What Can Music Teach Us About Business?

Posted by Simon Rose on Jun 2, 2020 4:53:01 AM


For those that know me well, they know I am passionate about music – dance music, specifically - but I will listen to anything. And, during this period of coronavirus-enforced lockdown, I have been consuming more music than I have been able to for years by watching some of the DJ livestreams on YouTube, whilst also honing my now DJ-hobbyist skills at weekends.

What struck me was the amount of music being reworked, reproduced, republished, or covered, from when I used to play out in pubs, clubs, and discos in the 90s. I suddenly caught myself asking “why?” – why not just leave great tracks alone? Why the need to resurrect something? Why is there no new creativity around? Great tracks like Bananarama’s 80s disco classic “Cruel Summer” and Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” making it into the dance echelons, Chicane’s brilliant classic trance album “Behind the Sun” getting a 20 anniversary remix of its tracks and even “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice seeing a transition to the 4-4 beats of House Music – and there are many more I could name.

Of course, examining those questions in more detail, I really already know the answer. A lot of these tracks can often get lost in time, undiscovered by younger generations. There’s an opportunity – through new interpretations – to improve on what went before. The chance to allow new talent to emerge through the attention brought by an update of an old classic and, of course, a yearning to keep pushing the boundaries, to keep improving – even knowing all music is based on just thirteen notes, amazingly much variation exists. But we mustn’t forget that the continued revenue stream for original composers, publishers, and artists is also assured through the cycle of re-releases, covers, remixes, and so on.

But what does this have to do with businesses, you ask?

Dangers Ahead

We are not through the pandemic by any means, however, the scale of the impact to the world’s economy is becoming painfully clearer, day by day. The UK is entering recession territory with an estimated deficit in excess of £330bn, over 20m unemployed in the US, predictions that as many as one third of businesses may never re-open, and things we took for granted (such as hairdressers, train and air travel) likely to take years to get back to normal – if they ever can.

Changes to life as we knew it will be profound. The ‘new normal’ will rob society of many of the pleasures it was used to, that it sought out in free time, with many of us becoming scared to venture back to work, scared of visiting the very shops and businesses that rely on our custom. And we are at risk of more of us developing phobias, such as agoraphobia, which will devastate livelihoods.

With government debt around the world piling up from the massive injections into government loan and furloughing schemes, how these unprecedented levels of intervention are to be paid back into the government coffers raises several potential challenges. With the goal being to return the economy to health, increasing taxes – and thereby decreasing the money available to consumers and businesses to invest – is counterintuitive; never mind the potential impacts from austerity measures.

Whilst this is not a blog on tax and spend policies of governments, we need to recognise the very dangers presented to business and industries. The double threat of the significant impact of COVID-19 on our industries – already threatening hospitality and travel out of existence – and future threats of high taxations as reparations for state intervention, means that the immediacy of plotting new directions is of paramount importance.

Inevitably, the current dangers threaten our futures, but so do the roads ahead. Adaptability is our new watchword. Businesses in all industries face a decade of change, and the change necessary will prove challenging for most, and the very process of adapting may, sadly, see the loss of more businesses to bankruptcy, mergers, or acquisitions.

Like the Phoenix, We Will Rise

The landscape in even 12-months’ time will be very different. Businesses of all types will be in the process of contemplating how they move forward, how they bring back the much-needed custom, how they adapt their premises and modes of delivery for their products and solutions, and, ultimately, seek to offset the ensuing tax increases which could depress commerce even further. The key question is, do they try to revert to normal, or take the opportunity to develop for the future – the long-term future? And, include the level of future resilience and flexibility needed of their business continuity plans.

Much like the reworks of classic music tracks, business operating models need to be refreshed and it starts with strategy. Several critical questions will need to be asked and answered as soon as possible for many firms. For example: What direction should an individual business set for themselves, and should it be allied to the direction of their own industry or be much more individual? How should the organisation be re-established to meet the new strategy and demands of the ‘new normal’? To what extent can staff be redeployed, reskilled, or be released, to ensure the survivability of the business? What level of new technology is required to help execute the new strategy and how will all of this interface with a viable location strategy – which allows as many roles as possible to be remote, whilst also allowing essential onsite roles to be able to operate safely until social distancing is relaxed? And, finally, how do you deliver all this without unintentionally risking breaking the business.

We’ve seen some businesses, sadly, already fold and many more are in a precarious state. Yet, the creativity and innovation our population has in its midst provides for the opportunity to develop new exciting businesses for the future or surprising reinventions of existing businesses – allowing the phoenix to rise from the ashes, so to speak. Getting to the right business model for you will take some time, but the opportunity exists now – and is almost forcing you – to reconsider the transition to the future wholesale, not piecemeal. It is time for reworking the great tracks of the past to resurrect what still delivers stakeholder value and rework the chords that otherwise will prove irrelevant to the marketplace.

The Bottom Line

Like music, there’s also only so many genuinely new business models in existence, but these can be varied, adapted, and developed for each business and industry. And, like musicians, orchestras, and conductors playing Chopin or Mozart, the very deployment and the operating of business models will be different per business, just like musical interpretations today. Getting it right for your business is the challenge at hand.

The question for businesses today is, do you let Covid-19 drive and define your business model or will you utilise the opportunities at hand – new talent, existing experienced teams, and new technologies and ideas – to define your business’ future, securing it for the next generation and, as Steve Jobs once said “some people say, ‘Give customers what they want.’ but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do”, will you take measured risks to seek to anticipate future consumer behaviour?

Change is here, the new normal is the “now” normal. We can see that it presents a huge opportunity to ready and deliver our plans and businesses into the next ‘modernity’. The only other choice will likely be failure.

So back to the music point: identify your successes, harness them and keep redefining their future – the outcome may not always be great. But to keep trying, the continual improvement will deliver sustainable interest in goods and services, produce good and great solutions and ensure lasting success and continued revenues.

About SRM

At SRM, we’ve a long successful history of helping business, across many industries, both design and execute change. Our expertise allows our clients to adapt their businesses safely, improving their cost base and realising revenue opportunities with limited risk.

We’re open for business, we’re here to support you, our valued clients and prospects, with advisory and transformation services in this challenging time. We know consultancy is often seen as an unnecessary spend in times like this; however, our very independence and ability to cast a critical eye on a business can identify logical aspects of operational improvement and improve your bottom line.

Why not drop us a line at contactus@srmeurope.com to learn more about how we can help your business adapt and thrive?

Topics: COVID-19