Business Lessons from Rock: Guest Post by John O’Leary

[l1]T[/l1]his here O’Leary chap is a character, with a capital K. He can tell you about his bid for President of these here United States, or share his rock and roll stories from the road. For now, here’s one of his insightful, inevitable-but-not-obvious business lessons from rock:

Happy 10th anniversary,!

I thought I’d take this historic occasion to ask a simple question: what makes a music act great? (I confess I’ve been obsessed with this question for over 40 years, especially as it relates to rock bands.) Between the late 60s and mid 80s, I played with a dozen decent bands, hung out (hung over?) with a hundred others, and opened shows for two dozen R&R Hall of Fame acts. And over the last ten years I’ve done hundreds of hours of research on the best of the best.

Though I may never come up with a conclusive answer to the question (why spoil the fun?), I can say with some confidence that a great music act (or business enterprise for that matter) is dramatically different in some way. It must stand out from the pack. It has to have a unique identity. It must offer something that nobody else offers. If you’ll excuse the business jargon, it has to have some brand differentiation.

The best example? The Beatles, of course, who at the time had a shockingly unusual look (long, mop-top hair), a unique sound for a pop band (crooning harmonies over rocking guitars), and original material that broke the mold year after year. Their radical image was probably the biggest factor in gaining them world appeal. (Capitol Records signed them because of “the hair”—and the teen hysteria it generated—and only later realized they had fortuitously acquired the world’s greatest songwriting team.)

Yes, there are other things required besides having a distinct brand—and I outline five other success differentials in a book I’m working on, Business Lessons From Rock (which may finally see the light of day this year). But a great music act must be distinct or everything else doesn’t matter. It will just be lost in the crowd.

Different isn’t always better but better is always different.

Business Lessons From
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Whether you just love music or want to spruce up your entrepreneurial menage, I urge you to read John’s blog and buy his book, should he ever get around to finishing it. (Yes, John, I’m calling you out.)

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