Friday, April 19, 2013

Be Great, or Be Gone (and Listen to the Muse)

I love Neil Young. In addition to writing and performing music for nearly 50 years, Neil Young has quietly made several films, designed technologies for Lionel Trains, and developed a fuel-efficient hybrid concept car called the Lincvolt (using a 1959 Lincoln Continental) "to inspire a generation by creating a clean automobile propulsion technology that serves the needs of the 21st Century and delivers performance that is a reflection of the driver's spirit." His latest venture is a start-up company called Pono (which means "righteous" in Hawaiian), which "aims to rescue [his] art form, music, from the degradation in quality that [he] think[s] is at the heart of music sales and ultimately music itself in popular culture." Simply put, Pono is supposed to bring master quality sound to the digital world.

Neil Young is a consummate artist. He also epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit. In his memoir, Waging Heavy Peace (which I encourage everyone to ready), Neil Young expounds on his many passions and the entrepreneur that lives inside him:

"None of these things would have happened if I hadn't done them myself. No one believes in my ideas until I actually do them….and I don't do them to make money. I am entrepreneurial. I can see it happen before it happens."

Passion. Having an idea and having to see it come to fruition, even though no one may believe in you. That is the entrepreneurial spirit. To create something that will somehow change the world, if even in the smallest way. The most successful entrepreneurs do not do what they do to make money. They are listening to an inner voice, a muse, which has inspired and compelled them to forge ahead and create their idea, and most importantly to do it right. Here is Neil's take:

"It hurts to be honest, but the muse has no conscience. If you do it for the music, you do it for the music, and everything else is secondary. Although that has been hard for me to learn, it is the best and really the only to live through a life dedicated to the muse."

Listening to the muse as an entrepreneur is no different. If you are developing an idea or a company, your devotion must be unyielding. "Be great or be gone," Neil Young recounts his long-time friend and producer, David Briggs, as saying. "Quality whether you want it or not," Larry Johnson, another long-time friend of Neil Young, would say. To me, these simple phrases speak to the heart of the artistic and entrepreneurial spirit.

Being an entrepreneur and being inspired with new ideas is a lot like being a songwriter. At their core, each shares in the majestic creative process. While one may pick up an instrument, the other may pick up a pen or open a laptop. But each starts with a feeling, a sensation. An inexplicable moment of inspiration. Follow that feeling. Listen to the muse. I leave you with Neil Young's description of the song-writing process:

When I write a song, it starts with a feeling. I can hear something in my head or feel it in my heart. It may be that I just picked up the guitar and mindlessly started playing. That's the way a lot of songs begin. When you do that, you are not thinking. Thinking is the worst thing for writing a song. So you just start playing and something comes out. Where does it come from? Who cares? Just keep it and go with it. That's what I do. I never judge it. I believe it. It came as a gift when I picked up my musical instrument and it came through me playing with the instrument. The chords and melody just appeared. Now is not the time for interrogation or analysis. Now is the time to get to know the song, not change it before you even know it. It is like a wild animal, a living thing. Be careful not to scare it away.

You can also check out a clip of Neil discussing songwriting and the responsibility to the muse here:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Movers and Shakers: Russell Simmons, Ne-Yo, Cher Lloyd & Emilio Estefan

Consummate entrepreneur Russell Simmons has just launched Narrative, a digital marketing, entertainment and technology company. But let's be clear, this is not an ad agency and Uncle Rush does not want agencies to view Narrative as a competitor, reports AdvertisingAge. "We're not trying to be agency of record for different brands and clients. We believe we have a level of expertise that's really rooted in creating immersive brand experiences across platforms," said Tricia Clarke-Stone, Simmons' long-time business partner.  You can read more here:

Ne-Yo and Cher Lloyd are partnering up with packaged foods giant Unilever and will write and perform an original song together inspired by lyrics submitted on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook around Unilever's new product, Fruttare Fruit Bars. Click on the below link for more information:

Finally, 19-time Grammy Award winning musician and producer Emilio Estefan (Gloria's husband) is extending and expanding his "Emilio Estefan's Picks" program at Target for another year.  Estefan is also partnering up with Monster Headphones to launch a new Estefan-branded Sound Machine headphones, which will be carried in select Target stores. Check out more here:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Build a Good Name. Do What You Love. Be Happy.

