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Lessons Learned from Keith Richards’ LIFE

By Thomas J. Stanley on Jun 9th, 2011 in Books and Publications

Are you contemplating a career as a small business owner?  If so, you may wish to read Keith Richards’ book, Life.  I believe that the Rolling Stones band is the single most productive small business in the free world!  Often public corporations brag about their average revenue per employee- in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  For the four full time employees of the Rolling Stones, it is in the hundreds of millions. 


At the beginning, however, let’s cut away the “bad boy” persona including bad hair, bad behavior, bad outfits . . . .  These help sell records and concert tickets.  Yet there is an explanation for how this group has produced major hit after major hit and generated billions of dollars in revenue- an explanation that goes beyond having extraordinary creative intellect and talent. 


It is obvious to me after reading the book that Keith Richards also has high analytic intellect.  Mr. Richards spent thousands of hours studying all the great blues artists and rock virtuosos and integrated this knowledge into his musical compositions.  He even kept a diary of the responses of each audience to each new musical riff introduced by the Stones for future adjustments. In other words, he was collecting and analyzing market research information.  His passion was to elicit the same deep emotional response that he felt from the Stones’ music from his audiences.  


Like the Rolling Stones, almost all self employed people are tested. Multiple early setbacks and seemingly lack of market response must be overcome.  Richards especially had tremendous tenacity, focus, passion, physical stamina and toughness. 


 For three years we played. . . every day. . . well over 1,000 gigs. . . barely a break. . . ten days off in that whole period.


In one-half of the 1,000 gigs in which the Stones performed prior to coming to the U.S., they netted nothing.  How would you feel if “only 2 people turned up [in the audience]?”  But they continued on their musical mission in spite of their precarious financial situation, inhuman living conditions and predatory advisors and managers.  


. . .my idea has never been to make money.  Originally it was do we make enough to pay for guitar strings? . . . . later do we make enough to put on the kind of show we want to?   Initially. . . the money was . . . most of it plowed back into what we want to do.


No doubt Mr. Richards helped sell millions of guitars to kids who thought they could easily match his success.  But they quickly found out that it is much easier to buy a guitar and play the part by visual cues than it is to practice for thousands and thousands of hours while working for nothing. 

2 responses to “Lessons Learned from Keith Richards’ LIFE”

  1. Benjamin says:

    The success of certain performers is always interesting. There is some marketing genius in a lot of these people: Take Gene Simmons, for example. On stage, you’d think he was a caveman with a room temperature IQ. But then he gives deep, insightful interviews about philosophy and business and you see how smart the man really is.

    Ted Nugent, Simmons, Richards, even more modern examples like Beyonce and Justin Timberlake — they all apply business principles to music in order to remain immensely popular year after year.

  2. […] and relaying the rocky paths and determined spirit of individuals from George Washington to Keith Richards. When fans of his books would write in or share stories with him in person, he would weave their […]

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