Rock Star CEOs

John Legere is selling a crappy product in a new way and winning all the while. He’s a rock star CEO.

Kind of like Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Slack, the cofounder of Flickr, who went ballistic on the “Wall Street Journal” today

Slack CEO explodes over editorial about the South Carolina shooting, says ‘f— you’ to Wall Street Journal

Used to be you kept your head down and played to the Street, stayed unknown so you could keep your career. But today’s CEOs, those who win, mostly from the younger generation, have a public profile, just like their audience. Every American is reachable online, except for the rich and famous, and this has got to change.

In case you’re unaware of who John Legere is, he’s the CEO of T-Mobile, the perennially fourth-ranked mobile service in America, which is suddenly stealing subscribers from Verizon and AT&T, not by providing a better service, but one that is aligned with customers, that purveys an image of rebellion and fairness, all embodied by the CEO.

In other words, we know who Shawn Fanning is. Sean Parker too. But ask the average person who the music business titans are and they draw a blank, to the industry’s detriment.

Except for Jimmy Iovine. Who wove a course of self-promotion that didn’t seem to be about him. Jimmy won the same way Legere is, by taking a staid marketplace and selling a second-rate product in a new way and taking market share from competitors. That’s the story of Beats. You can’t find a single person with anything good to say about their fidelity. But fidelity doesn’t matter, the same way T-Mobile’s second-rate coverage doesn’t matter.

Imagine if Lucian Grainge was a public figure. Imagine if Doug Morris were accessible. Michael Rapino too. It would aid the entire industry.

The story of the modern music business is the acts can’t get traction. In a cluttered space, it’s hard to gain notice, especially if you don’t have Top Forty hits. Rather than cheerleading, we get complaining. To the point where the public tunes out. A public that is so overwhelmed it consumes new music at festivals, where they’re captive and can graze, tuning in to see what you’re like. That’s the story of the teens, how you put out an album and it’s over in a week, once your fans have bought it you’re dead in the water. Acts don’t realize you lead with your live show, the record comes later, kind of like the Grateful Dead. You make fans on the road who then dial you up on Spotify. To try to convince people otherwise is fruitless, especially since you can’t make any money with a hit single, because you have no career and that’s the only money you’re going to get, and we all know the big money in music is on the road.

So we need someone to mix it up.

In a world where rich CEOs dominate the culture, we need music’s rich CEOs to steer the public. To have personalities and turn fans on to new sounds.

In the music business everybody is great and everybody is a star.

Only they’re not.

Imagine if Lucian tweeted about his new favorite act. People would check it out. As long as he didn’t tweet everybody on his roster, especially if he tweeted an act that WASN’T on his roster!

When the baby boomers die, the music business will look completely different. The old farts are only in charge because of catalog, which is leveraged to keep them in power, the barrier to entry for young ‘uns is too high, so they stay away and music is poorer for it.

Of course you can say that execs should stay out of the way and let the stars shine. But that’s old school thinking. Back when the stars were really such. Neil Young takes on Monsanto and the young ‘uns ask how they can sell out to the corporation. If a CEO were outrageous, it would be a beacon to his roster.

It’s not hard.

It starts on Twitter. That’s right, that’s what the service is good for. As long as you speak the truth.

No one’s got time for the rantings of nobodies on Twitter, but that’s where you get access to the somebodies, especially the real bigwigs. And you can tweet and the CEOs get back to you, I know, I wrote about Legere and he instantly responded. I didn’t think I flew on that guy’s radar. But he’s reading everything about his company.

There’s so much to say about music. The tunes themselves, the acts, the grosses, the financial shenanigans. In an era of transparency driven by tech music is all about keeping it under wraps, it’s out of touch with the times, which is very sad, because music used to lead.

This is coming. Because competitors in cutthroat battlefields need an edge, and the socially-connected kids know this.

1. Who should I sign? Tweet and ask the public to weigh in, engage people.

2. Give away tickets online. Or graduate people from the peanut gallery to the front row. Sure, bands do this. But Michael Rapino is selling tickets every day of the year.

3. Complain and explain. Why you can’t get a good ticket, what the best strategy is.

4. What kind of private jet you’re flying on. Everybody knows you fly private, don’t try to hide it, fans eat up this information. And tweet pictures of who is with you, whether known or unknown.

5. What you’re eating. Food rules, even more than music. Food trucks broke on Twitter, CEOs can use the service to the same advantage.

6. Go off topic, everybody’s three-dimensional. When you only talk about your own business in glowing terms people tune out.

7. Be negative, be edgy, complain and compete. This is Legere’s strength, he’s not ready to play nice, and you shouldn’t be either.

P.S. To learn more about Legere, read this imperfect story in “Fast Company”:


Or follow him on Twitter, where he’s got 1.38 million followers exposed to his twenty tweets a day: @JohnLegere

P.P.S. Even more interesting in “Fast Company” is the story on Shake Shack:


Keys to its success? High quality and slow growth. Millennials are all about natural. Pat LaFrieda is the Beatles of meat and that’s what Shake Shack uses. The music industry is McDonald’s, literally. It’s trying to stuff an old paradigm down a younger generation’s throat. Millennials want authentic and honest. More credits, illustrating the artists involved actually did the work. And those who become instant stars rarely last. You have to grow slowly, learn from your mistakes, adjust, wait for the public to embrace you and spread the word. Anything jammed is ultimately rejected by the masses. Don’t start with backlash.

P.P.P.S. Twitter is not the only forum. Certainly use Instagram, but also do interviews, make news, something music CEOs rarely do, unless they’re bitching.

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