Building Your Dream Team

We know U2 as one of the most successful rock bands of the past 40 years, but the four guys who became famous as U2 weren’t the same four guys who showed up for the first rehearsal on September 25, 1976.

Larry Mullen Jr. was a 14-year old drummer who wanted some people to make music with, so he posted a note on the school bulletin board looking for musicians to join him. On that September afternoon, he was joined by Paul “Bono” Hewson, David “Edge” Evans, Dave’s brother Dik Evans, Adam Clayton, and Ivan McCormick. They figured they would do cover versions of the punk music that was so popular in Ireland and the UK at the time. Although they admittedly had limited music talent, songs by The Jam, The Clash, and Sex Pistols seemed so simple that the boys were convinced that they didn’t need to be great musicians to be successful. They called their new band “Feedback” because, well, it was one of the only musical terms they knew… and it was a sound they accidentally made quite often in those early days.

Ivan McCormick didn’t last long. He was gone inside of the first year. And as the band began to develop a following, they changed their name to “The Hype” But Dik Evans didn’t feel the hype. He was a few years older than the other guys and was going off to college, and he just seemed like the odd man out. “It was almost a generation gap type of gulf between us,” Dik told author John Jobling for his book U2: The Definitive Biography, “I just didn’t fit in.” 

Shortly before the band was asked to demo for CBS Records in March of 1978, Dik Evans played his last show with The Hype and voluntarily left the band with no hard feelings. It wasn’t long after that the band changed their name to U2 and would very quickly go on to worldwide fame with the four members we know today.


Around that same time, two guys named Steve were starting a computer company in California. Apple was founded in April of 1976, a few months before the guys from U2 started playing together in Dublin, Ireland. The timeline of Apple’s rise and U2’s fame match-up almost perfectly, as does the inclusion of the odd man out. For U2 it was Dik Evans. For Apple, that man was Ronald Wayne.

 Ronald had worked with Steve Jobs at Atari and was considered the “adult” on the young Apple team. While Jobs and Steve Wozniak were both in their early 20s and prone to the tendencies of their age, Wayne was a 42-year old who brought maturity and experience. While with Apple he wrote the partnership agreement, designed the first company logo, and wrote the instruction manual for the Apple 1, the first product the company created. But only two weeks after Apple was officially founded, Wayne asked to be bought out and relinquished his equity for $800. A year later, while Apple was still struggling to get off the ground, Wayne accepted a $1500 one-time payment to forfeit any future claims against the company. His initial 10% share, had he held onto it, would be worth $35 billion today.

These days Ronald isn’t angry or vindictive. “I honestly don’t regret walking away at all,” he told The Daily Mail in 2013. “I made a decision that allowed me to pursue my interests. Who could have anticipated it would be what it is today?”

Dik Evans went on to form other bands and remained active in the Dublin music scene. Ronald Wayne, despite offers to work with Apple again, ran a stamp shop in a remote town in Nevada before retiring. Neither of them achieved the fame or fortune that their early collaborators did.

Great businesses – and great bands – are simply teams, and teams take time to come together. Teams are complicated and sometimes messy, but when they perform they get incredible things done. When they don’t, it all falls apart. Finding the right people to be on your team is critical, as is the quest to get and keep the team performing at their optimum level.

Check out the book Brand Like a Rock Star and learn how to put the strategies of legends like U2 to work for your business and career!

The Cars: Don't Let Boundaries Hold You Back


We lost Ric Ocasek suddenly yesterday.

I was a big fan of his band The Cars when I was younger. Songs like “My Best Friend’s Girl”, “Shake It Up”, and “Let’s Go” were the soundtrack to my youth. And the pool scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High made sure that “Moving in Stereo” was forever embedded in my brain.

What amazed me about The Cars is that my new wave friends who loved New Order, Talking Heads, and The Smiths loved them… but so did my hard rock friends who listened AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Ozzy. And so did my Top 40 friends who were into Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, and Cyndi Lauper. It seemed The Cars bridged all of those different tastes with ease!

The Cars were essentially a new wave synth band, but beyond that they layered in elements of early rock ‘n roll and rockabilly. They topped that with catchy power pop earworm choruses. They were really impossible to put a label on. As a result, they sounded equally at home next to The Talking Heads, Zeppelin, and Duran Duran. Who else could do that?

The album Heartbeat City epitomizes The Cars. With Mutt Lange producing, they reinvented the music video with “You Might Think”. They threw us a curveball with the profoundly sad “Drive”, sung by their bass player Benjamin Orr. They created an anthem of the season with the “Magic” and the opening lyric “summer, it turns you upside down.” Those two songs, “Magic” and “Drive”, were sequential on the album, taking the band from the upbeat optimism of summer sunshine to the depths of addiction, loneliness, and depression… in just one song.

