Music Lessons For Business (Limited Edition)

In a world where organizations are concerned with fairly new terms such as “ambassadors”, “fans”, “followers”, building communities and being likeable brands, what can we learn from an industry that has been building die-hard fans and followers for decades?

What can we learn from the first industry to be severely disrupted by tech, and constantly been evolving to grow through that disruption?

 As business grapples with disruption in the digital age, it turns out that there is a lot that the music business can teach us.

Lesson 1: Meaning
“Just Give Me A Reason“ — P!nk & Nate Ruess

“Just give me a reason just a little bit's enough”

What is your mission? No, not what’s written on some plaque on the wall or hidden in a standard PowerPoint template. What’s your organization or project’s reason for being? What means so much to you that the status quo must be changed, disrupted and never be allowed to remain the same? Seek first to make meaning. If it doesn’t mean much to you, it won’t to anyone else.

Lesson 2: Your Audience
“Girls and Boys” — Blur

“Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they're girls”

Who is your customer? Who is not your customer? Identifying who the meaning you’re out to make is for will help you not be everything to everyone. As marketer Seth Godin pointed out, the Beatles didn’t invent teenagers, they just showed up to lead them. The better you answer this question, the sharper your message will be to those you communicate with.

Lesson 3: Value
“I Need A Dollar” — Rhythms del Mundo & Aloe Blacc

“It's been a long old trouble long old troublesome road
And I'm looking for somebody come and help me carry this load.”

What does your customer value? What job do they need done? What problem does she wake up every morning needing to solve? What is she hoping you’ll be able to solve for her? Figuring out what value is to her will help you create a product or service that she’ll actually want to use and not want to do without.

Lesson 4: Results
“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars

“If we show up, we gon' show out
Smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy”

This is demo time. Time to show your Uptown Funk — your innovation, the special thing only you can do. What is your product’s result? This is where you show that you’ve understood your customers and learnt Lesson 2 and Lesson 3 or not. As the lyrics to this lesson’s song go, “don’t believe me, just watch!”

Lesson 5: Plan of Action
“Ready or Not” — Fugees

“Ready or not, here I come, you can't hide
Gonna find you and make you want me”

What’s your plan of action? How will you get your product to your customer? This is more about execution and less about perfection. Once your MVP (minimum viable product — with emphasis on minimum) is done, how will you get it into the hands of your future fans as fast as possible?

Lesson 6: Feedback
“Get Lucky” — Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers

“So let's raise the bar and our cups to the stars”

Lesson 5 will open you up to receiving feedback form your customers. Be open to it. Some features that you thought were important might end up not being as important as others. Gather data and return to Lesson 2 and 3 as you learn more about your customers and what they value. You will more often than not get lucky and learn something new about your customer, their industry, and what is valuable. As the lyrics of this song go, “So let's raise the bar and our cups to the stars”.

Lesson 7: Continuous Improvement
“Try Again” — Aaliyah

“If at first you don't succeed,
Dust yourself off, and try again
You can dust it off and try again, try again”

Once you’re collecting data about how accurate your mission, cohort and value assumptions are, go back through the steps of Lesson 1-6 and refine. This is called practice. Every performing artist uses the continuous feedback loop they receive from live performances and rehearsals to fine-tune the next performance.

Lesson 8: Always Be Innovating
“We Can’t Stop” — Miley Cyrus

“We run things
Things don't run we”

Always be innovating. Every process issue, bug, complaint is an opportunity to innovate. To innovate your way out of crisis, adopt the perspective of an artist: nothing is off limits. What can you learn from others (products, people, industries)? Tip: to make innovation a habit, ask your co-workers to write a list of 10 opportunities they see in their given area. Then start your weekly/monthly meetings with discussing opportunities before getting bogged down by problem-solving.

Lesson 9: Be Brilliant
“Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” — Ms. Lauryn Hill

“Pardon the way that I stare
There's nothing else to compare
The sight of you leaves me weak
There are no words left to speak”

The internet era has thrown us all into the entertainment industry. As our smartphones and apps compete for our attention, traditional marketing is just not working as it used to. Share of voice just doesn’t make sense anymore, especially if you’re just another copy. What does make sense is being remarkable. Find your sound, your voice. Be worth talking about. Does your product have that x-factor?

Lesson 10: Be Missed
“Wish You Were Here” — Wyclef Jean

“How I wish, how I wish you were here”

Be long awaited. Be missed when you don’t release anything new in a while. Are your customers calling saying they miss hearing from you?

Want more? Listen to the Spotify playlist here.