"Don't worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices, and protect your work. And if you build a good name eventually that name will be its own currency." - Patti Smith

Patti Smith is a true artist. The above quote is Patti explaining advice she got from William Burroughs, another acclaimed American artist, when times were hard and she did not have a lot of money. It acknowledges the difficulty of being and artist, and a human being, in today's age. It also acknowledges the importance and value of your reputation. Whether an artist or a company, your reputation and name are everything.  

She goes on to say that what matters is "knowing what you want and pursing it," whatever that may be. To me, this embodies the artistic and entrepreneurial spirit. That passion that drives you to insist on following your dreams, no matter how unrealistic that may seem.    

Success is not a destination, it's a journey. And you have to enjoy that journey through the perfect moments and the not so perfect moments. Do what you love, and simply love doing it. Be happy. The rest will follow.

You can watch the full clip here:

Kid Rock Rebels, and You Should Too

When was the last time you bought a ticket to a concert to a major performer like Kid Rock for $25, including the service charges? And when was the last time you went to a concert and bought a beer for $4 or a t-shirt for $25? Maybe 20 years ago (around the same time Pearl Jam was battling Ticketmaster)? Well buckle your seat belts and make sure your flux capacitor is fluxing, because Kid Rock is taking us all back to the future.

What's brilliant about this move is that the deal is not only good for fans, it also potentially very good for Kid Rock. That's because Kid Rock is partnering up with Live Nation and will share in all the profits. From ticket sales, parking, merchandising, beverages, etc., Kid Rock will get a percentage of every dollar made. Sure there is risk involved – if sales are down, Kid Rock will not make any money – but he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. And the payoff could be huge. It shows Kid Rock's commitment and confidence in what he has to offer as a performer, a lessen many can learn from. In the entrepreneurial world, you cannot be afraid of having some skin in the game. If you are, maybe that particular venture is wrong for you. Companies that succeed do so because they absolutely know they are going to succeed. Who knew Kid Rock was such the consummate entrepreneur?
In addition to potentially being a lucrative venture for Kid Rock, there is a more important component to this deal: what it means to his fans and his reputation. Let's face it, what Kid Rock is doing is just plain cool. Sticking up for the fans, being a man of the people, fighting the system. That is something that resonates tremendously with fans around the world. And that reputation is going to give Kid Rock even greater staying power. If you want to grow a lucrative business, you have to have staying power. Longevity is the name of the game. Kid Rock may only be getting a fraction of a $25 ticket, but he is earning (and working hard for, mind you) more cool points than you can possibly imagine. Win or lose, he will be able to cash those points in down the road and be able to continuing playing shows and finding other business opportunities because Kid Rock will still be relevant, and his reputation will still be remembered and revered.
The lesson here is: don't play the short game. Building a company or brand is something that takes quality and integrity. Doing the right thing matters deeply to consumers, especially in the ever growing socially conscious world we live in today. And be creative. Think outside the box and find new ways of making deals. Partner up with other companies, and get some skin in the game. Remember, consumers need to feel they are getting value for what they paid for. In Kid Rock's case, he is providing a concert experience at a price that fans will be happy to pay for, and he has found a way of making it very profitable, provided fans show up and like what he is doing. I'd say that's pretty fair.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What is the Artist, Athlete & Entrepreneur Connection?

What is the artist, athlete and entrepreneur connection? That is, what is it they all have in common? One word: Passion.
Artists, athletes and entrepreneurs are intrinsically linked by their passion. Artists spend their entire lives devoted to a craft and mastering those skills. Athletes spend their lives preparing mentally and physically for competition. Entrepreneurs devote their time, energy and resources to developing new ideas and building companies. Each is driven by a burning passion to succeed, an unwillingness to give up, and the unwavering faith that what they are doing is what they were born to do.
And there is another connection: they need each other. Artists and athletes need to prepare for what will most likely be a relatively short career. They need to become entrepreneurial early on and start looking for other business opportunities. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, can use artists and entertainers for their celebrity, to raise the profiles of their companies and give that extra "push" when bringing a new idea or product to the public. Artists and athletes also have a unique expertise in their respective fields that can be used by entrepreneurs involved in sports or media-entertainment (e.g., who better to serve on the board of a new cutting-edge digital music company than a cutting-edge musician?).
Simply put, there is this very natural synergy between artists, athletes and entrepreneurs that needs to be better utilized. The mission of this blog will be to bring you news and opinions relating to the artist, entertainer and entrepreneur connection in hopes of enhancing that synergy. Stay tuned.