The Cars were a band that could cross boundaries effortlessly and retain their credibility everywhere they went. And Ric Ocasek was the source for much of that. It was very sad to lose Ric yesterday.

Crossing boundaries while retaining credibility is the hallmark of so much greatness.

Coca-Cola grows when it goes beyond the “happiness'“ brand essence of a coke with the health-conscious lifestyle of today.

BMW has always been about pure driving pleasure, which has given them appeal with gearheads and suits alike.

Disney’s brand of “magic” has transcended youth, offering cruises, weddings, and magical moments for all ages.

Nike’s “just do it” applies to professional athletes, hard-core gym buffs, and casual dog walkers. They’ve even taken the motto political with the Colin Kaepernick campaign.

Never stop being who you are – like The Cars – but thrive on the cross-boundary appeal of what you do… and let the good times roll.

In memory of Ric, you can enjoy some of my favorite songs by The Cars on this Spotify playlist.

And you can download and read Brand Like a Rock Star here, and start putting the lessons of rock legends to use in your business every day.

The Taylor Swift Principle: Depth Beats Width

The very smart Gary Vaynerchuk calls it “The Taylor Swift Principle”.

In order to break through the noise today, you need to scale the unscalable. Taylor Swift does amazing things, like show up to sing at a fan’s wedding, host fans at her house to hear her new music, or play a private concert for adoptive families to thank them for their work.

This cool stuff isn’t ROI positive for Taylor. She makes far too much money for those investments to have any financial return. There is no traditional business case that supports doing these things.

The return is in the amplification of these things.

Fans blog, tweet, post, and talk about the things Taylor Swift does. They turn her 30-minute investment of time into a social media movement.

When Taylor Swift pays the college tuition of a student, the internet explodes.

When Dave Grohl pours his fan a beer, his fans freak out.

Depth is far more interesting than width.

So much of of what we do today is width. Everything is mass appeal. We target the biggest group of people using the least amount of effort and cost. And when everything is width, depth becomes even more pronounced.

When you create depth, you create connection. The ROI isn’t visible and it certainly isn’t immediate, but the amplification return is massive. Fans love Taylor (and Dave, and others who specialize in depth) because they hear about those really cool things they did for their fans. Those people buy merch and tickets and stream songs and support the artist.

There is no way to quantify the return on depth, so very few people go there.

Depth is building one on one relationships with your customers, learning about what they love, and investing in them the way they invest in you.

The problem is that we all think the value is in how many people are following you. That’s width. It’s nearly meaningless. It is just vanity.

What matters - and where the value lies - is engagement. That’s depth. It’s everything. If you do it, and have faith in it, it will pay off.

Go deep.

Know Your Audience

Last week, The Rolling Stones wrapped up the latest leg of their “No Filter” tour with a show at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

The band played 19 songs that night. Only one of them, the 1997 song “Out of Control”, was from an album released after 1981. Everything else the band played that night, and on almost every night of the tour, was from their most prolific years, from 1965 to 1989.

The Rolling Stones haven’t had a bona fide hit song since late August of 1989 when “Mixed Emotions” peaked at #5.

Yet the No Filter Tour grossed almost $400,000,000 and sold north of two million tickets, playing across Europe and North America over the course of three years. The tour was postponed while Mick Jagger recovered from heart surgery, but quickly continued. Night after night, hit after hit.

The Rolling Stones are brilliant because they know their audience.

Great companies know who they appeal to.

The Stones know that their fans want to hear the hits, so they play the hits. They sprinkle in some long-lost gems for the hard core fans, but they don’t play songs from the recent albums. Instead, the band delivers “Start Me Up”, “Satisfaction”, and “Sympathy for the Devil” night after night. Exactly what their fans want!

Discount airlines like Ryan Air and Southwest Airlines know what kind of traveler they attract, and they deliver on the needs of the traveler who puts low price first. Emirates and Cathay Pacific attract a different kind of traveler, and deliver an entirely different experience geared toward the traveler who puts luxury ahead of price.

Marriot does a great job of understanding the customer at each property. They have a brand for pretty much every type of guest, from the upscale Ritz-Carlton, to long-term stay Marriot Executive Apartments, to the hip but budget-friendly Aloft brand. Each brand understands who they attract, and they deliver on their brand promise. One hotel brand might focus on families, another on convenience, and another on luxury.

The takeaway from The Rolling Stones is clear: know what songs your audience wants to hear, and play the songs they want to hear. If you do that, they’ll keep coming back for more, night after night. The minute you stop delivering what they want… they drift away.

