I have represented some of the biggest names in entertainment — from working with ex-Beatle Ringo Starr to launch his All Starr Band Tour to reuniting the Monkees and bringing together legendary rockers for my Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy Camp. I’ve had my share of obstacles, successes and, yes, failures. I learned valuable lessons from the business of rock ’n’ roll over a 25-year career, which I’ve complied in my new book, “Rock Your Business,” to help make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.
Learn what makes a great business idea
Through my experiences developing concerts, tours and Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, I’ve discovered that great ideas share four common characteristics. They produce a strong “gut” reaction, are new and innovative and/or clearly distinguishable from what’s on the market; are “barterable,” and will generate hype.
You don’t have to have an international rock star headlining your idea in order to know if it’s worth pursuing, nor do you need a million dollars to make it a success. When I first put together concerts and tours, I didn’t start off with the connections or funding I have now, but making sure your idea has the four characteristics above will ensure that it stands out from the crowd.
Get advice from industry leaders and people you respect to make your idea the best that it can be
Using industry leaders as a sounding board for your idea is the absolute best way to gauge your idea’s potential in the real world.
In 1989, I was producing the “American Gladiators Live” tour and my vision for the tour wasn’t going as well as I had hoped. I called Ken Feld, who owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Disney on Ice, among other franchises. I didn’t know him, but my gut felt that he could help me, so I just called him up, introduced myself, and invited him to the show. Ken saw the show, called me the next day, and without a single compliment listed all the ways he could make my show better. With his experience on my side, we played to sold-out arenas — crowds of 15,000 to 25,000.
Before developing your business plan, proposal or pitch, research and educate yourself to make sure you are on top of your field
A man once asked Rabbi Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Rabbi Hillel replied, “What you don’t like done to you, don’t do unto others. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and learn.” Well, here is my MBA class on one foot: “You manufacture low and you sell high.” You have to be able to create your item, whether it’s a product or a show or a record, for as cheap as you can, and then sell it for higher, so you make a profit. That’s business at its simplest. But I’ll also echo Rabbi Hillel on this: Go and learn. Educate yourself and find out what it takes.
Be a team player
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that it’s impossible to do business without partners. Keep in mind, however, that you get out of those partnerships what you put in.
My father used to tell a great story about a gentleman who owned a successful clothing store. One day, the store burns down. At a loss for what to do, his wife suggests he talk with his wholesaler. The man explains what happened, and the supplier says, “Don’t worry. I’m going to set you up in business again. Don’t worry about the money you owe me — I know you will pay me back one day. You’re going to be fine.”
The next day, he tells his best friend, who also owns a store, what happened. The friend decides he’s going to also ask the supplier for help, too. But this man had not had a long-standing relationship with his wholesaler, and the wholesaler throws him out, saying, “Your friend has been doing business with me for more than 30 years and has always been a good customer. You’ve placed a few orders with me here and there. I will not help you.”
Learn how to barter
Some people will go to companies with their ideas, and when they’re told there’s no money, they just go home. Don’t be one of those people. Instead of giving up, your next question should be, “How can we find a way that we can work together? How can we barter it out?” If you can barter with the right people, you’ll be well on your way to executing your idea, and you can really get a step above those who are just sitting around making excuses.
Don’t focus on creating a satisfied customer, focus on creating an appreciative customer
A satisfied customer will join you but will also go to a competitor. An appreciative customer, on the other hand, will show loyalty. Go the extra step toward making the customers’ experience better. Find out your customers’ needs and personalize the service so they don’t want to go anywhere else. Give them a little more time, a little more results, a little more caring — whatever it takes — to make them feel close to you and your service
Don’t count out your failures too quickly, Sometimes apparent failure can lead to success in unexpected ways
I had my first rock-’n’-roll fantasies when I was 16. I wanted to be in my older brother’s band. It was perhaps the world’s first openly Jewish rock band: The Ruach Revival. My brother, Joey, was the leader of the band, the drummer, and my hero. I took guitar lessons in hopes of joining his group, but two things made it difficult: One, I had no musical talent, and two, my brother didn’t want me in his band.
My father, Mark, stepped in as a peacemaker. “David, my son,” he said, “instead of being a performer in the band, be the guy who books six bands a day.” That’s how I began to follow my career path. If it hadn’t been for my failure to join my brother’s band as a musician, I may never have found my true career path and reached the success I have achieved.
Understand that you will face challenges, It’s inevitable. You do, however, have a choice as to how you deal with them and should seek input and guidance from both industry and spiritual leaders
As a kid growing up in Galveston, Texas, I was taunted for being Jewish. When I was 4 years old, a kid threw a brick at my head and yelled, “You dirty Jew!” That experience stuck with me and made me feel like I was a less significant person, but I ended up using that negativity as fuel to create success. I had to show the world that I wasn’t a lesser person for being Jewish, or for any other reason.
Knowing that my father was a Holocaust survivor who escaped from a concentration camp and spent part of the war in hiding, pretending not to be Jewish, making fake passports, and saving many lives, also gave me the confidence to believe that there’s nothing I can’t achieve. Positive examples like this encouraged me to persevere no matter what roadblocks I faced.
David Fishof will appear at Book Soup in West Hollywood on Nov. 5, 7 p.m.
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