Fine tuning the music of entrepreneurial life

One of my early entrepreneurial ventures involved the management of 5 talented musicians who formed the band ‘Twelve Angry Men’ in York in 1991.

It was my job to help make them ‘successful’…

Just listening to the lads perform in a dusty cold garage, it was obvious they had individual as well as collective talent. Not only could they sing and perform well, but the songs were thoughtfully crafted too. (Thanks to the digital remastering ability of their lead guitarist Duncan Bennetts, you can listen to a couple of their songs by scrolling to the foot of this article and clicking the links).

Success brings success

In a very short time, gigs were lined up in all the main York venues and the band started to get air time on the local radio station, Minster FM. Great reviews in the local papers duly followed, loyal fans began to emerge and it wasn’t long before the band had its first sell out gig. Everyone loved being part of it.

And with the success came money.

All band members agreed that the hard-earned income should be invested in new kit and an appropriate venue for weekly evening rehearsals. People were also keen to get into the recording studio so that tracks could be laid down (on tape) which were then sent off to the big record companies in London as well as the national music press.

Things just got better…

Within a few weeks of posting the tapes, an almost perfect review of ‘Twelve Angry Men’ appeared in the popular national music newspaper ‘Making Music’. Since my contact details appeared with the article it didn’t take long for the phone to start ringing with requests for the band to play on bigger stages in London, Essex and other far-flung places.

Excited by the prospects I invited the band around to my flat to discuss our next move. But that was the very meeting when everything fell apart.

Hard lessons

Two of the band members made it clear that they couldn’t commit to playing gigs more than a couple of hours’ drive away during the week because they had daytime jobs. And since the band had no guaranteed income they weren’t prepared to give up their work. The three that could play were gutted and a mood of misery set in. Three weeks later the band played its last gig and the lack of real interest that night on the lads’ faces was palpable.

Our inexperience of the industry had led us to wrongly believe that a record deal would always come first. Yet, if I had done just a bit of research at the outset I would have learnt that this was extremely unlikely. Likewise, if I had asked the lads what they wanted when I first met them (and what they would be prepared to sacrifice to achieve their goals), we would have all realised that different people held different ambitions.

Tip! As with hitchhiking, it’s vital you know where you’re headed when you start out. And when you’re working as a team it’s critical that expectations and aims are discussed early and preferably recorded.

I still have extremely good memories of Twelve Angry Men (even if it was an odd name for a band) and five of the six lads are very good friends and still in regular contact today. As importantly I realise that the music experience taught me some very important lessons.

I discovered that if one element of the overall mix isn’t right, any new venture or product is ultimately much more likely to fail. This is why many entrepreneurs fail on several occasions before they hit their jackpot. Alternatively, to get it right, you’ve got to take a little time, a time to think things over. It can save much heartache and pain (with apologies to Foreigner – ‘I want to know what love is’).

Key Learning Points for anything to have a chance of being really successful, absolutely everything (goals, talent, product quality, promotion, branding & packaging, price, timing, finances etc.) has to be aligned. It’s like threading a needle…

To sample the ‘wonders’ of Twelve Angry Men as you muse over the this article, click the links below. I hope you like the music.

Hit The Ground    The Real Me