What Jeff Bezos and Dave Grohl Have In Common


            During the summer of 1994, a mere 18 miles away from each other, Jeff and Dave embarked on similar paths. In Bellvue, Washington, Jeff Bezos started an on-line bookstore called Amazon. He was the company’s only employee, working solo from his garage turned home-office/warehouse. In those early days, as the sole proprietor, Jeff was doing every job at Amazon on his own. Meanwhile, Dave Grohl was still absorbing the suicide of his friend and bandmate Kurt Cobain a few months previous. Cobain was the leader of Nirvana, and with his death, so died the band. Dave Grohl, like Jeff Bezos, was totally solo. He went into the studio all by himself to start his new project, Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl played every instrument and sang every word on that debut album.

            Foo Fighters eventually became a six-piece band and would go on to become one of the most popular global rock acts. The Foo Fighters have won multiple Grammy Awards, relentlessly toured the world, and sold millions upon millions of albums. Amazon did alright too! Within two months they were generating $20,000 per week in sales, and Jeff wasn’t solo for long. Hiring ramped up, and today the company employs close to 650,000 people all over the world and is the third biggest company on earth based on market cap. But on July 5, 1994, the day Jeff Bezos registered his company, Amazon had one employee… and Foo Fighters had one band member.

             Great bands and great companies are very similar. They almost always start with one determined person with a vision who has an idea rattling around in their brain that they just can’t shake. That idea – be it an on-line store or a song like “Everlong” – is screaming to be unleashed. The musician has no choice but to get into the studio, pick up an instrument, and let the song out for the world to hear. The entrepreneur also has no choice. They need to take their idea to the world.

            The story of Jeff and Dave has another intriguing parallel. Until starting Amazon, Jeff Bezos had never sold a book. He had built a successful career in hedge funds and banking, but running an on-line bookstore was not a skill Jeff Bezos brought to Amazon. And Dave Grohl wasn’t a singer! Dave Grohl was a drummer. He had created a successful career as the drummer in Nirvana, but being the lead singer of a rock band was not a skill Dave Grohl brought to the Foo Fighters. Despite those obstacles, both Jeff and Dave quickly reinvented themselves.

            The entrepreneur is stereotypically logical, left brained, and driven by money. The musician is stereotypically emotional, right brained, and driven by creativity. And while those things may be somewhat rooted in truth, the deeper and more important reality is that the link between the rock star musician and the rock star entrepreneur is very real. They both bring incredible ideas to life and share them with the world.


Make More Mistakes!

Did you do things correctly today? Or did you stumble… and innovate?

One of the greatest classic rock songs has something interesting in common with one of the all-time classic breakfast cereals. Both were, in part, the result of mistakes.

Sting was in the studio to sing vocals on The Police song “Roxanne” when he bumped into the piano, which made an off-key sound. Sting laughed at his clumsiness, and then began to sing the song.

The microphone picked up the whole thing, and the version of “Roxanne” you hear to this day includes a sour piano note made by Sting’s ass hitting the piano! Even his laughter made the final cut. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but when the band listened back to the track they decided the stray note and laughter added something special to the song, something magical, and it became part of rock history. In the liner notes of the album, Sting is even credited with playing “butt piano” on the track.

You can listen for yourself… but I’m warning you that you’ll never hear the song the same way again in your life!

We don’t move things ahead by doing the same things over and over.

We don’t advance the game without taking risks.

Great things happen when you make the right mistakes.

Dr. John Kellogg ran a hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan. He was an expert at making easy to digest foods for his patients. One night he left a batch of dough out too long, and when he came back the next morning it had gone bad. Or had it? Dr. Kellogg put the dough through rollers and baked it anyway, just to see what would happen. The result? Corn Flakes. Dr. John Kellogg discovered that by tempering the dough - letting it sit and cool for unusually long times - allowed the moisture content in each grain to stabilize, resulting in perfectly delicate flakes.

Corn Flakes were invented the same way The Police created “Roxanne”. They took a mistake, and turned it into something incredible.

Instead of always being focused on perfection, give yourself the freedom to screw up. Take some chances and risks.

Rock stars call it “jamming”. They play around, create new chord progressions, invent new sounds, sing non-sensical words, and make something out of nothing.

Today, The Police are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Kellogg’s has a market cap of $21.2 billion.

Whether it is breakfast cereal or hit songs, great things happen when you make more mistakes!

Buy the book Brand Like a Rock Star and learn how the core lessons of rock legends can make your business take off.

Your Business Needs Rock Star Creativity

Rock stars can teach us a lot about creativity.

Great songs aren’t created by committees in boardrooms, between 9am and 5pm.

Great songs aren’t created by spreadsheets, KPI analysis, agenda items, and TPS reports.

Great songs - just like great ideas - come about from jam sessions, collaborations, writing sessions, and just plain messing around. Songs are written on tour busses, in dressing rooms and hotel rooms, in rehearsal rooms and studios, and wherever else the creative urge may strike.

