From Paul McCartney to Radiohead, What Executives Can Learn from Musicians

Never underestimate the power of collaboration, innovation and consumer engagement.
From Paul McCartney to Radiohead, What Executives Can Learn from Musicians

Musician Paul McCartney

Image credit: Kevin Mazur | Getty Images
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Back in 1967, Paul McCartney collaborated with fellow Beatle John Lennon to pen the lyric, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Throughout his long musical career, that statement has certainly remained true for McCartney himself, as he has successfully collaborated with other musicians from the 80s through today.

And he’s not alone. The music industry is ripe with lessons for business leaders, particularly the power of collaboration, innovation and consumer engagement. Business leaders would be wise to learn from their example and implement these three key ingredients to business success.

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1. Collaborate to reach new customers and amplify your brand.

Collaboration with key partners that offer something complementary to your product or service is a great way to create buzz, engage a broader audience and stay relevant.

Even after becoming an international icon with the Beatles, McCartney built a long-lasting solo career, often evolving and growing his brand through collaboration, from pairing with other iconic artists like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson in the 80s to his 2015 collaboration with Rihanna and Kanye West. Similarly, business leaders must recognize the power of partnerships to keep a brand fresh and reach new demographics.

A solid business example of this is Target, which has established brilliant design partnerships with emerging designers. This win-win collaboration has yielded great exposure for both the fashion designers and the retailer, leading to lines of customers “camping out” to get access to limited-edition designer collections. Now that’s good business!

2. Always seek opportunities to innovate.

Almost every industry today must pursue or at least be open to finding opportunities to innovate. Yet businesses get stuck. The key is to figure out what is relevant to your industry. Where is there an opportunity to innovate your product or service to reach a new customer segment or workaround a rising obstacle?

The music industry is not immune to the need to innovate. Record and CD revenue has dropped drastically over the last decade, with sales plummeting from nearly $18 billion in 2005 to just under $6 billion in 2015. Musicians have had to disrupt business as usual and adopt new revenue streams to stay relevant. For many artists, this means leveraging technology in innovative ways. Radiohead turned heads in 2007 when it allowed fans to download their album In Rainbows on their own using a pay-what-you-want model. In essence, this created a new legal way to get music to fans and combat piracy and big record labels. It also created a valuable feedback stream for the band to hear from their fan base as to which songs on the album fans liked the most. Brilliant!

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How innovation can manifest in a particular industry will vary. The key is to find the right innovation play for your industry. Businesses should always be seeking new ways to innovate by embracing technology that can positively impact the business’ evolution and bottom line.

3. Engage with your audiences.

Going to concerts and browsing record stores is no longer enough. Today’s listeners expect artists to engage with them more directly. Sound familiar? In business, a transactional model no longer works. People are looking for an emotional connection to your brand.

The band Train, originating in the 90s, understands this and has created multiple ways to engage fans. For instance, the band recruits about a half a dozen musicians annually to set sail on a Caribbean adventure -- engaging fans with five days of music, wine tastings, karaoke and Q&A sessions. Lead singer Pat Monahan also engages fans through social media, podcasting and an exclusive show on SiriusXM.  

Remember, it’s not just about your brand’s story; think about how your customer can be the hero in your story. Look for ways to invite customers in and let them experience your brand up close and personal.

Related: 10 World-Reowned Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Business Secrets

How to go platinum in business.

Like McCartney, Radiohead and Train, companies must continually ask how they can expand their customer base. Do it by collaborating with key partners to keep your brand, its product or service relevant in the industry and noticeable to a new customer demographic; by innovating to find creative ways of making your products or services desirable to a new customer segment and by engaging with customers in creative ways to forge a powerful emotional connection to your brand. It’s time to get out of your comfort zone, shake things up, and steal the show.

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