Practical Pragmatism

Old habits die hard. This is so much true with the kind of music that you listen to now. If you’ve been a ‘heavy metal’ fan, you’re probably still listening to the same old bands and then some of the new ones that sound almost similar to the older ones. Ditto for jazz enthusiasts. As you know, I used to dig hard rock and alternative rock. I still do. The only exceptions I ever made were for two jam bandsDave Matthews Band (DMB) and O.A.R. I found their music much relaxing and free-flowing compared to my preferred genres.

And while I still listen to DMB and O.A.R every now and then, I’ve sort of turned down the volume on music in my life. In fact, the only time I listen to any music these days is when I’m training or way too tired to drive. I’ve got a boatload of audiobooks and podcasts to listen to! I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. Honestly.

Nonetheless, the other day I was listening to The Big Questions podcast and to my surprise the guest on the show was Marc Roberge. The lead singer of O.A.R.! I was super excited. This would be my second time listening to a musician on a podcast. The previous one with David Roth (Van Halen) and Joe Rogan was a blast! And this was no different. I never thought a music band could function like a business and the way Marc and the band has come together to make it all work is just astounding.

There’s one story that stood out from the conversation — on how the band took advantage of Napster’s so-called onslaught on the music industry. Marc’s manager (I heard him say “and brother” so I’m assuming it’s Jeff Roberge who’s a musician/drummer with Foxtrot Zulu and has been a major influence in Marc’s life) instead of panicking about the whole situation took a guerrilla approach. He said to Marc (paraphrasing), “let’s track the numbers first (analytics, which was somewhat new back then). We’ll keep a close eye of the areas where there’s a spike in the number of downloads. And then, we will put our shows at these places.” Whoa! That’s genius! Seriously, who would have thunk?

I almost pulled over my car (but didn’t) to go back and listen to the strategy (which I did)! I call this practical pragmatism simply because it was the better option to exercise given that every other music band in the industry were protesting (and boy, Lars Ulrich of Metallica was the loudest of all), whining and complaining. And this little-known band made the most out of the situation by simply observing their enemies (the pirates who were downloading their music illegally) and using their location data to the band’s advantage.

The strategy did wonders to the band’s popularity in the United States and other countries. (I bumped into them after searching for “bands like Dave Matthews Band” on Google!) What I absolutely loved was getting to know Marc and a little bit about his band. They humble, down-to-earth and never allowed success to get into their heads.

To learn more about the Marc and O.A.R., listen to this fantastic episode of The Big Questions by Cal Fussman.


By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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