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What rock stars can teach start-ups about success

In January, HSBC’s Paul Bloxham told US financial news channel CNBC that the banking corporation was picking New Zealand to be “the rock star economy of 2014”. The tag line seems to be attaching itself also to business leaders. Rod Drury (of Xero fame) has been variously described as the rock star of accounting and a technology rock star.

Is being identified as a “rock star” the new New Zealand dream? If so, how does one achieve this elusive status? Are there any insights to be gained from actual rock stars? You know, the ones that are musicians.

Jeremy Redmore was the frontman for Midnight Youth. The band’s album The Brave Don’t Run was certified platinum in 2009 and won the Best Rock Album at the New Zealand Music Awards. Genuine “rock star” credentials.

Talking to Redmore about the journey of Midnight Youth highlights parallels between the challenges facing a band pursuing rock star status and those facing a startup company aiming to create a successful business venture.

Commitment to work hard and invest in the dream seems to be one of the cornerstones of success. The Midnight Youth “founders” worked long and hard to ensure that they were able to deliver on their ambition to make world class music.

They believed in their ability to do so and they were alive to the idea that they needed a market to share the musical experience and recognise the value in what they were delivering.

Starting with a “minimum viable product” the band took their music to the market, testing their songs with audiences in countless live performances. If something didn’t work they would refine it and improve it and test it again until the product resonated with the market.

Equipped with a collection of well tested, refined and honed songs Midnight Youth self-funded  the investment they needed to create a world class album in a New York studio with a top producer.

They surrounded themselves with well picked advisers who were able to assist them to make the connections they needed to promote the product and access distribution channels. Their chart topping singles grabbed the market’s attention and the album sold.

This approach provides valuable insights into what is needed for an entrepreneurial venture to achieve rock star status. Focus on executing early, roll out first iterations of a product and use customer feedback to pivot and improve it.

Use bootstrapping, or self-funding, coupled with the right advice to identify the affordable steps that can be taken to continue to move the venture forward.  

And once a venture achieves rock star success? Be ready to innovate. The innovation competency has become a critical success factor in business today. The music industry is a hot bed of business model innovation, with the disruption created by digital distribution causing massive introspection.

Redmore is now reinventing his own business model too as a singer/songwriter.

His self-produced solo album, Clouds are Alive, debuted at number six on the album chart in July.

Fittingly, he will be performing live at the New Zealand Innovators Awards on October 15.

Jonathan Boswell is the CEO of boutique law firm TGT Legal. He has a keen interest in innovation and entrepreneurship.

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