Execution

1. Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is everything.

2. We do not live in a pitch economy, almost no one is buying ideas, they’re buying companies, they’re buying something active that is generating capital.

3. We’re all Missourians today, that’s right, we all live in the SHOW ME state. We want to see evidence of your success, of the implementation of your idea, we don’t just want to hear you talk about it.

4. Ideas are in the air. Many people are working on similar breakthroughs at the same time. While you believe your idea is unique, there’s a good chance someone else is aware of it and is trying to achieve the same goal and is working while you sleep.

5. Talk is cheap. That’s why it’s so hard to get someone of power to converse, never mind go to a meal. A professional can tell in just a few sentences whether you’re real. Furthermore, if you create something real these same professionals will be breathing down your neck.

6. Success is hard work and very few want to do the heavy lifting. Because it’s boring, because it’s challenging, because no one is paying attention, because it might not pay off in the long run anyway.

7. Too many people want others to do the work. They revel in their seats as they pontificate about the great things that can be achieved with their ideas. Why don’t they just make the effort themselves? Because they don’t have the desire. That’s the secret of life, we all follow our desires, our passions, and a mediocre idea with incredible follow-through by someone who cares about it trumps a great idea with lame execution every day of the week.

8. In the tech economy everyone believes it’s about the idea. But so many of the successful companies were not innovators so much as combiners of previous technologies with a bit of vision and great execution. Google didn’t invent search and Facebook didn’t invent social networking and Apple didn’t invent the portable music player. In each case someone else had the initial idea. But Google took someone else’s idea and employed algorithms to deliver the search results you always wanted but had previously been unable to find. Facebook regulated the marketplace, they created a social home that worked on all media, and found a way to eat Google’s lunch by figuring out advertising on mobile. That’s right, Facebook survives on advertising, they didn’t invent that model, they just refined it. And Apple bought SoundJam to build iTunes and threw FireWire into the pot to create the iPod. So don’t keep thinking about coming up with something out of thin air, but utilizing the already extant
blocks to build something new and desirable, in some cases just a better mousetrap. Yes, there is a first mover advantage, but only if the first mover has a great product that he keeps improving, staying ahead of the pack.

9. It’s easier to tell someone what to do than to do it yourself.

10. If you want something done right, do it yourself, because rarely does anybody care about it as much as you do.

11. What looks like a bad idea to some is a winner in the hands of another.

12. Opportunities are abundant, but most people are afraid to do the work.

13. If someone is telling you what you could do, you’re probably best off ignoring them, because you know better what you should do, and will put in the effort to make it a success.

14. What separates winners from losers is whether they’re willing to get their hands dirty. Behind every overnight success is a ton of unseen work.

15. It’s easy to judge, it’s much harder to do. But don’t think your efforts are sans judgments, because someone always has to buy to make you successful, whether it be an intermediary or the public. So if your product/service/music has no traction, there’s judgment right there, it’s not commercial. Too many people blame someone else for their failures when they should really be blaming themselves.

16. Don’t waste people’s time with unimportant details, what is important to you may not be important to them. An expert knows what has potential. Your pet project is irrelevant to them if they can’t make money with it. Respect others’ time and knowledge.

17. Many people don’t follow through because they don’t want to, not because they’re incompetent. While you’re busy lamenting you didn’t get a return phone call or e-mail, frequently that person is not tanning at the beach but expending effort on what will help him out and make him happy. Want to motivate someone? Think about delivering what they want.

Raphael Ravenscroft

He died.

Maybe you weren’t alive in 1978 when “Baker Street” filled the airwaves.

Gerry Rafferty was one half of Stealers Wheel which had minor chart impact with “Stuck In The Middle With You” and then came this.

Winding your way down on Baker Street

Some songs take you away. They pour out of the stereo and the rest of the world stops, time is made for the magic elixir that comes out of the speakers. You had to buy “City to City” just to hear this.

And “Baker Street” was magical in so many ways. The almost Broadway-esque opening notes, the intimacy of Rafferty’s vocal, the poignancy of the lyrics, and Raphael Ravenscroft’s sax playing.

Ravenscroft said it was out of tune, that he was paid in the neighborhood of fifty bucks to do it. But it made him a star, because people just needed to get closer to that sound.

