Want to Create Insanely Great Products? Lessons From Pink Floyd

From Inc.:

The legendary band wouldn’t have been so successful without some savvy business moves.

 Money, It's A Gas:  (group from left) Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Rick Wright

Money, It’s A Gas: (group from left) Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Rick Wright

Pink Floyd’s seminal Dark Side Of The Moon album only remained No. 1 on the U.S. charts for a single week. However, it remained in the Top 200 for an astounding 14 years and three months. In 2003, a remastered version of the 1973 album sold 800,000 copies. By 2012, total sales exceeded 50 million, and founding band member Roger Waters was cited by Billboard Boxscore as the second-highest paid musician of the year, pulling in $88 million.

It may seem unrelated, but there’s a lot for entrepreneurs to learn here. Pink Floyd’s deep understanding of their customers, an uncompromising drive to create a quality product, and the courage to ignore their industry’s formulaic hit-making approach resulted in one of the top selling non-compilation albums of all time.

Lesson #1: Get feedback before you release your product. 

Most musicians spend their early years writing songs and performing them in front of live audiences, which ensures that their first album is validated by fans before they even enter a recording studio.

The next time around, though, musicians seldom have the luxury of market testing. Instead of refining their material based on customer feedback, they often lock themselves away in a recording studio, isolated from their fans’ reactions. It is no surprise then that many bands suffer the sophomore jinx.

Pink Floyd recorded DSOTM after a year of writing and performing the material in front of live audiences. This audience feedback allowed the band to iteratively modify their creation. You should do the same. Avoid the sophomore jinx with your product launches by ignoring external pressures to take market validation shortcuts and maintaining the same game plan by which you achieved success, after you are successful.

Lesson #2: Get paid to create your product. Pink Floyd persuaded their fans to compensate them as they created their new material, performing the ever evolvingDSOTM material for paying audiences before they recorded a single note. Wily start-ups do the same, devising creative ways to secure funding from their customers, rather than from investors. Take a page from cloud computing leader RightScale, which early on performed consulting engagements in order to generate the cash to build its SaaS solution.

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