Young people are a valuable source of inspiration.
I am an avid listener to BBC Radio 1, a channel dedicated to current popular music and aimed primarily at the 14-29 age group. I am nearly twice that upper age, so clearly not the target audience. I listen because I like the music and the chatter of some of its presenters, particularly Sara Cox, who stood in for Fearne Cotton recently when she was on maternity leave, and Nick Grimshaw. But there is though another, somewhat more profound, reason for liking Radio 1: I find it rather inspirational.
The music industry is pretty cut-throat and unforgiving but it offers tremendous rewards for those with the talent and the commercial guidance, or acumen, to “make it”. Many of the most successful artists are under 25 (Jake Bugg in the photo is just 19); they have created a business for themselves in less, often much less, than a decade. At 25, ten years is a lifetime but to many of us older folk it is just a stage of life, or of a business’ development. What I get from Radio 1, and popular culture in general, is that you really can do a lot in a short period of time if you approach your business objectives in the right way.
The first thing you might conclude from most interviews with successful musicians is that they love music. They love what they do. Of course, that in part reflects the fact that they are actually quite good at it, they are better singers, or guitarists, or drummers then you and I. It’s a necessary starting point but certainly not on its own sufficient for success. There are many great musicians who never make a dime from music. But let’s not lose this first idea: if you want to build your ultimate business choose something that excites and fulfils you and that is very likely to be something you are good at. If you are running a business that doesn’t do this for you it is unlikely that it will be a “hit”.
So, what then separates the great musicians who make money from the ones who don’t? The ones that do are different in some way. They either have a distinctive style, voice, or their material is strikingly different. The music industry is driven by fashion and reinvention of the genre is where the money is. Whilst this may come to some on their own many aspiring musicians need help in packaging and positioning themselves to make the most of the talent and the difference that they bring to the party. Difference more than almost anything else drives value in any business and you really need to understand where yours comes from to make the most of it; you too may find that you could exploit it more with a little help.
The third learning point I think you can take from the music industry is that an 18 year old who has dedicated at least several years to becoming a great musician, and in many cases is original enough in their style or song writing to get noticed, is unlikely to also be commercially savvy and astute enough to break into the industry on their own. For success it isn’t enough to be great and different but you really have to understand how the industry works and how to best market and sell what you have. That is of course why they have managers. They collaborate with producers and commercial experts to position them and monetise their talent and marketers, stylists and often songwriters too in order to even have the chance of becoming really successful.
Unencumbered with the baggage, pressures and responsibilities of later life young people are often passionate enough about what they want from life to try it, but the most successful ones are also aware of the need for guidance from collaborators if they want to make the most of opportunities that come their way. The older you get, and the more entwined you are with the day to day activities of running a business, the more this simple fact seems to fade. If you can open your mind to the possibilities again you’ll be surprised by just what you can achieve in a very short period of time, even if you need a little help to do it. That’s why I listen to BBC Radio 1; it reminds me just what is possible in such a short period of time.
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