(Curtis admits that he could be better at saying “no” to requests for his time, but it’s getting easier with success.)
The music industry continues to change. Falling album sales eroded by on-line streaming, questions on how artists get paid and make a living, and technology making it easy for anyone to become a producer. It’s another industry that got hit by the internet twenty years ago (remember Napster?) and continues to get sucker-punched over and over again as the technology evolves(1).
With a young step-son who’s been a professional musician since age 15, and is now recording his sixth album, it’s a topic of interest to me personally – how is he going to make a living doing what he loves, in an industry famous for manipulators and scumbags, and keep being that good person I know him to be? He’s a talented guy and decent human being, and I look forward to helping him figure it out where he wants my help.
I got to sit in on The Gathering(2) afternoon’s music panels on Friday, and came away impressed with the thoughtfulness and depth of discussions. There seems to be an intersection between artists, brands, marketing, and the people who act as in-betweens.
There are successful artists who have become their own brands (not only making music but also clothing and other products, and doing their own marketing); brands that bring marketing in-house (for example Dr. Dre headphones, who started as a musician(3)); and marketers who love music doing amazing things in the world even though they don’t make music (like Andy Cohn from the FADER).
Turns out music is more than just music. Social justice, innovation and creativity, self-identify, story and narrative, commerce, influence and motivation all get mixed up in a wonderful goulash(4), or maybe a Chili Verde(5). You decide.
Music is unique in the human experience, but it costs money to make it. Surprisingly people want to be able to make music and eat at the same time. Go figure. So music is also commerce, and not surprisingly music also overlaps business and leadership. This became clear to me while listening to the panelists and hearing themes that leadership and business people have been talking about for decades now: values, vision, and people.
Here are some of the things I heard:
Be really clear about what you’re offering, what you expect in return. You can trade your talent and identity for fame and money if you want to, and that’s okay, but don’t expect it to last, don’t expect it to have an impact, and don’t expect anyone to have your best interests at heart.
You can do better than that. There were some powerful stories told on the stage, but they’re not mine to tell. Let’s just say that music not only influences and changes lives, it also literally saves lives(6).
…or as Joe Belliotti put it, “You don’t have to be an asshole to be successful.”
Overused, oversold, and yet so important. What’s the thing that you would be doing even if you had to pay to do it?
Of all the panelists who shared their “vision statement” (and they all had one, it’s de rigueur don’t you know), authenticity was believable, even if it wasn’t messianic: “Feed my family.”, “Take care of the people important to me.”, “Protect my fans, because they got us here.”
“Touch your people every day, because you’ll be sad when they walk out the door.” – Jason White
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory, but I will add this from my own experience: if you think you’re doing this well enough, you’re not. Very few people actually do, many fewer than think they do.
It’s more than likely that you’re just fooling yourself. No shame in that, it’s easy to do. It even has a name: confirmation bias. Take a long hard look at how well you treat your people, and what you tolerate in terms of how others treat them, and do better.
(1) See also publishing, newspapers, manufacturing (robotics), transport (self-driving cars), entertainment (pirated movies), etc. Next up professional services such as lawyers and doctors (artificial intelligence). Time to buy an acreage and some goats and move to the country?
(2) In its fifth year, it brings together brands and marketers. Three years ago they added music, integral to telling any story, which is what good marketing does. Plus I love any excuse to head to Banff despite the tourists – they’ve done a really good job of extending tourism past the summer holiday & winter skiing crowd, and I admire that.
(3) If you haven’t watched “Straight Outta Compton” you should, even if rap isn’t your thing. Good movie.
(4) My mother’s signature dish. That and rouladen. Mmmmm.
(5) What’s in the slow cooker right now, and it’s making me drool. Pardon me if I’m distracted by food.
(6) For one example, check out Paul Brandt’s #notinmycity campaign, imagined and executed by marketing students from Mount Royal University. As an added bonus the campaign has ruffled establishment feathers, which delights me because that’s what’s necessary to drive change.
