News You Can Muse

16 Dec

If you’re over the age of 45, you probably hadn’t heard of the band Muse—at least not until they opened for U2 during its 360 Tour a couple years ago. Before that, they had gained acclaim and hit the charts in 2003 (and had been playing since the mid-90s), but the U2 tour grew their fan base exponentially. As a result, they hit a new chart this year—the Forbes Celebrity 100. Arguably among the least recognized names on the least, Muse ranks tied at #47 with a one-year gross revenue of $76 million and net income of $35 million (both figures in U.S. dollars). We’ll never know how things would be for Muse had they not opened the shows during the U2 tour, but it’s certainly safe to say their sales, fame, and income wouldn’t be what it is.

So, the question is, what can you do to partner with a complementary entrepreneur to further both of your efforts? This is what happens when bands tour together. In the case of U2 and Muse, the benefits to Muse are obvious, but U2 benefited as well in reaching many (notably younger) Muse fans who may have had a lesser acquaintance with U2’s music. Likewise, in whatever venture you have, at least consider the possibility that your “competition” may actually be a potential partner. You may even team up among many promotional partners—much like bands do when they are billed on festivals. Sarah McLachlan created the very successful Lilith Fair in the early ’90s that boosted her own career but also that of many other female rockers of the time. Likewise, Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction started Lollapalooza in 1991, which went on to promote and feature some of the biggest rock acts of the 1990s.

Share with us your ideas and experiences with promotional partnerships like this.

(By the way, U2’s earnings for the same year were $195 million, solidly planting them in the top spot among rockers on the Forbes list. Their 360 Tour set a record with sales topping $700 million, surpassing the Rolling Stones Bigger Bang Tour’s $554 million a few years earlier.)

Entrepreneur or dabbler?

14 Dec

One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make is taking on too much at once. Or I should say, taking on too much before you’re successful at one thing. This is understandable because, after all, the DNA of entrepreneurs compels us to start stuff. The problem, though, is the confusing message it often sends out to the world, as well as the dissipation of energy and attention.

I met a woman a few years ago who was selling custom scarves online, writing a book, looking to start a cafe, and getting her real estate license. I forget what else she mentioned. While I commend her Renaissance spirit, purely from a business standpoint (and she did say she wanted to be financially successful, not just have fun) she was making it harder on herself. My guess is, few people at the party where I met her walked away with a clear idea of what this woman’s about, other than being a dabbler.

If her pursuits where all under one brand umbrella, then it might be different. Conceivably, she could tie two of those ventures together, like selling custom scarves and opening a cafe, but that’s about it. The book could tie in, if the intended reader were very much within her target audience for the cafe and scarves — but that would still be pushing it.

The point is, 99% of the time, success comes to those who focus on a very singular pursuit to the exclusion of other opportunities or interests. I think this is a major, unspoken challenge for many budding entrepreneurs. We tend to think that if we throw enough stuff against the wall, something will stick. But look at the stories of successful entrepreneurs (and rock stars), and you’ll see this is not their story. Mark Zuckerberg was very singularly focused on making Facebook a success, as was Gene Simmons with KISS. Jeff Bezos started Amazon as an online retailer only selling books, while Bono helped start U2 to only make great, socially conscious music.

The good news is, you can keep your additional interests and dreams close to your heart, because success in one area will open doors later in others. Amazon now sells everything. Bono promotes and participates in many ventures. Gene Simmons has a TV show. And Mark Zuckerberg is trying to tackle problems in the U.S. education system. Not likely, however, that any of them could’ve achieved their additional (and possibly more meaningful) successes without having focused on making their first venture successful.

What’s in a name?

8 Dec

Perhaps nothing needs to be as unique to any band or business as its name. And the name must be memorable. While having a longer name doesn’t necessarily mean people will forget it, nearly every successful band has been wise enough to choose names of only one or two words (and businesses would be wise to learn from that).

Spelling helps, too, whether intentionally misspelled (Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard, Linkin Park) or simple to spell (Rush, Yes, Kid Rock, 311, U2). “I like our name because it’s easy to spell,” said Ric Ocasek of the Cars. Likewise, guitarist-vocalist Paul Stanley is credited with coming up with the KISS name because it was easy to remember and spell. (To make it more prominent in text in the era of the typewriter, they spelled it in all caps.) After all, if your name isn’t easy to remember and communicate, how will it be easy to spread the word?

In fact, more-complicated names will often evolve to shorter ones as people naturally seek to make them easier to say and remember, such as FedEx (once Federal Express), IBM (International Business Machines), and Nabisco (National Biscuit Company). Fans often refer to Led Zeppelin as simply Zeppelin, Black Sabbath as Sabbath, and Iron Maiden as Maiden. As with IBM, popular, long band names often became acroynms—Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO), and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (ELP). More often, however, bands with long names simply don’t last. For every They Might Be Giants or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, there are many that never made it (and still, both bands’ names are often shortened to TMBG and CYHSY).

