What You Can Learn From Motley Crue


“We always had a vision of going out with a big fucking bang, and not playing county fairs with one or two original members. Our job here is done!” – Tommy Lee

Motley Crue was always larger-than-life. They were badder, drunker, smellier, and louder than almost any other band. Their legendary decadence and excess will live on forever.

But under all of the whiskey, tattoos, and heroin tracks are some smart dudes.

This week Motley Crue announced they are calling it quits, and going out on top. They’ll head out on a 72 city North American tour in 2014 and then head overseas for 2015 and then… it’s over.

For real. They’ve signed a legally binding “Cessation of Touring Agreement” that takes effect at the end of 2015.

You won’t see a shell of this band playing county fairs.

And that’s the way it should be.

The Motley Crue brand will always stand for something.

It will never be watered down by a weak version of itself, the way bands like CCR, The Guess Who, Electric Light Orchestra, Guns N Roses, and many others have watered down their brands.

1. Stand for something. Have solid core values.

2. When you can no longer stand for those core values, quit and do something else.

Learn to create a rock-solid brand from legends like Motley Crue with the marketing book Brand Like A Rock Star. You can order it in paperback or digital download with one click right here.

Motley Crue 238 Comments

How Does It Feel?

When you rock image

“How does it feel?”

Bob Dylan famously asked that question in “Like a Rolling Stone”.

No matter what you sell or what you do, your business is based on feelings.

Once you come to terms with that, you’re infinitely ahead of your competitors.

They think the business is about the things they sell and the services they provide.

Nobody craves buying toothpaste. We crave feeling fresh, clean, and healthy.

Nobody craves shelving. We crave feeling organized and successful.

Nobody craves a realtor. We crave feeling like we didn’t get ripped off.

When I walk in your business, how does it feel?

Bob Dylan 226 Comments

We Don’t Want Your Hype


Axl Rose bombastically touted Chinese Democracy as the greatest album of all time. It was to be his epic work. It took twenty years and over $13 million to create.

And it bombed.

To be fair, it wasn’t a bad album. Most reviewers were actually impressed by it. Still, history will judge Chinese Democracy to be a flop for Guns N’ Roses.


Chinese Democracy was killed by hype.

To “hype” is “to promote a product or idea intensively, often exaggerating its importance or benefits”.

When Steve Jobs revealed new Apple products, he did it with a childlike sense of wonder and amazement. He didn’t hype them. He simply shared with us something that he was genuinely blown away by.

The new Beyonce album came out last month with no hype at all. Even executives with her record label, Sony Music, were caught off guard. They weren’t expecting it. The lack of advance hype created tremendous buzz.

Today’s consumer has a bullshit meter that is extremely sensitive.

If you lie, exaggerate, BS, or hype… they catch on quickly. They dismiss you.

Hype is dead.

Long live honest anticipation, genuine excitement, and raw truth.

The business book Brand Like A Rock Star has an entire chapter dedicated to putting an end to false and empty hype. You can order the book with one click here.


Axl Rose, Guns N' Roses 459 Comments

Seriously, Have Fun!


Strong brands universally evoke strong emotions.

One of the most powerful emotional reactions a customer can have is laughter.

Create a smile, create a customer for life.

Bruce Springsteen has earned the right to take himself really seriously, but even The Boss knows the value of having fun. Even if it means making fun of himself on Jimmy Fallon’s show, parodying one of his most iconic songs, and mocking the length of his concerts.

Today at work, have a little fun. Make your customers smile. Give them something to remember, share, and talk about.

 You really should order yourself a copy of Brand Like a Rock Star. You can get it with one click from Amazon and right away you’ll start to put the marketing strategies of rock legends to work in your business.

Bruce Springsteen 565 Comments

The Rock Star Personal Performance Playlist: January 13, 2014


Music moves us. Sometimes it is emotionally, sometimes spiritually, and always physically.

These are some songs I’ve been listening to lately to spark my creative spirit.

The Rock Star Personal Performance Playlist – week of January 13, 2014.

This week I’ve been feeling a little retro and listening to some classic 80s cuts with great bass grooves. Here are five deep bass lines to inspire you to be your rock star best this week. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

“Undercover of the Night” – The Rolling Stones

This is a bit of a lost Stones classic, which is sad considering how well it stands up 30 years later. After the wild success of “Start Me Up” and the Tattoo You album, the Undercover album was a bit of a sales disappointment. Yet as you listen to “Undercover of the Night” after three decades, it sounds far more intense and passionate than much of what was on their other 80s albums, Tattoo You, Dirty Work, or Steel Wheels.

