Category Archives: Business

Music Education: The Gateway to Career Success

WGN Chicago Interview
WGN Chicago Interview

When my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music was published in 2009, I believed that as the pace of change in the business world continued to accelerate, the concept of Music & Arts education as prerequisites for success would become more mainstream. Innovation and creativity are skills that must be practiced, developed, and refined. While we’re not there yet, it seems that the instances of testimony and observation regarding that connection are becoming more and more frequent.

Here are a few from news sources around the web:

(FORBES) “These Business Leaders Do Their Jobs Better by Applying Lessons from the Performing Arts”

(HARRIS POLL) “More Americans Believe Music Education Contributes to Career Readiness”

(NY TIMES) “Is Music the Key to Success”

(WORDPRESS:  BUSINESS MUSICIAN) “From the Band Room to the Boardroom…9 Lessons of Music Education that Translate into Success”

(CTV NEWS OTTAWA) “Canadian Astronaut Touts Benefits of Learning Music”

(MAKING MUSIC MAGAZINE) “A Law Office with a Musical Side”

(CNN) “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Music Class” (Hey, that sounds familiar!!!)

(THE GUARDIAN) “Music Graduates are More Employable than You Might Think”

Our Music Education Advocacy army is growing. Stay tuned…

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Climbing the Wall Together

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga at the GRAMMYS (courtesy Billboard.com)

I read a business book once that said (paraphrasing) that increasingly in the 21st century, rather than competing against each other to see who can climb the wall of success first, businesses will join hands and scale the wall together (I apologize for omitting the reference, but now that I’m AARP eligible as of last week, I suppose instances of memory loss will become more frequent). The metaphor essentially emphasizes the importance of collaboration in our economy, for a number of reasons – ease of purchase from the customer’s perspective when multiple businesses offer a wider array of services, project teams with a broader perspective generating ideas, greater geographic reach, cross-training, etc.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of collaboration is the ability to reach out to new customers by sharing customer and contact lists. The introduction to new customers through your business collaborators brings a sense of credibility.

Take the case of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.

The duo’s collaborative effort, the recently released Cheek to Cheek album has hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. According to USA Today, the joint jazz album sold 131,000 copies in the week ending Sept. 28 (Nielsen SoundScan), making Bennett, 88, the oldest living act to earn a No. 1 album.

Lady Gaga’s youthful fan base and her pop success might have given older generations pause when she crossed over to jazz standards, categorizing her as simply the next passing trend in the pop world. But Bennett’s seal of approval provides a reason for mature fans to take a closer look and listen with an objective ear. Conquering different genres can be a key to longevity for many in the music industry (Elvis Costello, Christina Aguilera, Elvis, Sting, Pat Benatar, to name a few).

Likewise, Lady Gaga’s participation brings a continued sense of “hipness” to jazz standards, and exposes Tony to a new generation of potential fans.

Have you thought about collaborative partners for your business or artistic endeavor?

 

Lessons Businesses Can Learn From the Pharrell Williams Song “Happy”

Pharrell CoverThe song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams is one of the most remarkable successes in music history by any metrics. It’s easy to be cynical and to criticize something that has been given so much exposure, but the truth is that this song has resonated with people in a way that few songs or artistic works of any kind have.

Here are a few things that businesses can learn from the song’s success:

1. Find the Platform for Your Product and Focus Your Efforts There:

According to Williams himself in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, efforts to get airplay and to promote the song through traditional radio went nowhere. But once the video was released, the song simply exploded. The audio simply didn’t fully convey the effect that the song had on its listeners – primarily the compelling urge to dance and move when people listened to the song.

Lesson:  Businesses often spread their resources too thin by trying to cover all advertising or social media platforms. Or perhaps they stick to the platform most comfortable because of familiarity or because it’s the standard in their industry. Remember that your business and perhaps each product or service has unique qualities. For some, Pinterest is better than Facebook, and pay-per-click is better than television, but in some cases the opposite is true.

Identify your uniqueness and find the right match to deliver the message to your customers.

2. Don’t Fight the Copyright Infringers, Embrace the Opportunity

As a part-time songwriter, I don’t want to trivialize the importance of respecting copyright and intellectual property when it comes to artistic works. But when people around the world began making their own music videos dancing to the song, Pharrell Williams took great pride in his fans taking ownership of his song. There’s a quote attributed to John Lennon: “Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.”

Lesson:  While record companies were engulfed in lawsuits over people who were ripping and sharing files copied from CDs, Apple was focused on a business model that could capitalize on the public’s appetite for the .mp3, a digital file that would make the customer’s complete music collection portable. In the information age, there will always be people who don’t play by the rules. In most cases, it’s more productive to focus your time and energy on the opportunities than the technical legalities.

