Four Business Lessons From The Rolling Stones

This week, Mick Jagger turned 73 years old. Happy birthday, Mick. Contrary to the line in Almost Famous, he is still one of the world’s greatest rock stars, leading what is possibly the greatest rock band of all time.

Recently, Rich Cohen, author of the book The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones, was a guest on James Altucher’s podcast, of which I am a fan and frequent listener. During the interview, Rich explained that he has spent time with Mick and The Stones since traveling with them in 1994, and was heavily involved in Mick’s recent project on HBO, Vinyl.

There were four important lessons that I took from the interview:

-          You need to have great influences.

Mick and Keith connected over their record collections and the music that they liked in common. Their music was influenced by what they listened to, ranging from the blues, to reggae and even disco. I have been known to say that brokers treat their junior partners slightly better than they were treated when they started in the business. Choosing who influences your career is one of the most important choices you can make. The Rolling Stones wouldn’t be who they were if they weren’t listening to Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Muddy Waters.

-          Be open to change.

According to Cohen, Mick would go to dance clubs in the 90’s (while in his fifties) to hear what was making the kids dance. Some would argue that Some Girls is their last great album. It was the outcome of their roots in the blues being influenced by the disco that dominated the late 70’s.

-          You need a driving force.

Fortunately for the rest of the band, Mick was and remains that driving force. As someone once said to me, he has two jobs: he’s the lead singer for a band called The Rolling Stones and he’s the CEO of an international corporation called The Rolling Stones. While the other band members didn’t always like him, they all benefited greatly from his business acumen and drive. If you aren’t driven in that way, find a partner who is and can push you to reach your potential. Which leads to…

-          Find the right partners.

In the late 80’s, Mick put out a solo record and toured behind that album. The tour was not successful by his standards. His business manager at the time told him that people wanted to see Mick and Keith, not Mick or Keith. Some brokers partner up in the beginning of their careers, have some success and want to go out on their own. I am not saying you should stay in a partnership that doesn’t work for all sides, but if you are lucky enough to find yourself in a winning situation, don’t be so quick to go solo.

Later this year, The Stones will play a festival California with The Who, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters, and Bob Dylan. Fifty-two years after starting their band, they still sell out wherever they go, the iconic tongue logo on shirts and other merchandise as far as the eye can see. I promise you one thing: it’s not by accident. The Rolling Stones started with an idea. Luckily for them, they listened to the right records at the right time and they had the right CEO calling the shots. But I used The Rolling Stones in the title as opposed to Mick Jagger. After all, it’s Mick and Keith people want to see…not Mick or Keith.