The Ever-present Struggle

I am a semi-pro drummer. I’ve played for years with a few different bands, and although I don’t make a ton of money from it, I do not play for free, ha ha!

So anyways, to a non-musician, music can seem pretty complicated. And you know what? A lot of music IS complicated, but when you think of the most catchy, radio-friendly pop-rock type songs, they’re usually pretty simple and follow a pretty distinct format:

They’re usually be about two-and-a-half to three minutes long or so, and typically, they fall relatively close in tempo ranges. They’re simple, catchy, easy to understand, and once you know the formula as far as lyrics, tuning, timing, and structure goes, they’re actually pretty easy to replicate.

After a while, it gets to where you’re really just going through the motions without even really thinking about it because you become subconsciously competent. It’s like muscle-memory where after a while, the moves are just burnt into your brain and you’re just going through the motions without having to really concentrate at all. In fact, if you have to concentrate, you haven’t practiced enough and you probably shouldn’t be playing in public, haha!

Anyways, a four-piece bar band (like mine) is usually comprised of a:

  1. singer / guitar player
  2. lead guitar player
  3. bassist
  4. drummer

And they all need to be on the same sheet of music (both literally and figuratively speaking) on a few different levels. What I mean by this is that there are different:

  • tunings that songs were recorded in
  • lyrics
  • structures (not everything follows that sample format from above—there is variance, of course)
  • tempos & time signatures

So, if one guitar is in one tuning and the other is in something different, something about the song will seem “off” to the audience members and it will detract from the experience. If the song is originally recorded at a certain tempo but the band rushes things and plays it at twice the speed, the singer will sound like the Chipmunks as he tries to keep up and cram all the lyrics into that reduced amount of space. He’ll be out of breath and singing in a higher-than-he-should-be-in-key because when you rush words, the pitch of your voice raises, and then something sounds off to the audience members.

Some people like hearing a little bit of variance from the original recordings, but not by much. When you think about it, if you’ve heard a song that you consider to be one of your favorites more than a hundred times throughout your life, even as a non-musician, you still know how it goes, and when you hear something out of place or out of time, it just stands out (and usually in a bad way). It detracts from the experience—especially if it’s a sloppy rendition that’s played in the wrong tuning (or if the lyrics are wrong, or it’s way too fast or even way too slow).

And you know what’s crazy? Asides from musicians, no one really notices when a band just nails it and plays a song perfectly—but they sure notice when something goes wrong and is out of place! Remember from that neuroscience stuff from earlier: we’re much quicker to notice when something is wrong or out of place than when everything is just fine.

But anyways, here’s what happens when a band figures out all that structure and timing and framework for songs: they’ll consistently replicate the original recordings and provide the best experience when they play live. Here’s what they get in return:

  • Repeat business
  • Power to pick and choose where they play (or don’t play)
  • Respect from the bar owners
  • Loyal fans who make sure they never play to an empty place

Now, can you just imagine how this concept applies to the experience your organization provides during the pre-sale relationship (and beyond)? Organizations with different team members who do things in different ways, in this analogy, are like the sloppy bar bands where:

  • Half the band is one tuning, the other half is in the other—so something just sounds off
  • The song starts out right, but the drummer has a little too much adrenaline and Red Bull pumping through his veins, so the song takes off like-a-rocketship-and-is-going-way-too-fast
  • They get to the guitar solo part and the guy’s hitting all the wrong notes and you’re thinking: “I don’t play guitar but even I know that that’s not how it goes …”
  • The singer is singing the last chorus and the other guys are backing him up for that big sound, but they’re all singing different words and everyone in the audience is confused
  • All of this cacophony takes place during the first set, which causes the people in the bar to clear out
  • Second set starts at 10pm, but the bar is empty and the band is booked ‘til 1am … it’s gonna be a loooong night!
  • The bar owner says “thanks, but no thanks” when the band leader tries to book there again

Organizations with different team members who do things in similar ways who follow a communications framework and strategy, in this analogy, are like the tight, well-rehearsed bar bands where:

  • Everything sounds & feels just right
  • There are subtle variances from the original recordings, but for the most part, they’re 95% dead-on
  • They have their transitions from song-to-song down & they’re keeping the audience moving!
  • 2nd set kicks off at 10pm & the place is packed!
  • The bar’s making tons of money, the experience is optimal, and the bar owner can’t wait to get them back in (maybe he’ll even offer them a regular gig throughout the year?)

Now, I speak from personal experience with all of this—I’ve been on both sides of this fence with bands AND with marketing and sales teams at different organizations, and I believe this all really comes down to that ever-present battle that we all face of trying to find the right balance of logic and emotion.

Music has certain logical elements, like structure, timing, lyrics and tuning, and when all the elements come together just right, it creates that certain “feel” that takes you back to that special place (or gets you pumped up and ready to go).

But with playing music, just like in business relationships, if you focus too hard on the logical elements, it becomes very possible to lose that feel, and vice versa. Like, if you go on stage and wing it every time, then you’ll have some great moments, for sure, but they’ll be buried under the mess of an overall sloppy performance, which ultimately detracts from the experience your band provides. Or if you’re focusing too hard on the notes and timing, you’ll sound forced and inauthentic.

No matter how much or how little money you’re making, playing music should be fun, and realistically, so should interacting with others in both business and personal settings, especially when you’re legitimately helping people who came to you for help.

When you analyze the experience your organization provides, you’ll be able to identify the logical elements, get them all lined up just right with the right structure and sequence, refine the formula, and once you have it all down, you can then replicate that ideal, optimal experience that makes your clients feel right about doing business with you.

Audiences typically don’t know the band’s set list, tunings, tempos, all the notes—all the logical elements, basically—and typically, they don’t care about that stuff as long as everything feels right.

Everything mapped out here is the business equivalent of having the sheet music so that when your business unit “jams” together, they’re consistently delivering the best experience gig-after-gig-after-gig, no matter if they’re playing small, local bars or big stages at festivals.


Published by Thomas Hurley

I am a father, husband, drummer, boater, marketer, communicator, animal-lover.

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