Lean Startup for the Music Industry

This evening I went to the SV New Tech meetup in Palo Alto, CA hosted by Vincent Lauria and was again impressed at the release early, release often mentality that pervades Silicon Valley. But since enough has been written about the theory and execution of lean startups, I thought I’d mention an application which I don’t think has been tried: Music.

I’ve played music since I was four years old and played in more than one band. Actually I’ve released more than one album to the deafening silence of no audience, so I have to wonder if the lean startup / customer development methodology could help aspiring musicians. But more importantly, would any musician dare to try it?

Most people go into music “for the art,” which is code for “I don’t want to admit that I’m a narcissist looking for attention and sex.” They come with the inviolate idea that this is “my” music and it’s an expression of “my” personality which is not open to compromise and certainly not open to being influence by the audience. In doing so, they often sign themselves up for years of self-flagellation as they play to spartan rooms of only the bestest of friends who can stand to see them play for the 30th time this year. Sounding bitter yet? Don’t worry, I loved it and would do it again, probably in the same way.

But still, is there really just one way musicians can express themselves musically and get creative satisfaction from it? Most musicians love a number of different genres and will play in a number of different bands. We all have different facets that we can display to the audience, whether it’s a polka, swing tune, or death metal march. So why do we pretend it’s any different than starting a business or developing the next big software startup? If a front-end web developer announced that they wouldn’t make the signup button bigger because it clashed with their artistic expression of their soul, it would be laughable. So why not with music?

As I mentioned, no one gets up on stage without an implicit desire to be seen, so let’s be realistic about it and listen to the audience. As with software startups, have a soft launch and see what styles of music work for you. Don’t worry about a few wrong chords, is there a market for this music/product? Do you have product/market fit? If not, time to find a new product, or start shopping your product for a new market.

I think a good twenty pages could be written on how to apply lean startup methodology to bands, but I’ll leave that for others to write. But one last thing, what type of bands do you think have the highest success rate? My guess is cover bands. Not because they’re tapping into a pre-existing market as a low cost competitor (although that certainly helps). Many cover bands take their built in audience and then branch into their own material, testing it in front of a live audience of their target customers and seeing what works. Huh…sounds like customer validation to me.

Discussion (2 comments)

  1. Micah Condon says:

    I think this applies to musicians as well as other types of artists. I’m actually starting work on a customer development process / tool at artisbroken.com, for visual artists -will be starting a couple case studies soon

  2. startupsquare says:

    Interesting. I’d be really interested to hear how and if artists are able to adopt to that methodology. Is there are blog for it?

  3. Pingback: What can be done to make tech entrepreneurs as attractive to girls as rockstars and sport stars? - Quora

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