3. Your Product or Service Isn’t For Everybody

At last count the official music video of “Happy” had over 400 million YouTube hits. It also has about 95,000 “dislikes” or thumbs down ratings. Everybody has different tastes, and some people are simply contrarians who refuse to embrace a pop culture phenomenon. Pharrell doesn’t seemed phased by the nay-sayers.

Lesson:  Find your audience/customers and understand them. Give them what they want when and where they want it in the delivery platform or distribution channel that makes it convenient for them. And don’t let the critics ruin the experience for those who enjoy what you have to offer.

4. Let Potential Customers See How Much Fun Your Current Customers are Having

We all believe that we have the fortitude to march to our own beat and ignore what others think or say, but the truth is that we are a flock mentality. If it’s successful or popular, most of us are intrigued, and if it’s a failure (or perceived failure), we avoid it like the plague.

Lesson:  Photos, videos, web testimonials – there have never been more ways to conveniently share the message that your customers love your product. Offer incentives and easy ways for your customers to share their story and experience loving your product, service, or company.

Why Your Worst Music and Band Students Might be Your Program’s Best Assets

Bus Flip ChrtMusic Educators do a great job of tracking and celebrating their most successful artists. High School Band Directors invite their former student band members to come back as a featured guest performers. University music programs bring back their most successful performing graduates to lecture students, give concerts, or hire them as adjunct professors.

I overheard a private piano teacher proudly boasting that one of her former students performed on a nationally televised show recently. I’m sure she knew at every step of his career where he was studying, who his influences were, where he had performed, and what he had recorded. She was beaming with pride as she spoke, and she had every reason and right to do so.

Yet what about those former students who only continued to play music recreationally or for relaxation? What about those who quit playing music altogether after they left school? Do you know where they are today?

Your music advocacy efforts will have limited impact if you can only demonstrate that you were able to nurture the talents of the gifted artist. The success of your efforts to provide broader funding of music education programs for all students will require testimonials from successes of a different kind.

How about the doctors, engineers, and sales professionals who point to performing in front of a live audience, learning rhythm/timing, or collaborating with other members of an ensemble as building blocks for their future careers outside of music? Where are they, and what do they have to say about that experience? Sure, you believe in the universal benefits of music education and you tell anyone who asks how beneficial that exposure can be, but are you engaging those who can tell that story in a personal and objective way?

Biz-Music_1in-w

From a career in sales and sales management primarily outside of the music business, I can tell you that a salesperson’s assertions are not nearly as effective as a reference or testimonial from a satisfied customer. When I hear a customer telling a friend or colleague in casual conversation what a pleasure it is doing business with my organization,  I know that my job of winning over that prospect just became easier by leaps and bounds.

I know that keeping track of former students is difficult. So is making a living as music educator these days, so you get my point.

My high school alma mater picks one football game a year and invites band alums to come back for a few rehearsals, then they perform with current students at halftime. What a great idea.

Keep a directory, invite music alums to your concerts and events, and let them share their story – regardless of whether or not they can still carry a tune!

List of Articles on the Correlation Between Music Education and Success

FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM…The 9 Common Lessons of Music Education that Translate Into Success

Music Makes You Better in Math and Science: And Why That Argument Doesn’t Work

Woman-Violin-Clipart-1You’ve seen and heard the evidence regarding the correlation between music education and math and science scores? That’s a great argument in your music education advocacy efforts – if you’re willing to continue to play second fiddle to other subjects in the hierarchy of education funding. This hypothesis concedes that math and science are top priorities, and that music is only a vehicle to enhance one’s ability to excel in those subjects. While cranberry sauce enhances the taste of turkey at Thanksgiving dinner, in difficult times we’ll do without cranberry sauce, but not without turkey.

I’ll assume that most who follow this blog believe in art for art’s sake. We believe that the arts in general and music specifically enrich our lives. As Winston Churchill once said when told that significant cuts to arts education would be necessary to fund the war efforts, “Then what the heck are we fighting for?” or words to that effect.

Yet when push comes to shove in allocating resources to our learning institutions, those subjects traditionally seen as the primary prerequisites for success in the workplace are given top priority. Art for art’s sake is simply not a compelling enough reason to fund music education programs in times of budget shortfalls.

In the early part of the 20th century, Dale Carnegie taught public speaking classes at the local YMCA for a very modest fee. He was amazed at how many disenchanted technical professionals in industries such as engineering sought out his courses. They had been led to believe throughout their education years that technical proficiency was the key to success. The real world workplace shattered their perception. They quickly learned the reality that softer skills such as communication, collaboration, leadership – dealing with real people with different personalities – were the keys to career advancement and success.  And those are the skills that are so effectviely developed and enhanced through music education.

Besides, many of the technical aspects of the engineering and science fields are being handled by high-speed computers or they are being outsourced overseas. Not that Math and Science are no longer important – they’re just not enough.