Owner of a Lonely Heart – Yes

This was “Yes West”, the reincarnation of the band after relocating to Los Angeles. They were less artsy and progressive, and more pop focused. Yet “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was, by pop standards, damn progressive. It was unlike anything on the radio at the time. While it alienated early Yes fans who loved their eight minute prog-rock epics, it was the band’s biggest selling and highest charting song. Ever.

She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult

Quite possibly one of the greatest indie-rock successes ever. The Cult broke into the mainstream with a song that seemed to connect with an entire generation. The punkers loved it. The emo rockers loved it. The synth pop people loved it. Thirty years later, everyone still seems to love it. And I love how Ian Astbury looks a lot like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean in this video.

Eyes Without a Face – Billy Idol

Billy Idol toned down the angry punk and added a little Peter Gabriel-like art to this song, which has a hypnotic bass line. It doesn’t have the raw power of his other hits, but it showcases his range… which is something we didn’t know he had until this song came out.

The Magnificent Seven – The Clash

My personal favorite Clash song. I love the bass line. I love the controlled chaos. New York hip hop influences are all over it, and sound great. The band was recording in Brooklyn when they heard Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and The Sugarhill Gang. They took those bass lines and rapped the lyrics, and created what might very well be the first hybrid of rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop.

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Hidden Opportunities: The Rise of The Police

Smart entrepreneurs look for opportunity in everything they do, even when it isn’t obvious.

So did The Police.

Before they became rich and famous, they were offered a decent sum to appear in a commercial for Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum. The catch was that they would need to dye their hair blonde. Needing the cash, the band bleached their hair and shot the commercial.

Meanwhile, their debut song “Roxanne” started to take off. Over the next year, the band would become famous for both their music… and their unique bleach blonde hair.

The lesson of The Police isn’t lost on entrepreneurs.

Always look for hidden opportunities.

If you are watching for them, opportunities exist in every move you make, and every breath you take.

By the way, the commercial Wrigley’s shot starring The Police never aired. Probably for the better.

Here’s a clip of an early performance of “Roxanne” by the bleached-blonde member of The Police. Well, actually its from “Top of the Pops”, so it is terribly lip-synched. Maybe someday one of my British friends will explain to me how they tolerated such horrible lip-syching for so many years on that show…

 The marketing book Brand Like a Rock Star can help you build a stronger brand and more profitable business, using lessons from rock legends like The Police. You can order it now with one click right here!

The Police 1,563 Comments



Like great songs, great advertising connects with us emotionally. This ad from the New Zealand Transport Agency does exactly that. You cannot possibly watch this commercial and not be emotionally impacted to the point of possibly changing your behavior.

Connecting with people emotionally is a core principle explored in the marketing book Brand Like a Rock Star: Lessons From Rock n Roll To Make Your Business Rich and Famous. You can order it with one click here.

Uncategorized 1,021 Comments

Perfect Sucks

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My favorite moment on last year’s Wrecking Ball tour was at an outdoor show in Moncton, Canada, when Bruce Springsteen took an audience request for a song he hadn’t played in years. He turned to the band, mumbled something about not remembering some of the words, and then delivered his famous countdown.
1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4…
About 30 seconds into the song, Bruce forgot the words.
The band played on, smiling at The Boss’ screw up.
Bruce laughed, leaned into the microphone, and said “ah fuck!”
And then he started singing again.
The crowd went wild.
They didn’t go wild because Bruce and the band hit every note perfectly, in perfect tune and perfect harmony.
They went wild because they experienced something unique that no other audience would ever experience.
They went wild because they were part of something special.
They went wild because they witnessed a moment of raw humanity from an idol.
If you are singularly focused on delivering perfection, good for you. Quality is no doubt important. Today we expect greatness, and there’s no question that Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band are great. You won’t be successful if you aren’t damn good.
But more than perfection, we crave connection.
In a world of sameness, we crave distinction.
In a digital era, we crave humanness
Could it be that your most memorable work will come when you are less than perfect?
Bruce Springsteen 274 Comments

For Artists, Each New Single Is A Brand Decision

By Sean Ross

Motown, a record label that knew a little something about brand, often played it safe when it came to following-up a hit single. “It’s The Same Old Song” was the famous case of the sound-alike follow-up becoming an in-joke, but “War [What Is It Good For?]” begat “Stop The War, Now.” “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” spawned the even harsher “I’ve Lost Everything I’ve Ever Loved.” Occasionally the sound-alike worked. As often, it squandered an artist’s momentum.

The early Jackson 5 hits showed the Motown machine at its finest. The first three all sounded like “I Want You Back.” But the fourth was the change-up ballad, “I’ll Be There.” When Michael and the brothers Jackson finally started writing their own hits, “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” became the even better “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Then the same formula gave us the less remembered “Lovely One,” which slowed the hitmaking streak for a year or two.

