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