Yet there is good news on the horizon. The 21st century workplace is changing, and the skills needed to succeed are changing as well. As articulated by such authors as Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, and John Kao, the sensitivities of the artist are skills needed in the workplace now more than ever. In the book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future,” Pink articulates that the ability to create products and services that have a unique genesis or story, make an emotional connection with customers, and have visually appealing attributes have never been in greater demand.

If the world is changing such that the sensitivities and skills of the artist are becoming increasingly necessary to succeed, then why choose a music education advocacy stance that concedes 2nd tier priority? Your thoughts?

Musicians Thriving in the Business World: The Evidence is Mounting

WGN Chicago Interview
WGN Chicago Interview

When my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music was published in 2009, I believed that as the pace of change in the business world continued to accelerate, the concept of Music & Arts education as prerequisites for success would become more mainstream. Innovation and creativity are skills that must be practiced, developed, and refined. While we’re not there yet, it seems that the instances of testimony and observation regarding that connection are becoming more and more frequent.

Here are a few from news sources around the web:

(FORBES) “These Business Leaders Do Their Jobs Better by Applying Lessons from the Performing Arts”

(HARRIS POLL) “More Americans Believe Music Education Contributes to Career Readiness”

(NY TIMES) “Is Music the Key to Success”

(WORDPRESS:  BUSINESS MUSICIAN) “From the Band Room to the Boardroom…9 Lessons of Music Education that Translate into Success”

(CTV NEWS OTTAWA) “Canadian Astronaut Touts Benefits of Learning Music”

(MAKING MUSIC MAGAZINE) “A Law Office with a Musical Side”

(CNN) “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Music Class” (Hey, that sounds familiar!!!)

(THE GUARDIAN) “Music Graduates are More Employable than You Might Think”

Our Music Education Advocacy army is growing. Stay tuned…

Creativity: It’s Not Just for Kids Anymore…5 Keys to Creativity

According to an IBM study of 1,500 CEOs conducted in 2010, creativity is the most important quality of 21st Century leaders. Creativity and the creative process are hard to define, and can vary depending upon the nature of the work you are doing.  However, we do know certain characteristics common in creative people:

  1. Woman light bulb1The “Creativity Muscle” – The capacity to be creative is like a muscle – it either strengthens with use or withers with inactivity.  So you want to be creative? Take time to read a book, paint a picture, write a song, or snap a few photos – and do it consistently.  Don’t have time? Close your eyes and visualize something completely from your imagination – a vacation paradise, a fictitious form of transportation, or a prehistoric animal. Do it 5 minutes a day.  Everyday!  (THINK MUSIC AND ARTS EDUCATION ARE A WASTE OF YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION TIME?  THINK AGAIN!)
  2. If You Believe You’re Creative, You’re Creative – Have you heard the quote, “Those who believe they can and those who believe they can’t are both usually right?” Creativity studies show that people who believe that they are creative tend to be creative. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Besides, we’re all born with the ability to be creative. If you doubt it, watch a group of 4-year olds when a teacher tells them to take out their crayons and a blank sheet of paper.
  3. Be Fearless – Creative people are fearless, and don’t worry about mistakes.  If you’re a manager who tends to have punitive measures in place in your organization, whether formal or informal, you’ll get consistent results from your employees.  Consistently mediocre.  Until the rewards of innovation are greater than the consequences of failure, your organization will never foster creativity.
  4. Awareness – There are ideas all around you.  Do you ever notice them?  Drive down the street.  Every sign you see – someone made the decision which color it should be, where precisely it should be located, and the font of the lettering.  Most great ideas are spawned by simple observations.  If you’re sleepwalking through life, you’ll never make them.  That cashier at the convenience store where you stopped for coffee this morning – what was her name (she had a nametag, I’ll bet), what was she wearing, what color was her hair, and how many people were in the store at the time…See what I mean.
  5. Reset Button – In his book The War of Art author Steven Pressfield discusses the mindset of the artist.  Paraphrasing – the artist doesn’t define his or herself by a particular piece of work.  They understand that it’s just one item and tomorrow there will be another blank canvass, ball of clay, music manuscript paper, etc.  Some efforts will be better than others, but it’s just a process.  Like a cornerback in football who just gave up a touchdown pass or a pitcher who gave up a home run, shake it off… AND GET BACK TO WORK!

 

This Time Shall Pass: Learning to Play a Musical Instrument

Woman-Violin-Clipart-1According to independent survey results cited by NAMM, the trade association for music retailers, over 80% of individuals who never learn to play a musical instrument regret that they didn’t take the time to do so. When I attend home shows and people pass our booth, we often encourage those intrigued by the pianos to consider lessons. Our adult beginner classes are so enjoyable that participants never want to leave.

