Gaga for having the integrity to stand up for issues and matters that matter to her. She's not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and others rally around her for that.

grooveradio
grooveradio

@Shonali I definitely didn't forget ABBA Shonali! They are in the book... Chapter 17 is called "ABBA-fy Your Brand". ABBA is brilliant and deserves incredible credit, not just for what they did during their prime, but for their courage NOT to reunite for money. They don't want to ruin the youthful and exhuberant image that their fans have of them, so they refuse to reunite and tarnish that image... even though they were offered a rumored one BILLION dollars for a 100-city world tour.

Sorry they didn't make the post on 12Most, but they are absolutely in the book!

sharongreenthal
sharongreenthal

@grooveradio I especially admire her work combating bullying. She uses her fame and popularity in such positive ways.

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