Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

'America's New Romantic Piano Sensation' Shows How to Gather a Tribe and Thrive in Business

The popularity of Jim Brickman's music is the foundation of a business empire built by cultivating a relationship his fans feel personally.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I have a confession: Before I met my wife four years ago, I'd never heard of “piano sensation” Jim Brickman. My not-yet wife, Rachael, was a fan of his music. As I listened, I realized I'd heard his music hundreds of times even though I didn't know his name. Last year, we saw him in concert -- and he was fantastic. Since then, I've studied how he connects with audiences as an entertainer and how he operates as a business person. I must admit, I'm very impressed on both counts. He's won two Grammies and written three books. His music has been featured in the Olympics, and he's had dozens of Top 40 hits. Plus, he has his own radio show.

Stephen J. Cohen | Getty Images
Jim Brickman

Entrepreneurs can learn valuable lessons about marketing and customer service from the way Brickman interacts with his fans. Translating a few of his techniques to your own model could mean sweet music for your business.


At his live concerts, Brickman spends a good deal of time talking with the audience between songs. He tells stories and shares what's going on in his world. It feels as if you're having a conversation with an old friend (who happens to play the piano extremely well). By the time the show is over, you'll believe you really know who he is. Afterward, you'll have a chance to meet several performers and get autographs at the venue.

Question: What can you do to connect with your customers in meaningful ways?   


During the concert we attended, Brickman encouraged everyone to register to win two free tickets for a fan cruise with him. Naturally, we signed up in the lobby. As a result, I'm now on his mailing list and receive his newsletter, which takes the same tone as his performances. I never feel like I'm being pitched. It's more like an update from an old friend.

Question: How can you collect email addresses without making clients or prospective customers feel as if they've been tricked into giving you their contact information?

Related: 3 Ways to Creatively Follow Up With People After Networking Events

Contribution of value.

Brickman uses his newsletter to provide value for his fans. Here's one example: In July, he invited us to “share your music with Jim.” Fans submitted original songs to a website, and Brickman offered professional feedback on each piece. Five performers received a free masterclass with Brickman and saw their works featured on the site. In the same newsletter, he offered a free, livestreamed concert. Brickman values his fans and gives back to them. 

Questions: What product or service can you offer clients and prospects to add value to the relationship? How can you ask them to share themselves with you? How can you go beyond what they'd expect from you? 

Related: Four Ways to Give Your Customers Value


Brickman has a great sense of humor about himself and his music. He jokes around onstage, calling himself “America’s new romantic-piano sensation.” He then gently reminds the crowd he's been doing this for 20 years.

Question: How can you or your company project a funny or humorous image? Many people particularly enjoy self-effacing humor because it humanizes a larger-than-life personality or brand. 

Related: No Matter How Much Experience You Have, There's Always Something New to Learn


Remember that fan cruise? It's a twice-a-year event, and each trip lasts an entire week. (This month's destination is Alaska.) The cruises provide yet another way for fans to connect with Brickman and his music. “Being with Jim and enjoying his intimate piano concerts at sea is just the beginning,” the promos promise. These popular cruises sell out quickly, which means Brickman is building a community of fans who are loyal and will tell others about his music. 

Question: How can you build a tribe, loyalists, followers, a group or a sense of community among your customers? What would that look like for your business? How could it increase sales and word-of-mouth?

Related: 6 Reasons 'Community' Matters in Business -- Your Business  

Shawn Doyle

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Shawn Doyle is a professional speaker, author and executive coach. He is the president of New Light Learning & Development, a company that specializes in training and leadership-development programs.