One of my biggest challenges as a business coach is to get people to change their behaviours, that drives change inside their own business. Ironic, eh? Often the barrier is actually taking the time to critically think deeply about what behaviours would drive the most change.
This article from Kristy Hull on “Getting to the Critical Few Behaviors That Can Drive Cultural Change” reminded me of the “5 Whys” exercise. I think I’ll use it today.
“Why?”, you ask. Well, let me tell you…
Can’t get traction on the changes that need to happen? Consider finding and using the informal leaders in your company.
I believe that big changes starts with small behaviours. Actual work, however seemingly insignificant, makes a huge difference over time. I also recognize (mostly from my behaviour) that getting started and keeping started is often the hardest part.
Terry Crews, a former NFL linebacker and now television personality. He talks about how he used to “just go to the gym, even if it’s just to hang out and have a cappuccino.” He knew you can’t work out if you’re not there, and you won’t go there if you don’t enjoy yourself. So he went, every day, even if it was just to open his locker.
I think the lesson here is to deliberate choose a goal (play guitar, go to the gym, better dental hygiene, be a better leader, increase sales, grow a business), figure out the one minimal thing you need to do to get better at it, and do that one thing every day.
Flossing just one tooth (getting started, doing it regularly) isn’t the only thing we need to do to change a habit, but it comes first. Make no mistake, leadership and coaching is a skill and a habit that can be learned.
To learn a new skill or habit, we need deliberately practice. For example, I like the song “Jamaica Farewell” (the Belafonte version, my mother used to have the LP and a lazy smile every time she played it.) When I wanted to learn to play guitar that’s the song I chose.
If “Jamaica Farewell” was the only song I every practised on my guitar I would only every learn three chords, and it would get boring really fast. I would be able to play a kick-ass version of that song, but it has its limits. To get better, have fun, and master the guitar I should and do challenge myself with progressively more difficult material over time.
Consistency and intentional practice – that’s how you get better. Even as a leader.
What are you going to practise today?
I was listening to Tim Ferris one day talking about productivity and setting small goals. He was talking about how writing a book is a grind for him, and he set the small goal of writing “two crappy pages” a day. Some days he would only write the two pages, but very often, after getting started, he would blow past that least acceptable very low bar and write many (presumably good) pages.
He mentioned in passing it was like just flossing one tooth a day.
This caught my attention because despise flossing. I know I should. And I know of some weirdos who actually enjoy brushing and flossing their teeth. For me, there are other things I’d rather be doing for two minutes twice a day.
But as an adult I am more than mature and capable of managing my own dental hygiene. I am, honest! But it’s a struggle. It got to the point where my dental hygienist had left a note in my file about how I was sensitive to the issue. I learned this when a new hygienist asked me about the note.
“Good morning, Mr. May. I`ll be cleaning your teeth today. I see here you don’t like flossing your teeth and you don’t want to talk about it.”
[Internal Dialog: “I’m fine, thanks for asking. Or at least I was until you shared that with me. Please don’t show my how to floss my teeth for the 1000th time. I’m a god-dammed grow-up. I know how to floss my teeth. No, I don’t need one of those little plastic helpers. I’m a grown-up, really!”]
I thought I’d test Mr. Ferris’ “floss one tooth” rule, and that’s what I started doing. Every morning, after I brushed my teeth and before I got in the shower. I would floss at least one tooth. If nothing else, it was enough time to let the shower warm up. And honestly, most mornings, I did only floss one tooth. The bottom front one, specifically.
Lo and behold, the next time I visited my hygienist, she complemented me on how well I was flossing my teeth. This surprised me. I had passive-aggressively done as bad a job as I could get away with, rarely flossing my whole mouth and mostly just sticking to that one tooth at the bottom front. Apparently attempting a minimal effort every day is better than not making any effort at all. This pleased me, and have now expanded my tooth flossing program to two teeth a day. I’m hoping for even better results on my next visit!
If we’re trying to get better at something, like being a better leader, it seems that getting started and doing even the smallest thing consistently, is better better than not.