Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Prince Was a Great Icon of Music - an Even Greater Entrepreneurial Leader

Prince - one of world's great entrepreneurs disrupted the music industry.
To most people the word "leader" is synonymous with being the boss of a group of people. The more people that work for you, the more the opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills.

Of course, many entrepreneurs understand that you don't need to have a massive payroll in order to  make a real difference to the world. Some entrepreneurs demonstrate great entrepreneurial leadership skills by disrupting entire industries for the betterment of the market.  And that's why this week's loss of the musician Prince has hit many people very hard. Not only has the world lost an iconic musician but it also lost a great entrepreneur who knew how to shake up the old way of doing things and bring about major innovation is his field.

Indeed Prince's achievements as an entrepreneur were chronicled by the Washington Post. (Jena McGregor.) Here are some of his key achievements:

As the many eulogies and remembrances of Prince rolled in last week, the towering pop star - in influence if not in physical stature - was called a "certified genius" by The Who's Pete Townshend. A "true innovator and a singular artist" by Apple CEO Tim Cook. A "creative icon" by President Obama.

He was also, in his way, a leader...  He was a leader when it came to innovations in music distribution, to the issue of musicians' rights, and to a push for artists' independent control. And his genre-defying sound had the ability to unite generations of music lovers and the musicians he influenced.
First Album Released Online
Way back in 1997, Prince was the first major artist to release an entire album online, according to a Webby Lifetime Achievement award he received in 2006, when he let his fans buy the three-CD set "Crystal Ball" directly from him over the Internet.

"Prince's leadership online has transformed the entertainment industry and reshaped the relationship between artist and fan," the group said, and noted that he predated more recent efforts to "premiere videos and new music, challenge distribution practices and connect with his fans."

Early Crowdfunding
While the 1997 release was problematic, with delayed orders and disappointment that it was not sold exclusively online, it helped carve a path for others to find new ways of distributing their music. As Prince fan and social media veteran Anil Dash tweeted last week, "Prince crowdfunded an album on the Internet, complete w/ Kickstarter-style late delivery to angry fans, 20 YEARS AGO. Your fave could never." He also gave away copies of albums with tickets to concerts and with issues of British newspapers....

Long before that, he exhibited an independence few musicians had dared, battling Warner Brothers in the early 1990s over the pace he released his albums, famously changing his name to a symbol and writing "slave" across his face in response. He returned to the label recently, with control over music rights.

"Prince changed the game," read a statement from Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted Prince in 2004. "He controlled the stage, he controlled the music and he controlled the media," Harris said, calling him "a driven leader who made us bend to his will, created a new path and inspired others to step up, just to keep up."

Even beyond his pioneering independence, he was a social advocate, one who wrote songs and spoke out on political issues and inspired the YesWeCode nonprofit to help open tech jobs to black youths.

And then, of course, there was his music, which crossed boundaries, defied genres and had seemingly unanimous respect among musicians and fans alike.

Few voices in our world today have that kind of reach...

So whether you make music on the synthesizer or use the keyboard to create software you have the chance to change the world for good... and in doing so really demonstrate the true meaning of entrepreneurial leadership. 

How can I change the world in this time of global uncertainty, I hear you ask.
Well if not you with your great entrepreneurial skills, then who?  And if not now, then when?