You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now

That’s what Gerry Rafferty was doing. His moment of success was years behind him. That’s right, he had a mild hit, its longevity was unknown, this was long before “Stuck In The Middle With You”‘s revival in “Reservoir Dogs,” he could only soldier on.

And that’s what’s so frustrating about life, the trying. You keep reaching for the brass ring and it eludes your grasp. Life is ultimately about loneliness, the pursuit of the individual struggle and the failure thereof. Even if you win, it doesn’t last.

But most people never get the big victory.

Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now

I’ve been there, you’ve been there. Wondering whether you should give up. Lying alone on the living room floor, listening to your favorite tunes drunk on Carolans deep into the night, it’s the only thing that gets you high, that keeps you going, the music.

Not everybody is a hero. Not everybody is a legend. Not everybody is forever. Raphael Ravenscroft scored some major credits, he worked with Pink Floyd and Marvin Gaye, America and Robert Plant and Bonnie Tyler too, not that you’d know that if you didn’t go to Wikipedia. He was a journeyman. Whose time ran out.

Word is he had a stroke. He never recovered. Another musician gone before his time.

But his song lives on. It’s a part of rock and roll history. You may not know his name, but you know his tune.

Way down the street there’s a light in his place
He opens the door, he’s got that look on his face
And he asks you where you’ve been
You tell him who you’ve seen
And you talk about anything

Friendship. That’s all that matters in this life. If you have just one person who will listen to you, who’ll wrestle the concepts with you, you’ve won.

No one else is listening, no one else cares. But for this space of time, you feel connected, you feel vibrant, you feel alive.

He’s got this dream about buying some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
And then he’ll settle down
In some quiet little town
And forget about everything

Gerry Rafferty could not give up the booze. It killed him.

I don’t know what caused Raphael Ravenscroft’s downfall.

But I do know that at some point you surrender. You realize you want to steer, you want to be in control, but you’re not. What do they say, life is for the living?

That’s your goal.

Stop bitching that you’re being screwed by the system.

And know that great art triumphs. There’s never been a song like “Baker Street” before or since. It’s different, it’s iconic, it’s everything we’re looking for. And when it was cut Raphael Ravenscroft had no idea it would be a hit, his ticket to immortality.

Because that’s the way it always is. Life is not for the planners. It’s made for the risk-takers, the ones who are up for a lark.

You can’t do it their way, they don’t know how they did it anyway.

You’ve got to do it your way.

Our rock and roll history is made up of a plethora of people. Some who were here forever, some who lit up the stage only momentarily. But when one goes down, we all feel it.

I’m feeling it tonight.

You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Let me get over you
THE WAY YOU’VE GOTTEN OVER ME!

The weather changed. Traditionally summer comes late to SoCal and lasts late, September is the hottest month of the year. But this year October was just as blistering. It was like living in vacationland, everybody in shorts on hot nights, parading down the avenues…and that’s right, usually nobody walks in L.A!

But then it suddenly cooled. Which is quite a surprise. I thought we were living through that “Twilight Zone,” the one where the Earth is moving closer and closer to the sun. We’ve got no water, we’re dying from the heat, do we all have to get in our cars and drive to the North Pole?

But I’ve retired the fan. I don’t have to immediately open the windows in my house. The sun is at a different angle. Night falls early. And every song on the radio sounds good.

Maybe because this is the time of year I moved to L.A. It’s hard to fathom if you live anywhere else, it never really gets cold, the seasons do change, but you can wear a light jacket through Christmas, even though the locals don down.

And the auto a/c is not a necessity. And the sun doesn’t forbid an open roof. So I’m driving down the street, pushing the satellite buttons, smiling all the while.

And yesterday I heard “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”

For a long time the original was forgotten. The long, slowed-down Vanilla Fudge epic was the rendition of record. But it’s funny how the sands of time move. The Fudge have been forgotten, the Supremes live on.

And my favorite Supremes song is “Come See About Me.”

And I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for “Reflections.”