Keith Richards woke up in a Florida hotel room in the middle of the night with the riff for “Satisfaction” in his head. He picked up his acoustic guitar, banged out a few bars into a tape recorder, and went back to sleep. Those bars went on to become the foundation of one of the greatest songs in rock history. Keith knew creativity needs to be captured in the moment.

Benny and Bjorn from ABBA were so dedicated to their songwriting that they bought a cottage on a remote island to where they could retreat and craft songs for their band, which went on to become one of the biggest acts of their era. They knew creativity needs to be incubated in a place where it can grow.

Lennon and McCartney would sit down with their guitars and “ping pong”, according to McCartney, until they had a song. They took each other’s ideas and made them better. John gave Paul’s light love songs some darkness and nuance. Paul gave John’s brooding songs some brightness and levity. Together they created the greatest collection of songs in the history of rock music. Lennon and McCartney knew creativity needs diversity. Two very different people can create one amazing sound.

David Bowie was known for writing down words and phrases, which he considered a song’s “ingredient list”. He would take the words and phrases apart, mix them up, and then reconnect them. “You can get some pretty interesting idea combinations like this,” said Bowie. David Bowie knew that creativity needs to be shaken. Doing the same thing the same way will result in the same thing every else is doing.

Four amazing creative lessons from rock stars.

  1. Capture creativity in the moment. Write your crazy ideas down. Wake up in the middle of the night, like Keith Richards, and capture what’s rattling around in your head.

  2. Find a place to inspire your creativity. Where are you inspired to think differently? Go there, like Benny and Bjorn from ABBA did.

  3. Creativity thrives on diversity. Find someone who makes your sweet sauce sour. Find someone who adds an unexpected ingredient to your dish, like John Lennon and Paul McCartney did for each other.

  4. Shake things up and then put them back together again, the way David Bowie did with words and phrases. Creativity needs a fresh and interesting perspective, because coming up with variations everyone else’s ideas isn’t enough these days.

How Music Influences Customer Behaviour

I’m a Starbucks regular. Some might say “addict”, but that’s judging.

Every morning on my way into the office I stop and grab a tea at Starbucks. As an audio and music geek, I pay close attention to the music. Nearly every time I order my tea, the music playing at Starbucks is a perfect reflection of a brand built on warmth, community, peace, harmony, and connection.

Most people don’t even notice the music playing, but at Starbucks the audio environment matters. It isn’t random at all. At Starbucks, the music is a key part of the brand and the brand experience.

Starbucks is one brand that understands how music permeates the brain in ways that words, logic, and visual images simply cannot. Music can empower. It can motivate. It inspires thoughts and introspection. Music can pump you up, or reduce your stress. Music is a drug, reaching the brain and altering how you feel and behave.

In a now-famous study (North, Hargreaves, & McKendrick), a wine store once experimented with music. On a week when classical French music played, the store sold significantly more French wine. On a week when they played classic German music, sales of German wines took off. Yet consumers, when asked after making their purchase, could not recall the music. Based on research, the music had no impact. Yet we know for a fact that it did. Consumers think that they simply bought what they they wanted… but what they didn’t know was that the so-called background music influenced their decision.

That is powerful.

When you control the music, you control the mood.

This is something Starbucks recognizes.

Yet so many businesses give little to no thought to their audio environment. They pour money and time and thought into the look, taste, smell, and touch of their brand… but the fail to consider how the right music can influence customer behaviour.

If you choose the right music, your customers will pay more.

If you choose the right music, customers will buy more.

If you choose the right music, customers will feel more. They will remember you. They will come back to you. They will tell friends about you.

And they won’t ever know why.

Sometimes choosing the right music for a business is simply avoiding the wrong music. According to the Journal of Retailing, “music incongruent with product image can lead to a reduction in prices consumers are willing to pay”.

Is your audio environment a perfect reflection of your brand?

Do you treat the songs playing as you would treat your logo, sign, or TV commercial?

Your business and brand is a function of all of the senses, but only truly smart and evolved brands understand and appreciate the way sounds can influence their brand, and how customers react to it.

Are You A Rock Star Salesperson?

Are you a rock-star salesperson or just a garage-band salesperson?

Rock stars seldom drop prices. Selling tickets and merchandise isn't a struggle. Fans line up for hours to buy tickets and over-pay ridiculously for the band's tour t-shirt. The rock star salesperson makes more money, works smarter, and has more fun.

Here are five vital lessons you can take away from legendary rock stars and apply directly to your sales career. 

1. Sell an experience, not a product or service. Jimmy Buffett fans don't show up to his shows each summer to hear "Margaritaville" one more time. Jimmy Buffett creates an experience for his fans, turning each show into a three-hour escape from reality and allowing his "Parrothead" fans to experience the beach-bum lifestyle for a night. Because the music is secondary to the experience of the sun, drinks, friends and fun, Jimmy sells out night after night, summer after summer.

