Bon Jovi and Business

Bon Jovi and Business

This past weekend I was watching the MTV European Music Awards and saw that Bon Jovi received the “Global Icon Award” at the telecast in Madrid, Spain. Now, we can debate the actual merits of this honor all day long, but beyond the award is what it represents: After more than 25 years in the music business, Bon Jovi is more relevant and successful than they’ve ever been.

As I watched them receive this Global Icon Award then close the show with a medley of their hits, it got me thinking about who else even comes close to their stature in music today. Can you think of a band that has been around as long as they have that continues to put out new music that people care about? The only other act that comes to mind for me is U2.

Readers of this blog know that I think about two things often: music and marketing. So, I started thinking about how Bon Jovi has achieved such sustained and explosive growth over the last 25 years and how this strategy could be modeled into business.

TOMMY AND GINA

With all the changes in music over the last two and a half decades, Bon Jovi has never veered from who they are. They know that songs like “Livin’ on a Prayer” put them on the map and they celebrate those songs today. Too often bands (and businesses) try to do whatever is hip and new and they end up looking silly and out of touch. Stick with what you know and do it well.

INNOVATE

I realized I just told you to stick with what you know, but you can still pursue innovation while still being true to your DNA. Bon Jovi released a greatest hits of sorts a few years back called “This Left Feels Right.” It was a collection of their biggest hits totally reworked with new instruments and melodies. A couple years after that they released “Lost Highway,” an album of country -inspired songs featuring some of the most popular artists in Nashville.  With both of these projects there were things that worked well and some that seemed like they were done more for the band’s own amusement. Either way, Bon Jovi decided that they wanted to stretch the limits of their comfort zone and do something unexpected. In the end, it still sounded like Bon Jovi and it served to show the world that they could pull off the unexpected on occasion.

In business you should be thinking the same way. Stay true to who you are, but don’t be afraid to take controlled risks and make what you do better. Just because something’s been done the same way for years doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way to do it. In the end, either way, you learn from it and you move onward and upward.

LEAD. IT’S NOT A DEMOCRACY

Regardless of what you may think and see in the media, Bon Jovi has a leader and it’s Jon Bon Jovi. Sure, they’re a band and they each have some say, but in the end, JBJ is driving that ship and it all falls on him. He’s had a hand in writing almost all of their catalog and he alone creates the setlist for their shows every night. They are a well-oiled machine of leadership and execution.

In business it’s crucial to have someone doing the same. In this startup world I know it’s the dream to gather a group of your friends and start a company. Make sure you know who plays what role. Who is leading your venture? Who on the team is responsible for executing on that leadership vision?

I know it’s much more rock n’ roll to not think about having a leader and just relying on the bonds of brotherhood to carry your band (or brand) forward, but it seldom works that way. After a while there will be disagreements of opinion and hurt feelings and before you know it you’ll find yourself on tour in London with no bass player.

RESEMBLANCE

I’ve been thinking a lot about which company draws the closest parallel to Bon Jovi in terms of longevity, innovation and relevance. To me, that company is Apple. Like Bon Jovi they went through some ups and down throughout their existence, but they’ve stayed true to their principles and have risen to the top of the technology mountain. They’ve continued to innovate and created products we didn’t even know we wanted, yet managed to stay true to their roots and stay true to their principles of form, function and ease of use. Finally, they did it all with Steve Jobs at the helm. The people at Apple never strayed from him and passionately believed in his vision. In fact, I’ve never seen a single person so tied to a company’s image and values as Steve Jobs is to Apple.

WHAT DO YOU GOT?

Whether you’re a fan of Bon Jovi or not, you can’t deny their impact in music. They have sold 130 million albums worldwide over a 25 year span. Currently they’re on tour selling out arenas and stadiums all over the planet. It’s safe to safe they are at the top of their game. That said, I hope that reading this post triggered some creative thoughts around your business. Sometimes going back to basics is what it takes to get us over a hurdle and to the next level.