And I’ll never forget being introduced to the group via “Where Did Our Love Go,” which hit the airwaves about the same time as the Shangri-Las “Remember (Walking In The Sand).” I thought they were competing girl groups. Little did I know…

Set me free why don’t you baby
Get out my life why don’t you baby
‘Cause you don’t really love me
You just keep me hangin’ on

At age 11 it was a jail metaphor. Sure, I’d just had my first summer camp relationship, but that was all about tingly feelings, I had to get older to know torture. And it’s always the same, they always come back, however briefly. It takes all of their gumption to decide to go, they’ve made up their mind long before they tell you, and then they come back, what’s up with that?

Why do you keep a’ comin’ around
Playin’ with my heart
Why don’t you get out of my life
And let me make a new start

The track starts off with the chorus, always an appealing construct, but then the change to the first verse is purely magical. It’s like we’ve gone from mindless to sincere, declaration to meaning. It’s like Diana Ross is stopping the show to ask us, why does he keep engaging in this behavior?

You say although we broke up
You still gonna be just friends
But how can we still be friends
When seein’ you only breaks my heart again

I don’t understand this friends business.

I’m gonna set you straight, when someone says the breakup was mutual, they’re lying. Sure, it might have been bad, but someone always wants out first, someone pushes the button, pulls the ripcord. And why is it always this person, the one with the power, who says they want to be friends?

You know my life story, we’ve exchanged bodily fluids, now you’re gonna make like that didn’t happen? You can’t take back so much, once the rocket blasts into space it falls back to earth, there ain’t nothing you can do about it, the relationship is toast, let me try to get it out of my mind, forget it, so I can move on.

You claim you still care for me
But your heart and soul needs to be free
Now that you’ve got your freedom
You wanna still hold on to me
You don’t want me for yourself
So let me find somebody else

That’s what they always say, they need to be free. If this is true, why do they keep coming back to the ball and chain? If we’re so bad, and they tell us so, why do they still want us? And when you’re young, you’re susceptible to this message, you’re confused, you think there’s something wrong with you when the truth is your partner is weak. They say they don’t want to hurt you, but really they don’t want to hurt themselves.

Perspective is so funny. I just heard Richard Harris sing “MacArthur Park” on 60s on 6 and I was reveling in it, and I positively hated the track back when.

And then there’s stuff like “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” that I thought was a trifle, but turns out to be laden with meaning, it’s just that I was a couple of years and a couple of changes behind it.

And that’s a great record. Not only one that gives us insight into our lives, but continues to do so as we evolve. The track is static, but as our angle of vision changes, new elements are revealed.

But songs are different from people. Songs stay, people don’t. Songs are dependable, people are not. When you find someone you can count on, hold on, then again, do you really want to be free?

That’s the world we live in, one made up of those who want to stick and those who don’t.

But the truth is we all want to be glued together. It’s just tough.

So we listen to records to get us through.

You Keep Me Hangin’ On – Spotify

You Keep Me Hangin’ On – YouTube

 

My Day At Red Bull

Have brands trumped bands?

I was wondering this as I walked through Red Bull HQ today. With every seat taken, with young hipsters in front of their computer screens, it’s everything the music business was before Napster, when those coasting on CD profits, both replacement and buy one overpriced one to hear one hit track (remember Chumbawamba?) were rolling in dough and thought the good times would last forever.

But they didn’t.

Used to be the hippest store on the planet was Tower Records.

Now the retail emporium of choice is the Apple Store. They both feature a buzz, both give you the feeling you’re at the epicenter of what’s happening. But the profit margins on Apple’s gear is far superior.

But Apple is selling tools and the labels sold music. What is Red Bull selling?

Energy drinks.

That’s the difference between going to Red Bull’s offices and the record company’s, no one talks about the product. Then again, they kept telling me the consumable was just a gateway to so much cooler stuff, and they’re right.

The most impressive thing I saw today? The gaming studio. Sponsored by Nvidia, able to transmit competitions around the world. The “New York Times” has been talking about “League of Legends” for a week, Red Bull entered the space years ago. Because when it comes to popular culture, there’s always a first mover advantage. This is what the music industry lacks. We can’t even go social at the show. There’s no gamification, no points for buying tickets, the music industry is so bottom line it’s like a flophouse, with beds and nothing else.

And then there’s their television station. Or Media-something. Everything’s got a name at Red Bull, not that I can remember it.