When you sell an experience to your customers, price stops being an issue. So does competition. If nobody else can provide the experience you provide, you essentially have no direct competition. 

2. Intentionally limit supply. Billy Joel is playing Madison Square Garden as a resident artist. For one night each month, Joel plays the Garden. The shows sell out every month! Playing once per month makes each date special, and Joel could probably sell out once a month for decades. By limiting supply to once per month, Joel will play far more shows (at a far greater profit) than if he were to play The Garden night after night.

Do your customers feel a sense of urgency to work with you? Urgency cannot be false hype. It needs to be an honest urgency based on a real lack of inventory. Faking urgency is deadly, and it puts you in the dreaded used car salesman heap. 

3. Be exceptionally consistent. For 40 years, AC/DC has played three-chord rock anthems about drinkin', women, partyin' and rockin'. There are no AC/DC songs about famine in Africa or angst in your heart. Through disco, glam rock, new wave, punk, hair bands, grunge and boy bands, AC/DC has survived. When AC/DC goes on tour, they sell milliions of tickets to fans who know exactly what to expect when they show up at the stadium. 

Your clients need to know what to expect from you. The only time that they should be surprised is when you over-deliver at a level they've never experienced before, and even that over-deliver should be precisely in-line with what they have come to expect from you.

4. Maximize word-of-mouth by being remarkable relentlessly. If you want people to buy from you, and tell other people about you, you'll need to be remarkable on a regular basis. For Bruce Springsteen, that means playing long, energy-driven shows filled with singalong classics and surprising cover versions. When Springsteen does his own take on Lorde's hit "Royals", the social universe goes wild with sharing. When Springsteen plays for four hours, thousands of fans talk about the remarkable show they just experienced.

People will talk about you when you are relentlessly remarkable, especially if you give them the means to talk about you. You should be using social media wisely to allow your clients to share with others the great things that you've shared with them.

5. Nurture your tribe. The Grateful Dead create the first rock fan club in the early '70s when they invited their fans to share their mailing address with the band. The Dead responded by sending these fans early previews of new music, updates on what they were doing and the opportunity to interact with the band. The Deadheads grew into a breathing community that lives today, long after lead singer Jerry Garcia passed away and the band folded. The Grateful Dead also allowed their fans to record their concerts. Instead of hurting concert ticket sales (which was the prevailing opinion at the time), the sharing of bootlegs actually resulted in more tickets sold!

Develop a mailing list, Facebook group and LinkedIn Group through which to share valuable information with your clients. Like The Grateful Dead, share freely. If you have information that can help your customers, share it with them -- even if there is no immediate upside for you. You'll be building trust and loyalty.

This piece originally appeared in Entrepreneur:

Customer Experience, Not Customer Service

Jimmy Buffett has only had one true hit.

“Margaritaville” went to #7 in 1977. It is a 209 word song about getting drunk on a tropical beach. Nothing more.

Today, you can buy a $20 Cheeseburger in Paradise at over 30 Margaritaville restaurants from Montego Bay, Jamaica to Sydney, Australia. Almost all of the store have a massive retail section. There are two Margaritaville hotels in Florida, with more in the works. There are Margaritaville casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Biloxi, and Bossier City, LA. And there are massive Margaritaville retirement communities planned for Daytona Beach and Orlando.

Jimmy also owns a piece of the beer Landshark Lager, Margaritaville tequila, and a line of chips, salas, and guacamole.

Jimmy Buffett has turned a 209-word song about getting drunk into a business empire.

Because he provides an experience.

When you visit his casinos or restaurants, sip on his beer, or retire peacefully at his retirement community, you’re telling the world (and yourself) that you’re a beach bum at heart. For a few minutes, you’re putting all your cares away and chillin’ in the tropical sun.

When Jimmy goes on tour, which happens like clockwork almost every summer, he sells out 20,000 seat venues night after night. The outdoor amphitheatres are filled with people in tropical garb celebrating the beach bum lifestyle. They aren’t there to hear “Margaritville” one more time. They are there to experience a break from their life and feel like a beach bum for a few hours.

Great brands don’t offer customer service. They offer a customer experience.

When the leather seats hug you and you feel the roar of the engine, you’re experiencing a Porsche.

When the smooth fruit flavors hit your tongue,. you’re experiencing Cakebread Cellars Benchland Select.

What experience do you offer your customers?

Do they escape to a tropical beach? Do they become a race car driver for a brief moment? Where do you take your customers that allows them to escape the drudgery of daily life?

Jimmy is proof. You don’t need a hundred hit songs to build an empire. You just need one great song and a desire to take your customer someplace special.

If you’d like me to play some Buffett music and talk to your group about the connection between rock history and business success, just click here and we’ll make it happen.

And if you’d like to read more on the topic, you can order Brand Like a Rock Star here.

