How The Mighty Fall

I just finished Jim Collins’ truly enlightening book, “How The Mighty Fall”. It’s a short read covering the five steps to an organization’s decline, and is one of the best books I’ve read in a LONG time. It’s just too good not to share, so below are some quick notes I took while reading:

How the Mighty Fall


1. Hubris Born Of Success

  • Biggest mistake is confusing what and why
  • “We’re successful because of what we do so well” replaces “we’re successful because we understand why we do specific things, and under the conditions in which they would no longer work.

2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More

  • Leaders stray away from the key to success: disciplined creativity
  • The company dives into areas where they cannot be excellent or are outside the scope of work that made them successful to begin with

3. Denial of Risk and Peril

  • The company and its leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data

4. Grasping For Salvation

  • Leaders panic, and begin to take bold leads into unknown/unmastered territory, look for mergers/acquisitions, and pursue untested strategies.
  • Only hope left at this stage is to go back to disciplined creativity

5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death


  • You can be profitable and bankrupt. You pay your bills with cash.
  • The best leaders feel a sense of urgency in both good and bad times.
  • Recovery lies in sound strategic thinking.


“Circumstances alone do not determine outcomes. We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes or our staggering defeats. We are freed by our choices.”

“The point of struggle is not just to survive, but to build an enterprise that makes such a distinctive impact on the world it touches, and does so with such superior performance, that it would leave a gaping hole – a hole that could not be easily filed by any other institution – if it ceased to exist.”


1) Why Ignoring Labels is the Best Way To Get Signed

2) The Golden Circle: Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?


The Golden Circle: Why Are You Doing What You’re Doing?

Another great guest post today from digital marketing expert Nick Susi. If you like this, you can read his first guest post on the blog here. Enjoy:

An oldie but a goodie – one of my favorite TED Talks is from back in May 2010, a talk by author Simon Sinek called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” The presentation is based on his book Start With Why, which is about just that – the importance of thinking counterintuitively to best connect with your audience and to clearly define your story. Start with WHY you’re doing something, then HOW you’re doing it, and last, WHAT you’re actually doing. Sinek names this concept The Golden Circle.Golden Circle

He uses Apple as an example to show the difference between starting with WHAT versus starting with WHY when telling their brand’s story and connecting with their core consumers.

Outside-In, Starting With WHAT

  • We make great computers.
  • They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.
  • Want to buy one?

Inside-Out, Starting with WHY

  • Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo.
  • We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.
  • And we happen to make computers.
  • Want to buy one?

Getting to the core of why you’re doing what you’re doing helps your audience gain a better understanding of you and creates a human connection with your brand.


It’s no surprise that Sinek and his Golden Circle came up again more recently while I was reading a new book by Jackie Huba, Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics.

Huba uses Lady Gaga as an example within The Golden Circle:

Gaga1) WHY

Transform the culture to create a kinder, braver world where everyone is valued.

2) HOW

Live life as performance art, including avant-garde fashion and iconic performances, to gain attention to the cause.


Write and sing catchy pop music.

Gaga not only writes, releases and performs music as her means to make a living, but also uses music as a platform for activism in favor of gay rights and against bullying. Her music, paired with her genuine proactive movement for human rights, allows her to connect with a wider audience.

It’s not necessary that every musician and artist be an activist, but ask yourself – Why are you doing what you’re doing? If you have difficulty answering this question yourself, your followers likely do not understand your complete story.

Define the WHY, clearly communicate your story, make it easy for your following to connect with you.


1) Fanbases Are Conversations

2) Guest Post: 8 Tips For Increasing Tumblr Followers & Engagement

Guest Post: 8 Tips For Increasing Your Tumblr Followers and Engagement

tumblr-logoWe’re lucky to have a guest post from Nick Susi here. Nick is one of the smartest people I know, co-founder of New Torch Entertainment, and is fantastic with digital strategy and fan engagement. Enjoy:

Tumblr is a highly customizable platform that combines microblogging with social media. Through its diverse content of photos, videos, text posts and more, it is a versatile tool to use as an extension of your art and engage your audience. Here’s some tips:

1) FOLLOWING– Follow other like-minded Tumblrs, who in return, may follow you. But they will only reciprocate if your Tumblr content would be of value to them and their interests.