Fortunately, Michael had “Billie Jean” waiting in the wings. Then he released “Beat It” just as “Thriller” was being propelled from hit album to phenomenon. “Michael Jackson goes rock” was a change-up, but one done from a position of strength. And then Michael fell back into a pattern of repetition (“Thriller” + “Beat It” = “Bad”) that wore the musical excitement off subsequent releases.

For any artist, each new single — especially the first single from a new project — is a branding choice. Should they follow today’s musical trends, even at risk of bandwagon jumping? Should they give fans what they want, even if it’s repetitious? Fleetwood Mac’s edgier “Tusk” single bewildered millions of “Rumours” fans. The Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight,” released the same day, was the safer choice–riding the momentum of “Hotel California” but without the same spirit of innovation.

The ideal singles are those that simultaneously maintain and freshen an artist’s image. Fans don’t think the change-up is that out of character; detractors say, “I didn’t know they had it in them.” The music reaches new fans who were unaware of the old image anyway. Adele was one of a half-dozen retro-R&B acts in Amy Winehouse’s wake, until the extra oomph of “Rolling In The Deep” made her the artist that defined the category. Carly Rae Jepsen had a handful of pop acoustic hits on Canadian radio, until “Call Me Maybe” turbo-charged her sound.

Sometimes the calculated change-ups are both risky and enduring. Of the three Kiss ’70s hits you’ll still hear on the radio now, one was their policy statement, “Rock & Roll All Night,” but the ballad “Beth” and danceable “I Was Made For Loving You” were controversial at the time. Kiss wouldn’t have another hit for nearly a decade after their disco “sell-out” single. But “I Was Made…” was wildly influential and still sounds contemporary nearly 35 years later.

The hardest rebranding is when artists whose very franchise is their “fun factor” turn serious. That violation of brand has tripped up acts from Paula Abdul to Lady Gaga, and most famously George Michael, who spent the goodwill created by the “Faith” album on the ponderous “Praying For Time.” After “When I Come Around,” Green Day wanted to remind us all they were still punks with “Geek Stink Breath,” and if you don’t remember that title, that’s the point. To reclaim their career momentum an album later, they needed another change-up, “Time Of Your Life.”

Following musical trends is another possible pitfall. It’s easy to sound like a not-so-fresh reworking of what was on the radio 9-12 months ago when your new single was being written. What’s right for an artist often depends on song quality, and where they are in their career arc. “Call Me Maybe” spurred an album of mediocre dance pop that obliterated any sense of Jepsen’s own identity. But around the same time, fellow Canadian Serena Ryder began making similar pop records and even her original singer-songwriter audience was happier.

Beyoncé’s recent self-titled success has prompted numerous articles unto itself, but it’s worth mentioning how she negotiated the first single trap. After three consecutive lead-off fizzles that were nice enough, but not special (“Déjà Vu”) or too much like previous hits (“If I Were A Boy” and “Girls [Run The World]“), it was actually better not to let any one song set the tone for the project. It’s a gamble that worked so spectacularly because, even with the misses, she had a 15-plus year portfolio of hits that were consistent with brand, but different from each other: the ideal for every artist.

Sean Ross covers music and radio both for those inside the business and those looking to follow or understand it. Follow him @RossOnRadio and subscribe to his free, weekly “Ross On Radio” newsletter here.

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Your Opening Act

When Van Morrison played a week of shows at the Whiskey A Go-Go in Los Angeles on his first US tour, a young local band opened for him. The opening band played to a half-empty club, but they played their hearts out.

The lead singer of that opening act would stick around for Van’s show, mesmerized by the headliner’s amazing stage presence, his ability to weave poetry into his music, and his reckless abandon when he sang. The young lead singer vowed to incorporate some of Van Morrison’s style into his own band. Within a year, that lead singer and his band would eclipse Van Morrison in profile and sales.

That band was The Doors, and the lead singer was another famous Morrison… Jim.

The opening act usually plays to a half-empty arena, warming up the crowd before the headliner comes out, but they teach us three vital branding and business lessons.

1. We all start out as opening acts. If we choose to seize the opportunity, we can win fans over and build a following, eventually becoming headliners ourselves. We can learn from the headliners and their fans. Being an opening act is like getting a master’s degree in your field.

2. Who you choose to associate with are your own “opening acts”. People will judge you based on who you share the stage with. This equity is tremendously valuable. Who will you give it to? And from whom can you gain equity?

3. It doesn’t matter how many people are there. Even if the place is empty, you owe it to yourself to play your ass off as if there were 20,000 people screaming your name. Treating every customer like the most important customer in the world is the only path to success.

The business book Brand Like a Rock Star will help you go from opening act to headliner. You can order it now for home or digital delivery with one click here. 

Jim Morrison, The Doors, Van Morrison 211 Comments