But in this case, Red Bull is trying to take over programming. And it did a good job of this at Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits, where it streamed the performances but not only the performances, they turned it into programming, with hosts and interstitial material, knowing that raw data is neither sexy nor comprehensible, it’s what you do with it.

And it takes money to do this, and Red Bull is spending.

That’s the dirty little secret of the music business, everyone’s tight. You can’t get paid what you’re owed, never mind get help to promote. Red Bull paid for Skrillex to visualize his show in a loft downtown. Previously, it was only a two-dimensional computer image. But with the company’s help, Skrillex could build the props and see what they looked like in real life, because everything’s about experimentation, you rarely get it right on the first pass.

And Red Bull is experimenting.

It all comes down to their founder. And I could look up his name, I’ve forgotten it, but that’s just the point. In entertainment, the execs want to be stars, smart businessmen know the product rules. And once this guy noticed action sports heroes using the drink, he signed them up and capitalized on it. Red Bull was in action sports for two decades before they got into music.

That’s right, Red Bull is deep into music. They had a first class studio in the back of the building, where they give away time for free. But in return… They feature you in all their programming, in their magazine, they went on to tell me they’ve got relationships with every club in the world, because they all sell their main product, the energy drink.

And I think it tastes like horse piss. No, I haven’t consumed the urine of an equine, but I can’t imagine it’s much less satisfying. Then again, that’s the point, Red Bull is not made for me. It’s a club, of young ‘uns.

And the company is akin to a cult. The Hotel California. You can come in, but no one leaves. I was stunned that this employee had been there for nine years, another for seven years, before I’d seemingly even heard of the product.

And it makes me wonder, if you’re twenty years old today, where do you want to work, at the label or the corporation, Universal or Red Bull?

If you say the label you’re a wanker. There’s no upward mobility at the label. No risk. Old fart baby boomers have all the control. And the acts are all lower class denizens bending over to get reamed for a few shekels. It’s so sad I nearly want no part of it.

But music is the grease in so much of Red Bull’s machine. Music is important. It just doesn’t trump the brand.

Red Bull doesn’t ask for much. It only does deals that benefit both sides. It supports as opposed to dominating. There’s not endless signage and branding. It’s a twenty first century company. That’s right, one that knows consumer relationships are built on trust. And that you’re playing a long game.

But I still don’t think I could work there. Because there’s too much business and too little art. Everyone’s pedigreed, this one worked for Microsoft, they’re stars in marketing speak. But the soul is in art. But the artists have capitulated.

That’s right, I’m here to tell you Red Bull is cooler than almost all music.

Just when I’m down on the company, they load me up with movies that they financed, like the documentary on Shane McConkey, who had more charisma than anybody signed to Sony. They do put their money where their mouth is.

And they kept telling me the goal was to make all their initiatives self-sustaining. Music, gaming, television… To fiddle and fuss and get it right and then dominate. Kind of like Vice in news. But it turns out they’re already partners with Vice.

Welcome to the new world, where all the companies speak to each other. Synergy and networking rule.

But they don’t in art. Art is singular. Hell, the best work of the best artists doesn’t even sound alike. That was the magic of the Beatles, every track was different, we hung on every word. U2 spends five years to imitate themselves badly. The Dr. Luke hit factory resembles well made widgets instead of art. But art requires artists, unique people who are not eager to be members of society, who don’t do it to hang out with the tech titans but to express themselves, to speak truth to power.

But those people exited the building when it became cool to do endorsement deals.

And Red Bull’s deals are the coolest out there. They ask for little and deliver much. But you’re still hooking up with a corporation. It’s different for athletes, bodies demonstrate, artists think. You look at the athlete, you see inside the artist.

But who is Rihanna?

Who is Katy Perry?

Is Bono even a musician anymore?

No one’s satisfied with being an artist. Because they don’t believe there’s enough money in it. They don’t get that art trumps tech and Red Bull and that’s why these entities want to be involved with it.

That’s the world we live in.

Yup, about a mile from my house, in a nondescript brick building with no signage, the U.S. headquarters of the world’s biggest energy drink are housed. You see you don’t have to yell, you don’t have to promote yourself when you’re doing it right.

And Red Bull is doing it right.