The number 1 response? “It’s too late for me to start now.”

What a shame.

When I set out to publish my book “Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music” several years ago, it seemed like a daunting task. Conducting and transcribing dozens of lengthy interviews, condensing them into readable segments, writing, re-writing, re-writing, re-writing…

Then someone gave me some great advice that I’ll never forget:

“The time will pass anyway. You might as well get started. You will either look back in 2-3 years and say ‘I did it,’ or you’ll be saying ‘I wish I had.”

It’s that simple.

10 Business Meeting Creativity Ideas

10 BUSINESS MEETING CREATIVITY IDEAS
by Craig M. Cortello (Article available for reprint with author and website acknowledgment)

Developing an innovative spirit in the workplace doesn’t require extraordinary measures. Managers can experiment with simple ideas that merely break routines, allowing your employees permission to drop the façade that we all don to some degree when we punch the clock. Here are a few ideas that will help you lighten things up for your staff and get their creative juices flowing, if you have the courage to take the leap:

1. Dart Board
Start every staff meeting by allowing everyone a shot at the dart board. Best shot gets to kick off the meeting, appoint the moderator, or tell what they did over the weekend. Starts things off on a playful note and gets your people out of their chairs. For safety purposes, stick with the magnetic or Velcro variety.

2. Colored Markers for the Flip Chart
Sounds simple, but we are programmed from an early age to correlate the amalgamation of colors with the awakening of our imaginations. If you need further evidence of this phenomenon, observe a classroom full of first graders the next time a teacher instructs them to put away their math books and take out their crayons. And experts agree that the key to creativity lies in the ability to awaken the child inside each of us.

3. Music Creativity
Ask each team member to write a 4-line verse to a song that relates to their job duties, hobbies, business ideas, etc. Go around the room and ask them to sing, rap, or simply recite (military cadence perhaps) their verse. Print the compilation in the next company newsletter to get a little PR for your department or office (others in the organization might want to transfer in when they realize that you’ve given your staff permission to have fun).

4. Music Creativity II
Ask your staff to bring in a CD with a song that describes their personality, work attitude, or how their weekend went. Play excerpts before the meeting for a laugh.

5. To Serve Mankind
Ask your staff to convey what they did over the weekend that was a service to another person, charitable organization, or noble cause. Vote to determine whose action was most heroic and award a gift certificate to the winner, let them leave work early on Friday, or take a longer than usual lunch break. This will encourage your staff to think of new ways to develop a sense of community. It will also help your people feel good about their co-workers, get to know them better, and give them a sense of pride in the organization.

6. Vocabulary Expansion
Ask your team to bring a rarely used or obscure word to the next meeting. Have them use it in a context that is applicable to your business.

7. Memory Exercise
Read a list of 10 or 15 things, preferably something related to your business, your industry, or to a customer and give an award to the person who can commit the most items to memory. This exercise can help your staff become more familiar with your organization and with your customers. Memory development is also a key to developing new customer relationships that will help your business prosper.

8. “If I Ran This Place…”
Ask your staff what they would consider the ideal job, the ideal workplace, and the ideal location. You can’t transform your place into utopia, but you might gain some insight into feasible, marginal changes that will improve things. Now that you have them thinking without barriers, ask them what they would do first or different if they ran the company, office, or department. This one takes some courage and is not without risk, but you’ll be surprised by the answers.

9. Show and Tell
Have your staff bring something that they’ve created, that they are proud of, or from their childhood that the group would find interesting or funny. Demonstrate an interesting or unusual talent, perhaps. We loved this game when we were in kindergarten, and for some reason they made us stop playing as we got older.

10. Top 10 Lists
Until David Letterman decides to pursue intellectual property infringement, go ahead and try this one. Give a topic at your staff meeting, and ask for the answers the following week. Remember to keep it clean and non-offensive. Have your staff rank the answers and use a point system to determine the winner.

We would never ask our employees for quality without offering the resources, direction, systems, and commitment to develop procedures that ensure improvement in that area. Yet we ask employees for creativity or to “think outside the box” all of the time without giving another thought as to how to initiate the creative process. Take the first step and give your staff permission to shake things up a bit at your office. You’re likely to see some changes – for the better!

Quote of the Day: MCG Jazz Founder Bill Strickland

Today’s quote comes from Bill Strickland, Founder of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and MCG Jazz. We’ve featured Bill in a previous video post here entitled The Arts: Giving Hope to the Hopeless.

“The sand in the hourglass flows only one way. Don’t waste precious time chasing someone else’s definition of success. Live your life with purpose now. Look for the things that inspire you, trouble you, make you feel most alive, and trust in those things to shape your future. They will give you all your heart could ever wish for.”

— Bill Strickland

Link to Bill’s inspiring TED speech on the importance of arts in his work.