9 Lessons In Success From SA Band, Goodluck
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Players: Ben Peters, Juliet Harding and Matthew O’Connell
What they do: GoodLuck is a South African electronic music band
Goodluck started out as a side project hustle. The band’s founders Ben Peters and Juliet Harding didn’t know anything about how to produce electronic music; all they had was their collective love of the genre and a vision that they could perform in more venues if they changed things up.
“We didn’t know that we were pushing the boundaries of how electronic music could be performed live,” says Juliet.
“We just innovated in the face of the challenges that we experienced on the way to achieving our goals.”
From a dream to a South African band who opened up for international superstar Pharrell Williams in 2015, Goodluck’s Ben, Juliet and Matthew share the lessons that have brought them from visionaries to entrepreneurs and musicians.
1. People buy people
“This is the biggest lesson that we’ve had to learn,” says Ben. “It doesn’t matter how exceptional your product is. If your market doesn’t connect with who is behind the brand, they cannot feel why they should be buying into you or committing to what you’re producing.”
“We’ve learnt that without that connection it’s impossible to move our market past just a surface-level consumption of our music and into the kind of relationship that is brand fervor,” agrees Juliet.
“You end up just another song on a playlist. We have to be consistently communicating what our brand ethos and culture is to help people connect with who we are. It’s personal, honest and authentic, and it has nothing to do with our product and everything to do with our brand.”
2. The root of success is getting the right product to market
“In many ways, most musicians in South Africa also have to be entrepreneurs. This is the foundation of the music industry, and why so many musicians go on to be successful in other forms of business,” says Ben.
“Whether it’s busking on the street, hard selling to people walking by, or filling up a stadium – you have to know how to connect with your market.
“If you can’t figure out how to win them over and get them to part with their hard-earned cash for an emotional experience, you won’t be successful.
“At the end of the day, we are a product-based industry that trades in feelings, so your entrepreneurial spirit has to be strong.”
3. Build your knowledge
“Our advice to other musicians and entrepreneurs is to spend time getting to understand all of the different elements of your industry,” says Ben.
“You don’t need to become an expert in any one of them. This is not about being a jack of all trades; it’s about knowledge. Knowing when to hire the experts is more important than trying to be the expert.
“Your role as a musician is about making the musical product, it’s not about being the best social media guru, publishing specialist or event promoter. But if you don’t know enough about all the departments that affect your market, you will get ripped off at some point.
“Have your vision of where you want your career, business or brand to go and pick the right people to help you get there. No one can tell you which mountain to climb, they can only help carry your bags on the journey to the top.”
4. Understand your core – and outsource the rest
“This relates to the previous point,” says Juliet. “We have DIYed nearly every element of the music industry at some point or other (as most startups have). Yes, it was great learning from those experiences, but at the end of the day all it did was take us away from our core purpose – writing songs for our fans.
“In the early days it’s vital to be juggling both, but you cannot sustain that. You have to start finding the right team to surround your brand. A record label that understands how to amplify your music message, a booking agent who can find you the good shows, a publishing house that can protect your rights and connect your writing with the world, a manager who can help oversee all of these partners and assistants who can action the myriad tasks of every day – these have all been vital components of our success.”
5. Always be evolving
“We recently opened The GoodLuck HQ, which is so much more than a recording studio and event space,” say Ben and Juliet.
“It’s our home base for all of our different initiatives. We need to keep evolving, and this is an environment where we can host international artists, songwriters and producers who haven’t experienced what South Africa has to offer.
“We love to collaborate and we have lifted the bar on what a creative space can look and feel like, which is an incredible currency to trade with international talent.
“It also means we can put down some proper roots into the local industry. The reality is that carrying your brand around in your backpack gets pretty tiring. It’s so wonderful to know we have a space where we can come home to; a base for our team to feel proud of and visual representation of who our brand is.
“It’s a reflection of our creativity and playfulness – not everything has to be so serious – some of our most important decisions are made on our chill-out net and not in the boardroom.”
6. Let product/market fit develop naturally
“In many ways, our market determined itself,” says Juliet. “We created the product, brought it to market, communicated our brand ethos and then watched to see who reacted.
“We never set out to target any one particular segment. We made music from our hearts and waited to see who would tune in. It’s incredibly inspiring to look at the back-end data of our social platforms and see the diversity of our fans.”
Ben agrees. “Through this, we’ve developed our mantra, which is to trust our gut. We do what we love – and we believed when we started that we could add something to this genre and this industry – and our passion has attracted like-minded people. We just needed to show them who we are.”
7. Get an outside perspective
“Mentorship is one of the most critical elements of growing a business. It doesn’t even have to be related to your industry, but the perspective and wisdom of a mentor is worth its weight in gold,” says Ben.
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“You also need to balance work and your lifestyle, which is another element of keeping your perspective. I believe that all work and no play makes Ben a bad business person, so I try keep this top of mind,” he says.
8. Be the driver of your vision – not a cog in it
“As a team we fell into a rut of being too focused on task completion,” says Juliet. “We got too involved in being the cogs of our machine and not the drivers. You lose sight of the why of your business and get totally consumed in the ‘what you need to do’, and that doesn’t inspire anyone, from your team to your customers.
“Finding the balance between time spent doing and time spent dreaming brought back the why of GoodLuck. We lost our raison d'être and it took some big lessons to make us stop spinning on the pedals and find it again.”
9. Be consistent
“This was a big lesson that we needed to learn,” says Ben. “We weren’t consistent on our social media platforms, but if you’re consistently creating content, uploading it and engaging with every responder, the dots connect so much faster, not just from the perspective that your market feels connected, but also the algorithms of the platforms recognise the relationship you have with your followers, the consistency of your posts, and connect you to more of your market.
“Ten years ago, fans felt inspired to ‘subscribe’ to a brand, the engagement was real and the communication was honest.
“Online platforms have changed the ecosystem and algorithms now force you to spend money to reach audiences that asked to subscribe. It’s also become so noisy now, what with every brand trying to create the most evocative, loud or suggestive content, that trying to cut through the clutter is incredibly difficult. The user has become numb, and trying to reach them with an authentic message is harder than ever. We’ve found that consistency in message and posting plays a large role in success on this front.”
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