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Guest blog post by Steve Sammartino from Rentoid. Steve is also hosting a Startup School in Melbourne (Nov 7-8) and Sydney (Nov 21-22). It’s highly recommended by me (Mick) as Steve has great, real experience buildings startups – with success and failures – and combines it with tornado strength passion. Don’t miss it. I’ll try and drop by.

Short video with Mick and Steve on startup momentum. Love the equation;

Momentum = mass x speed.

When you’re a startup you have negligible mass, so it’s all about speed.

Startup Lessons from Rock Bands

By Steve Sammartino

Driven by passion. Many years ago I wanted to learn to play the guitar. Not because I wanted be famous or even in a band. I just wanted to play. I wanted the thrill of being able to do it. To play the guitar to myself. The desire was strong an internal. It wasn’t to impress anyone or achieve external recognition. This happens to be a pretty good reason to want to get into business as well.

Rock stars start simply. A banged up old guitar or drum kit will do. It’s rare indeed to hear of any musician starting out with a Jimmy Hendrix style Fender Stratocaster. More likely the cheapest instrument your mum can find, or a rented one will do. If the musician is serious about their passion, they wont mind. They are happy to learn with equipment that will do the job. So why some entrepreneurs think they need the latest technology or deluxe office set up is a mystery.

Start in the bedroom or garage. Learning in a low risk environment is the key. It encourages experimentation and the artist to truly develop their own style. Just like cottage industries, the garage is a great place to build anything – weather it be 3 minute rock songs or a world changing widget. In fact, this is the time successful rock bands look back on with the fondest memories.

Learn on the job. Once the band is formed and they can play a few tunes, they don’t hesitate to try and get a gig. They get out there and learn on the job. Bands will take any gig they can get. If a pub will hire them, they’ll play. Because bands are smart enough to know they need as much practice they can get in front of an audience. Our startup products are no different. We are selling them to an audience, and the more interaction we have with them, the more refined our product or service will become.

They change their initial line up until the chemistry is right. They aren’t afraid to sack band members who aren’t serious about their craft. Or those who don’t have the talent needed. They know their team is the game winning element. Not the technology (the guitars and drums)

Boot strap their products. Rock bands don’t wait for a record deal to get their product distributed. They cut their own records on 4 track recorders or their PC. They design their own logos, record covers and print their own labels. They then sell their CD’s at weekend markets, their gigs, and on line. They just get it out there and done. They know they can improve their product as they progress.

Self promote. We’ve all seen guys and gals from bands handing out flyers about their up coming gigs. They put up wall posters on city buildings and sign posts late at night. They get their friends to come along to their gigs. A little bit like live beta testing.

Develop the market. They do this by touring around the country. Thy take their music to the market. To the pubs where the live music early adopters are. They don’t wait for fans to find them. They go out searching for them.

Leverage trends. There is a theory that a good song is a good song, regardless of which genre it is played in. This is why many remakes of songs in different genres still become hits a second time around. Smart rock bands know this and follow the trends. When grunge was big in the early 1990’s, a lot of new bands sounded that way. Simply because the market wanted it.

Ignore scaling until needed. Rock bands don’t buy PA systems big enough to rock out the MCG. They upgrade when the gig requires it, not before. A good lesson for startups, who tend to worry a little bit too much about how scale, before the demand is present. Ability to scale is the problem we should be hoping for.

Adore their fans. Usually called customers in business, but we should really treat them the same way successful rock bands do. They know that every fan matters and adore and respect them accordingly. I often hear famous rock bands talking about the fact that every gig matters. If we took this approach with every customer interaction (which are what their gigs are) we’d do well.

They stay the course. Rock bands rarely give up a few months in. They sleep on floors and eat canned food until their craft can pay it’s way. And usually take a large number of years before they make it. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were together for 8 years before their break through album Blood Sex Sugar Magik.

It’s pretty clear what entrepreneurs can learn from rock bands. But probably shouldn’t be that surprising. A rock band is a start up in it’s purest from where the Venture Capilists are the Record Companies. But there’s no doubt we should all apply lessons, patience and hard work that goes into any rock success story.

Thanks Steve, love it.

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