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.”
Rock Star Business Lessons
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.