At the end of 2018, I felt I was spending too much time on the iPad attempting to read but not reading because it was too easy to get distracted and not actually reading. So, at the start of 2019, I made a personal ‘resolution’ to get back to, what I’ll call, real reading. And not just reading, but to read physical books, not on an iPad. And not just any book, but only books about music; genres, eras, musicians and bands. It has been one of the most rewarding and educating years of my life to delve into these artists lives and learn what made them tick, what made them unique, what made them STAND OUT. What was the reading list you ask? Here you go…in the order in which I read them:
- Bob Marley So Much Things to Say
- Jeff Tweedy Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back)
- Beastie Boys Beastie Boys Book
- A book about the 90’s punk rock explosion Smash
- A book about the origins of breakdancing, hip hop and graffiti Can’t Stop Won’t Stop
- Prince I Would Die 4 U
- Kurt Cobain Serving the Servant
- Paul Stanley Face the Music
- A book about the history of Soul Train The Hippest Trip in America
- Robert Johnson Up Jumped the Devil
- Freddie Mercury Somebody to Love
As you can see, it has been quite a diverse list spanning reggae, rap, punk, rock, blues and soul. I have thoroughly enjoyed every page of every book. And there are more sitting on my office shelf to read. Purchasing these physical books will become keepsakes for me as well.
So, what did I learn during my journey so far this year? I have distilled a few key elements from the thousands of pages that all these artists shared that made them STAND OUT.
1. Dedication to their craft.
They all truly wanted to be the absolute best at being a musician. That meant seeking out guidance, learning from the best and continuously incorporating their learnings into their own craft. Take Robert Johnson for example. He would travel from town to town by hoboing on trains to visit other blues guitarists so he could practice with them, learn from them. Then, he would busk on the street corners during the day to master these learnings, while promoting his show at the juke joints later that night, usually playing multiple shows each night. He did this EVERY SINGLE day in order to master his craft. Learn, play, repeat. The result of his dedication made him the leading innovator of blues guitar and the founding father of Rock N’ Roll.
2. Laser focus on their success.
Failure was not an option, and their success was not an accident. Tireless work attitude. Play, play, play. Did you know what a perfectionist Kurt Cobain was? He was obsessive. Playing and playing, over and over until every song could be played to perfection every time. And think about Prince for a moment. The man loved composing music so much that he made his studio his home, making the conscience decision to move INTO his office, INTO his work. He couldn’t bare the thought of being away from the studio. Thus, there is an entire vault of his music that the world will eventually get to enjoy for many years to come.
3. Power to believe.
In the face of adversity and being told that their dreams were just dreams, these artists had unshakeable resolve and belief in themselves. Take Queen for example. They were a few years into their musical career before they all finally gave up on their ‘day jobs’ or going to ‘university’ and went all in on their music career. Bar after bar, show after show. In some cases where less than 10 people would attend. Yet, they believed the music and the persona they were crafting was unique and would stand out. They stuck to writing their brand of music which was some of the most atypical music of its time and still stands as landmark music to this day.
None of them got it right when they first started. They were all in numerous bands and/or played various types of music. They all were willing to continue to learn and evolve until they became who they became. And see point #1, that helps too. Take the Beastie Boys for example. They were 3 white punk rock kids from NYC sneaking out of their parents’ house to listen to Black Flag way back in the day. Did you know that BEASTIE is an acronym that stands for Anarchy? Google it. So, its logical that they started out as a punk band, making scuzzy punk. How does that turn into a hip-hop rap career, in a genre where they stuck out like a sore thumb? Their willingness to evolve and adapt. Now, that also doesn’t mean they abandoned who they were. If you have followed the genre-bending Beastie Boys’ career, you would see they went from punk to hip-hip back to punk and back to hip-hip again. Truly a full lifecycle of success.
5. True creativity.
Whether it be how they crafted lyrics or how they composed their music, these artists all had bold visions that required true creativity to become who they became. This vision and creativity would also raise the game of everyone around them. Take Bob Marley for example. His insightful lyrics and powerful music captured the tenor of the times, energizing generations, races and continents of people and bringing them together. Bob’s lyrics are some of the best ever for their simplicity but packed with a powerful punch. Or if we look at Jeff Tweedy’s composition approach. He creates melodies first. Then he layers in vocal sounds that he calls ‘mumble tracks’, which are not words at all but just syllables. After he fuses the melodies with the mumbles, he then comes back to compose and lay down lyrics at the end. Truly creative and seriously mind blowing.
What can you take away from these artists to make your marketing stand out?
- Set your vision and believe in it. Have a destination and a persona in mind that you want your brand to be known for, to become. Chart that course.
- Stick to your vision but evolve and tweak it along the way. Ideas will come and go. Some ideas will get shelved, only to be used later in the journey.
- Apply your true creativity. Work beyond the guidelines. Stretch the boundaries. This is the only way new ideas can be created, tested, and accepted. A rock opera? Why not!
- Out work all the others. Produce great ideas and great creative, continuously.
- Look for inspiration in everything and everywhere. Learn from other’s work and incorporate it into your vision to make it uniquely yours.
Put these thoughts in motion and your brand will take off.
Stay tuned for Part II of the STAND OUT blog which will highlight the power of live shows and the impact they create.