Networking Like a Rock Star

Musicians have known it for years… we are stronger together than we are alone. 

And while collaborating has always been part of music’s culture, today’s rock stars have taken networking and collaboration to an entirely new level.

“Eastside” is currently a huge hit for Benny Blanco, Halsey, and Khalid. The three performers co-wrote the song with two more writers, including Ed Sheeran. That’s a team of five.

“Happier”, a #1 hit from earlier this year, is credited to Marshmello and Bastille. The song was written by Bastille, who brought it to DJ Marshmello for additional writing and production. You can also download the Breathe Carolina remix, which essentially amounts to a DJ team remixing another DJ’s remix of a pop/rock group’s song. 

“Taki Taki” is, as of this article, sitting at #15 on the US chart. The song is by DJ Snake featuring Selena Gomez, Ozuna, and Cardi B. That’s not including the four additional people listed as co-writers on the song!  Between writing and performing, a total of eight collaborators are part of “Taki Taki”. 

This is the new normal in music. Artists write together, perform together, rap on each other’s songs, remix each other’s work, build upon what others have done, and create new sounds from existing work.

We don’t generally work that way in business. Instead, we tend to think in silos, coming together for forced brainstorming sessions and forming teams and committees to work on specific projects. What would happen if we thought more like musicians?

·       Our first thought, upon having a good idea, should be to scan our contact list for the best possible person to make our good idea even better.

·       Our good idea might be great, but who could remix it? Who could rap on it? Could there be alternate versions of our great idea?

·       Instead of one or two collaborators on an idea, why not have three or four or eight?

·       Do you have collaborators from different areas of expertise or different backgrounds? “Taki Taki” features French producer DJ Snake, Puerto Rican rapper Ozuna, former stripper Cardi B, and former Disney channel star Selena Gomez. Try and find a more diverse collection of experiences and sensibilities!



Four Business Lessons From Freddie Mercury

Next week, Bohemian Rhapsody hits theatres, telling the incredible story of Freddie Mercury.

Freddie Mercury is widely regarded as having one of the most amazing voices in the history of rock music. You can discover the unreal range of Freddie in this fascinating 10 minute YouTube video from Polyphonic.

Looking back at Queen after all of these years, some very cool things stand out that can be applied to almost any business today.

  1. Be amazing. Not only was Freddie an incredible vocalist, but the entire band was considered amongst the best at their craft. Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon could play with the very best of them. There are very few business secrets anymore, and customers expect you to be great. No exceptions. You need to deliver, every time. The days of accepting mediocre service are long gone.

  2. Stand out. While it is important to be amazing, it is equally important to stand out from the crowd. There were plenty of people who loved Queen, but plenty of other people disliked the band. It is, however, almost impossible to find people who don’t know about Queen and don’t have any opinion on the band. They stood out in a way that forced people to pay attention them. That’s the essential first step for any business! Stand out!

  3. Persevere. All these years later, the song “Keep Yourself Alive” from Queen’s 1973 debut album stands up as one of their all-time greats. But at the time, the album was considered a flop. It sold poorly. In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Keep Yourself Alive” as the 31st greatest guitar song in rock history! But in 1973, nobody seemed to care. Despite the initial lack of success, Queen kept forging ahead. They were not deterred. And perhaps a greater example of perseverance is the song “The Show Must Go On”, recorded while Freddie was gravely ill and barely able to walk. Does failure deter your team? Great businesses accept that failure is simply a sign that you’re trying new things and pushing the envelope. Plenty of smart people believe that if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying hard enough!

  4. You can’t replace the irreplaceable. After Freddie Mercury died, Queen has continued to perform live… but never as “Queen”. They toured with Paul Rodgers singing under the name Queen + Paul Rodgers. Today they tour as Queen + Adam Lambert. They continue to honor Freddie’s legacy during every performance. They never try to pass off this version of Queen as the original thing, despite the fact that Brian May and Roger Taylor are still there. You can’t replace Freddie Mercury, and Queen has always acknowledged that. Your business needs to know what parts are replaceable and what parts cannot be recreated. Customers have certain expectations, and if you can’t meet them because of a change you need to acknowledge that… not hide the reality.

Bohemian Rhapsody opens in North America on November 2, 2018.

If you’d like me to play some Queen music and talk to your group about the connection between rock history and business success, just click here and we’ll make it happen.

And if you’d like to read more on the topic, you can order Brand Like a Rock Star here.

Embracing Your Opposite

John knew that he needed Paul.

Paul made John’s dark, bluesy, and melancholy songs happier. He added more melody and harmony.

And likewise, John made Paul’s optimistic and melodic songs deeper and more brooding.

That’s what made Lennon/McCartney into the most successful songwriting duo in rock history. Together they wrote some of the biggest hits of their generation, and possibly of any generation ever. Their body of work is unrivalled.

