This past week I read an interesting article written by Bob Lefsetz. He was comparing the success and future of the tech business to that of the music business.
Bob, who has been an active player in the music field for many years, feels that the music field is not changing with the times. He often writes about the foibles of the music moguls who fight change instead of looking for a way to embrace the future.
In the July 12th article, Bob produced a list of 20 suggestions for the music business, comparing it to the positive way the tech industry is working. I chose a few of the points that I thought were important
- Focus on the product first, not the money! Google, Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, each and every tech startup began without a business plan. When you start playing music and immediately want to get paid you’re sending the wrong message. Make it about the product first, figure out how to make money second.
- Marketing comes last, if at all. Google didn’t advertise until long after it became a household name.
- Position yourself as cutting edge, as new. No tech startup gets a toehold unless it’s doing something new, why do you think you’re going to be a big success in music replicating what everybody else does?
- Position yourself as a renegade. That’s part of the hoodie ethic in tech. In music everybody dresses up in finery and kisses the butt of anybody who might get them ahead, radio, the press, the guy at the label. These people should be afraid of you, they should not understand you, they should be your friend last.
- Education/practice. Mark Zuckerberg went to Harvard, as did Bill Gates. Why do you think you can make it in music if you’ve got no talent and haven’t practiced? You don’t get into Harvard on a whim, you’ve got to perform for twelve years in advance, get great SATs, have incredible grades. Bill Gates was coding when he was still wet behind the ears. If you started playing yesterday and expect to be famous tomorrow, we’re laughing.
- Be new and exciting. We can’t wait for the new iPhone, Apple has us hooked, constantly testing limits like the Beatles whereas the musical acts today are repeating themselves, endlessly.
- There’s more than one way to make money in music. Selling recordings is not the end all and be all. Google developed AdWords and AdSense and they gave e-mail away for free so they could insert ads alongside missives. None of this existed prior to them doing it. What are you doing that’s new? And Zynga has a huge valuation by selling air, i.e. virtual goods. Wanna entice the public? Sell something other than recordings and concert tickets, be innovative.
- Once you make it, don’t blow all your money. Today’s successful tech youngsters may buy a house, but they no longer even buy a fancy car. It’s all about the work. And when they do spend, they tend to give the money to charity.
- Tech startups are sold via word of mouth. They don’t hire PR companies to flog them to the mainstream media. The mainstream media gets on the bandwagon last, when they hear about it from everybody else, when the users have turned the enterprise white-hot.
- Groupon changed shopping. Who’s willing to change music?
- In tech they pay with stock options, it’s all about the upside. In music it’s all cash up front. The execs want huge salaries and the bands want huge guarantees. If you believed in yourself, in your work, you’d be willing to take more of the backend, which would be huge because of your hard work and ultimate success.
- Don’t be afraid of the future. Microsoft bought Skype. Music companies sue upstarts. They should purchase or align with them.
Party like a rock star. We hear that all the time. That so and so is a rock star. You want to know who’s a rock star? The techies. The cofounders of Google have a veritable air force, and they’re not telling everybody about it. Rock stars used to function off the grid. Now the techies do and the musicians are positively mainstream.
The public has voted. The money is in tech. Because it’s the land of excitement, where innovators go to blow our minds. That used to be music’s domain. But music abdicated its position. If music is to count again it must take the above lessons very seriously, or else it will be doomed to be the second-class citizen it has become.
If nothing else, Bob makes you think. He has his opinions and most of the time I agree with him. What do you think about Bob’s “music lessons”?
To see the entire article by Bob, visit his blog at Lefsetz Letter
I do have to add a couple of pictures of Clay…somehow, I just HAVE TO!!