Sometimes, it’s hard to come up with a name, though. And with the dominance of the Internet making a good domain name important to your brand effort, you need a name that’s truly unique in order to find a dot-com name that’s not taken. Look all around you for inspiration. Names often come from the most unlikely sources, but if you don’t keep your eyes open, you won’t see it even if it’s right in front of you. Here are some sample rock band names and their inspirations:

  • Lynyrd Skynyrd — Based on a high school teacher named Leonard Skinner.
  • Spandau Ballet — Graffiti on a bathroom wall.
  • Grateful Dead — Jerry Garcia saw the two words next to each other on a page and they jumped out at him. (LSD can cause that to happen.)
  • Pink Floyd — Despite rumors that it’s a phallic euphemism, the name actually came from two blues musicians: “Pink” Anderson and Floyd Council. Interestingly, Pink Floyd originally went by the name Meggadeth, almost twenty years before the metal band Megadeth.
  • Fleetwood Mac — In 1967, guitarist Peter Green and drummer Mick Fleetwood decided to start a band in place of the one they were in and wanted the bassist, John McVie, to join them. McVie wanted to remain in their existing band, however, so they successfully enticed him by naming the new band “Fleetwood Mac.”
  • Seven Mary Three — It’s been misinterpreted as having a Biblical meaning, but it actually came from the 1970s’ hit TV cop show CHiPs. Officer Jon Baker’s unit number was 7M3, called on the police radio as “7 Mary 3.”

But be careful your inspiration isn’t unattractive, difficult to remember or say, or already taken:

  • In the film That Thing You Do, the Oneders had to change their name to the Wonders because their manager (played by Tom Hanks) was finding that people didn’t know how to pronounce it.
  • The Doobie Brothers were originally named Pud.
  • Audioslave found out their name was already being used by another band in England, so they paid the English band $30,000 to use it. Ironically, they were later panned by critics for having an “assinine” name that was “one of the dumbest” in recent history.
  • Chances are, Sex Maggots wouldn’t have become a multi-platinum band if they hadn’t changed their name to Goo Goo Dolls.
  • And grunge may not have taken the rock music scene by storm in the early ’90s if the bands Mookie Blaycock and Pen Cap Chew hadn’t renamed themselves Pearl Jam and Nirvana, respectively.

So, what’s in a name? Sometimes everything.

National Entrepreneurship Month

4 Nov

President Obama has proclaimed November to be National Entrepreneurship Month for 2011.




From inventing the traffic light to developing the artificial heart, our Nation’s doers, makers, and entrepreneurs have proven time and again that, in America, it takes only a single good idea and the courage to pursue it to change history. In fulfilling this simple promise, these visionaries play a critical role in sparking new industries, expanding our economy, and generating new job growth across our country. This month, we celebrate the remarkable and everyday successes of our entrepreneurs and innovators, and we reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that our economy remains the engine and the envy of the world.

Earlier this year, my Administration launched the Startup America initiative, which accelerates the success of our entrepreneurs by unlocking access to capital, cutting red tape, and expanding mentorship and educational opportunities. The initiative works to improve the climate for all high growth companies, and includes specific provisions to bring expertise and services to entrepreneurial scientists, students, immigrants, and veterans. Startup America also coordinates action across the Federal Government to bolster private investment in early stage companies, helping ensure that our best ideas have a chance to get off the ground and into the marketplace. By making it faster and easier for entrepreneurs to turn new ideas into new businesses and new jobs, we are building an innovation economy that will propel our Nation into the future.

To fast track our startups and enable them to bring products to market more quickly, I signed the America Invents Act in September of this year. This essential legislation will help entrepreneurs and inventors secure a patent three times faster than they can today, drastically cutting the time it takes to roll out novel technologies and products. The Act will also improve the quality of our patents and do more to give entrepreneurs the protection and confidence they need to attract investment, grow their businesses, and hire more workers. We stand at a moment when our Nation’s economy must become more dynamic and flexible than ever before, and these reforms will help us meet this challenge.

My Administration is also working to create new opportunities for collaboration within the private sector. Run by and for entrepreneurs, the independent Startup America Partnership has assembled an extensive network of mentors, advisors, investors, and established corporations to share strategic assets with our country’s next great innovators. This movement harnesses the agility, intelligence, and ingenuity that has powered our success for generations and uses it to fuel our growth in rapidly evolving, global markets.

The task of making America competitive throughout the 21st century is a job for all of us. By cultivating innovation on our college and university campuses, we can inspire the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders.  With the help of experienced entrepreneurs and companies, and through events like Global Entrepreneurship Week, which begins on November 14, we can ensure our startups have access to the resources, connections, and partnerships that will promote their success. To encourage great ideas in all parts of our country, our lending institutions, foundations, and investors can finance vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems that extend to our rural and underserved communities. By pooling our talents and investing in the creativity and imagination of our people, we can move forward with the spirit of hope and ambition that has defined our past and will drive our Nation in the years to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2011 as National Entrepreneurship Month. I call upon all Americans to commemorate this month with appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.


Mention in U.S. News & World Report

3 Nov

Lee landed the first media mention of NO BROWN M&Ms! and not a bad one at that—the U.S. News & World Report website. Read the article to learn “9 Money Strategies for Creative Thinkers.”

No Brown M&M’s! now available

21 Oct

Whichever e-reader you have—Kindle or NookNO BROWN M&M’s! is now available for both, at only $2.99.

Don’t have one of these e-readers? No problem—you can download either, totally free, as an app (for your smartphone, tablet, or computer). Take your pick or get both:

Kindle app

Nook app

And of course, we’d love to hear your feedback (bad rock music pun) on the book. Once you’re ready, please review it on either or both Amazon or Barnes & Noble. We certainly welcome comments here as well.












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