Great companies embrace diversity. They understand that their Lennons need McCartneys. A company of clones becomes boring and one-dimensional very quickly. Meanwhile, companies that embrace diversity thrive in all kinds of ways:

  • Different types of people bring different types of ideas. Great products are made better by people who see things from a different perspective. When an engineer and an artist collaborate, the results can be incredible. Some of the coolest products, like the iPod and iPhone, have emerged from that type of collaboration.

  • Cultural diversity in a company reflects the cultural diversity of society, meaning companies can react smarter to opportunities and issues. Companies that reflect society will connect with customers who live and breathe that diversity on a daily basis.

  • Some of the brightest minds exist outside of our usual sphere. When we look outside of our industry or outside of our borders for talent, we open our companies up to all kinds of different ways of doing things. Unfortunately, most companies never look beyond their current frame-of-reference for talent.

Does your company value it’s Lennons and McCartneys equally?

Does your brand embrace diversity?

Just like the greatest songwriting team of all-time was built on two very different people, great corporate cultures and great brands are built on diversity of opinions and perspectives.

If you’d like to book me to help make your next event absolutely rock, please contact gsb speaker management at 860-580-7043 or email

The Rock Star Comeback

It is one of the most powerful stories in movies, books, and music... the comeback. And it has incredible implications for business.

Rock stars simply never give up, No matter what obstacle they are up against, they power on. They believe, beyond any doubt, that greatness is within them. Almost every great rock star story has a point where it looked like all hope was lost, before the right song catapulted the star back into fame. 

What's your favorite rock star comeback?

Meat Loaf is one of rock's great comeback stories. After Bat Out of Hell made him world famous in the winter of 1977-78, Meat Loaf went broke, fell into depression, and suffered a series of poor-selling albums. It seemed like his career was over. When it was rumored that he was working on a Bat Out of Hell sequel, nobody paid much attention. According to his manager, the industry treated it like a joke. But in 1993, sixteen years after his first hit, Meat Loaf went to #1 again with Bat Out of Hell II. The album went to #1 in 28 different countries. Today Meat Loaf continues to tour, record, and collaborate, but for that dark sixteen year period, it looked like that would never be the case.

Aerosmith stands up as one of the best comebacks of all time. After an amazing run in the 70s that gave us "Dream On", "Walk This Way", and numerous other hits, the band splintered. Drugs and infighting put the future of the band in doubt. It took extensive rehab and a call from hip hop giants Run DMC to put things back together. Run DMC was doing a version of "Walk This Way", and wanted Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith to help out. They did, and the remake went even higher on the charts than the original did! Knowing there was still an audience for their music, they went into the studio and created Permanent Vacation in 1987. That album powered their comeback and became their best-selling album in over a decade. 

And more recently, the comeback of Justin Bieber is noteworthy. The Beebs had descended into obnoxious punk status with his behavior, getting arrested for impaired driving, vandalizing a neighbor's home, and other antics. While he was often in the news and continued to sell concert tickets, Justin Bieber wasn't scoring hit songs. With his management team overseeing things, Justin disappeared for almost a year. He wasn't on TMZ or making headlines for bad behavior. Behind the scenes, he was collaborating with credible hitmakers. When the time was right, Justin appeared on "Where RU Now" with Jack U. He then released "What Do You Mean?", a sonic sequel to the previous hit. He has since collaborated with Major Lazer, DJ Khaled, DJ Snake, and Luis Fonzi and Daddy Yankee on "Despacito". He's appeared with Quavo, Chance The Rapper, Lil Wayne, and Bloodpop. These days Justin Bieber is one of music's most consistent hitmakers. 

What rock star comeback story inspires you, and keeps you going through the ebbs and flows of building a great business? 

Customer Service is Now Customer Experience

Customer service, as we know it, is dead.

If you're just serving your customers, it's game over. That's because today's customer demands more than service. With more choices than ever before, and pretty much anything delivered to her door in 24 hours with one-click, your customer is seeking more than just plain good old fashioned service.

Rock stars understand this.

Taylor Swift is a master at the customer experience. Her fans dress up in costumes, make signs, and get very, very into it. Taylor gives them more than just a concert... she puts on a total show. Her songs come alive, and Taylor's personal passion comes through.

The fans lucky enough to be invited backstage to meet Taylor get serious treatment. She reviews everyone's picture before the meet-and-greet, so that she can greet her fans by name. When each fan meets Taylor, she gives them her full and undivided attention. She makes every single fan feel special.

I've watched so many fans be disappointed backstage at a concert, finding out that their idol isn't nearly as nice as they hoped. Taylor defies that. She's nicer.

And it takes work. Taylor works at it. Her mom works at it. Her management team works at it. Every night, every fan gets an experience.

