As a young hungry entrepreneur who hasn’t quite made it yet, I am always looking for different forms of inspiration. One of these places I find inspiration is music. I love a lot of music; rock, hip-hop, alternative, indie, edm, and even some country. One of my favorite artist out right now is Macklemore. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’ve probably heard of him. He’s had the #1 song in the nation “Thrift Shop” for a couple of weeks, has received world-wide attention for standing up for same sex marriages, and has became quite the YouTube sensation. I am proud to say I’ve been a Macklemore fan for a while now. I don’t mean to brag but I started listening to him about a year before his #1 selling iTunes album “The Heist” came out. I actually purchased his album, the first album I have legally purchased since “The All-American Reject” (Yes, sad, I know) in Junior High. I’ve learned quite a few valuable lessons about entrepreneurship from Macklemore’s story and music, and I would like to use this opportunity to share them with you guys.
Find a great co-founder
The article is titled what entrepreneurs could learn from Macklemore, but truth be told, these are really lessons that can be learned both Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Ryan Lewis is Macklemore’s producer and business partner. Like all successful businesses, you need co-founders with complimentary skill sets. Ryan Lewis makes some of the coolest beats out right now, and Macklemore rips them apart and makes them marketable. Ryan is the hacker and Macklemore is the hustler. You always need someone who can build a product and someone who can sell it. Great businesses are ran by even greater people. If you believe that your business could be successful without the co-founders you have, then you probably choose the wrong co-founders. Find a great co-founder who will become an irreplaceable part of your business, the same way Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are irreplaceable parts of the music they create.
Perfect your craft
Macklemore believes it takes 10,000 hours to become truly great at something. Although you may need less than 10,000 hours to make a lot of money doing something, the fact of the matter is that perfecting your craft takes time. Macklemore stated that him and Ryan Lewis spent around 800-900 days in their small 500 square foot studio creating their album “The Heist” which propelled them into the mainstream. Many entrepreneurs know what it’s like spending hundreds of days in their small office, dorm room, or parents garage building an application, waiting for the day they’re able to launch it and share it with the world. Perfect your craft, don’t rush things. If you haven’t spent many sleepless night working on your business, then you’re probably not working hard enough.
Macklemore’s song “Thrift Shop” may seem just like a funny catchy song about thrift store hunting, but it’s actually a song about being financially literate and not giving into consumerism. The music video shows a important lesson; you don’t have to put yourself in debt to be cool.The same principal applies to Business. When start-ups receive funding they are usually quick to purchase expensive offices, thousand dollar ergonomic chairs, and cool but expensive assortments. You don’t need the best of everything to be the best. Bootstrap, stay lean, and just remember that you don’t have to purchase the most expensive equipment and toys for your startup to be “cool”.
Avoid taking VC money if possible
In case you didn’t know, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis made it on their own without the help of a record label, and they don’t see themselves joining one anytime soon. Macklemore has even voiced his indignation with major record labels in his song “Jimmy Levine” which he attacks record labels and the sometimes shady deals they make with artist. In the song he says “Rather be a starving artist than succeed at getting fuc#ed”. I understand that Macklemore is the exception and the majority of recording artist need a record deal to market and distribute their music, the same way that most companies need funding to pay for expenses and hire talent. Exception or not, Macklemore is living proof that you don’t need to have financial backing (Record Label = VC) to be successful. The point is focus on building a product rather than raising funding, and if all possible, avoid taking money from the man.
Leverage social media
This one may seem like an obvious one, but even techpreneuers sometimes underrate the value of leveraging social media effectively. One of the main reasons Macklemore was able to become so successful without a label was through his utilization of social media. Social media and the Internet are now giving an artist a medium to share their music and blow up without a label in ways that would have been impossible just 10 years ago. Macklemore already had a strong social media following on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube a long time before his album “The Heist” came out. Selling 78,000 copies of The Heist in the first week alone, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took out major label recording artists Mumford & Sons and Jay-Z for the #1 spot on iTunes. 83% of The Heist’s first week sales were digital downloads, this just validates the fact that the majority of Macklemore’s fans come from online communities.
The key to Macklemore’s social media success? Constantly delivering fresh content. This holds 100% true when it comes to any business trying to leverage social media. This means you have to be constantly updating your company’s’ blog and social media accounts with fresh content that people actually want to see. Only 1 in 4 posts on a brand’s social media page should be related to the business’s product or service. The other 3 out of 4 post should be helpful content related to the industry (e.g. a email marketing service giving away free advice on how to write great email copy ). This way brands can make their engagements with their consumers more genuine. You may not be able to create as cool content as Macklemore, but hell, don’t let that stop you from trying.
There are plenty of more lessons that I have learned from Macklemore, but I just wanted to share these main 5 with you, as I believe they are the ones that I have benefited from most. I would like to leave you with some wise words from the man himself:
“Change the game, Don’t let the game change you”