Tom Friedman, author and foreign-affairs columnist for the New York Times, doesn’t write much about music. But his piece “The New Untouchables” is a column well worth reading for those looking for a way forward in the music business. It may sound obvious, but the truth is that many of the fundamental techniques used for success in the “non-music” business world are the same techniques that can be applied to folks looking for success in the “music” business world.

Check this out, from Friedman’s piece:

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive.

It’s not hard to see the connection between lawyers and musicians, here, is it? Imagining new opportunities, new ways to recruit work, and inventing smarter ways to do old jobs is a great plan off attack for business folks AND musicians.

Bruce Houghton from Hypebot initiated a great discussion on his blog a few weeks back about his ideas that “there have always been skills beyond just making music that, if not required, certainly made success more likely.” It’s an opinion that I share, too.

I definitely would not frame any musician in the “untouchable” camp (brands are only as good as the trust their fans have in them), but generating leverage by doing as much as you can yourself (with the help of a good team, if possible), analyzing data to do it smarter, and figuring out ways to creatively attract new fans is great advice for any musician interested in building a more sustainable career.


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