Do you give your customers that kind of experience? Use Taylor Swift for your role model, and treat every customer like your very best customer and give them an experience they'll never forget.

PS - the pic in this post is Taylor and my 14 year-old niece who became fast friends backstage.

How To Make Price Irrelevant

How do you make price irrelevant to your customer?

You sell something to their heart.

The heart doesn’t think in numbers.

If you create an amazing product that I love and your marketing repeatedly shows my heart why I love it, my heart will decide to buy it.

If my heart decides to buy it (and not my head), the price will be secondary. It might not even matter at all.

When my oldest son Isaac was just three years old, I took him to his first NHL hockey game. We went to see the Edmonton Oilers play the New Jersey Devils. After the game he gripped my hand as we walked through the crowds to the exit, and out of the corner of his eye he spotted a souvenir stand and pulled me towards it.

“That bear must be lonely,” he said, pointing at a glass case with a stuffed teddy bear wearing an Oilers jersey. “He’s all alone.”

The kid was right. There was only one Oilers bear left. And after those words melted my heart, the bear was coming home with us. He was lonely no more.

And the price didn’t matter.

My heart was going to have that bear no matter how much it cost.

Isaac is now 22, and he still has “Oily” the bear.

If you speak to your customer’s heart, everything else falls into place., and very quickly the heart convinces the head that the price is worth it.

Instantly download or order your copy of Brand Like a Rock Star and Start You Up with one click right here! You’ll learn the marketing secrets of rock music icons, and how to put those secrets into play to build a stronger business and personal brand.

Understanding Your Brand's Role

Great brands understand their place in the mind of the customer.

Sometime around 1990, The Rolling Stones realized that they were a nostalgia act. Their fans wanted to hear "Satisfaction", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", and "Start Me Up". In the era of grunge and the mainstream rise of hip-hop, The Rolling Stones suddenly sounded out of place on the radio. When they released new music, it wasn't the major event it was a decade earlier.

The Rolling Stones have only released four studio albums since 1989, and one of them was a pure blues record. That's four albums in 28 years. Contrast that to the band's first 25 years, when they released a prolific 22 albums between 1964 and 1989.

Today when the Stones play live, they play the hits and the gems and the lost classics their fans love. They don't focus on songs from their latest album, because they know what their fans want from them.

Does your team understand exactly what your customers want from your brand? Are you trying to force new songs down their throat, or are you playing the hits they want to hear?  Successful brands - and bands - give their fans what they want. Nobody ever left a concert complaining that the band played all of the hits they love!


The Price/Value Equation

Are you hearing that your prices are too high?
Do your customers tell you you're charging them too much?
Are you losing business to lower priced competitors?

If price is a complaint, there is a very good chance you're not providing enough value.

Instead of lowering prices, consider increase perceived value.

Rolex customers don't complain about price. Rolex doesn't lose out on business to lower priced competitors. After all, if you're in the market for a Rolex, chances are you're not settling for a reasonably priced Seiko.

Rolex provides status to it's customers, and status has value.

If Rolex lowered the price, they would lower the status... and hence the value.

Tickets to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway are expensive. Quantities are limited, the experience is rare, and Bruce is an A-lister. A quick search of StubHub showed the cheapest tickets at $926... in the left corner of the mezzanine, three rows from the back. They aren't the worst seats in the house, but they are damn close. And those tickets will sell. 

People paying $1,000 to see Springsteen on Broadway are not wavering between that and a $50 TKTS bargain to see something else.

If you're hearing that your prices are too high, don't immediately jump to lower them. Maybe they are too high. Or maybe your customers just don't feel like they are getting enough perceived value. 

What Are You Really Selling?

When you go to see Coldplay, you get a bracelet to wear. That bracelet lights up in sync with the music, effectively making every fan in the venue into a part of the show.

That is an experience... not a concert.

Fans don't buy concert tickets. They buy the experience of being there in the flesh, witnessing history, and feeling the songs instead of just hearing them.

Fans don't download songs. They download the chance to sing along, feel great, and have something to transport them to another reality for a few minutes.

And your customers don't buy whatever it is you sell or provide! They buy the experience you or your product provide.

A great accountant provides the experience of knowing you aren't going to get haunted by the tax man for evasion, and that you've kept every penny you deserve.

Insurance provides you with the experience of knowing your family is looked after in the worst of times, should they happen.

An airline sells you the experience of walking into the arms of a loved one after a long time apart, or the experience of arriving hours later in somewhere new, exotic, and exciting.

Nobody ever had the urge to buy toothpaste, but everyone has the urge to have healthy white teeth and fresh kissable breath. 

When you stop thinking about what you sell, and start thinking about how you make your customers feel, you can create magic. That feeling is what is most important. Sell that feeling in your marketing! Stop talking about what you sell, and start talking about how you make me feel.