2) REBLOGGING – Reblogging other Tumblr content onto your own is a great way to engage with others. But don’t just reblog anything. Find content that you value and wish you posted yourself.

3) ENGAGING CONTENT – It’s not worth my time to tell you to post only photos to get the most likes and reblogs. Instead, my advice is to experiment with all content options – post text, photos, video, audio and have fun with it. Then after a few weeks, look back, see what types of posts got the biggest response, and use that information to influence your decisions about future posts. Were your photo posts more popular than audio posts? Did you get more activity on a certain day of the week or a certain time of the day? Try, analyze, adjust, repeat.

4) EXCLUSIVE CONTENT – Post content that lives exclusively on Tumblr, that your audience would not be able to find on your Website, Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere. This special content will help make your Tumblr unique, and it will give your audience a reason to follow your Tumblr when they may already be regularly checking your other platforms. Plus, Tumblr is the only platform that supports GIFs, so use the exclusivity of GIFs to your advantage in driving interest around your Tumblr.

Beyonce's Tumblr

Beyonce’s Tumblr

5) GIVEAWAYS – Whether your art is a product or a service, use Tumblr as a platform to give something away for free. Launch a promotion that requires your followers to reblog a particular post to be entered to win. But make sure the prize is worth the action of reblogging. Ask yourself, would you be excited to enter your own giveaway?

6) TAGGING – Use focused tags to make it easy for others to discover your posts through Tumblr’s search tool.

7) FACEBOOK & TWITTER – Don’t forget about your already established audiences on your other social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Post links to your Tumblr on your other social networks to kickstart driving more traffic and followers to Tumblr.

Odd Future's Tumblr

Odd Future’s Tumblr

8) GENUINE CONTENT – Above all, you should not be posting to Tumblr for the sake of posting to Tumblr. You should be building an engaged community around the core of what you do, which is your art. Tumblr, like all social media, is an extension of your craft and brand. Take a deep look at your voice, your image, the feelings you want to convey with your art. Then embody that in your posts.

Keep at it. Like anything, it takes time.


1) The True Function of Social Media

2) Prioritizing the Minutia

Learning From: The Airline Industry

At this point, people basically expect a bad experience when flying. The entire process – from your first steps out of the car to getting in your seat on the plane – is a truly frustrating, annoying, and often frantic process.

If you think hard about it, though, it really is not the long lines, expensive amenities, or high chance of a flight delay that makes the process so painful. Ultimately, it’s the customer service experience that does it, and there are two key factors we can learn from here.


Everyone knows how important first impressions are. In business, in music, in relationships, in anything. But for some reason most companies seem to ignore this when determining who their customer service reps will be. To put the most unintelligent, incompetent, or drained/defeated personalities at your front desks, answering your phones, and helping your customers (specifically in an industry full of customer complaints like this one), makes no sense to me. A first impression is so, so, so critical – and it’s worth investing in the people or materials necessary to make your brand’s first impression a great one.


If the entire frustrating travel process were identical, except you felt like the customer service representatives genuinely cared about you, it would not be nearly as bad. There is an overwhelming feeling of being a statistic when traveling. When a flight is canceled or delayed several hours, there is absolutely zero sense of apology or hospitality exchanged. The customer service rep understandably can’t care about each flight cancelation, and I’m not suggesting they put up an “RIP Flight 4950” sign when a flight is canceled. But I am saying that if there was even the slightest form of either systematic or personal apology from a brand when they cause an extreme inconvenience for a customer that is already paying tons of money to be there, it would make a massive difference.

If any airline were to truly step up and make changes in these directions, their customer loyalty would skyrocket, and they would immediately become everyone’s favorite airline.


1) “Your Customer Service Experience”

2) “Daytrotter: How Community and Value Can Trump Cheap”

“Only Then Do We Sign Our Work”

The first two minutes of this video are absolute gold. This is poetry. Click below to watch.

Only then do we sign our work

if everyone

is busy making everything

how can anyone perfect anything?

we start to confuse convenience

with joy


with choice

designing something requires


the first thing we ask is:

“what do we want people to feel?”





then we begin to craft around our intention.

it takes time…

there are a thousand no’s

for every yes.

we simplify

we perfect

we start over

until every thing we touch enhances each life it touches.

only then do we sign our work.


1) A Body of Work

2) Exponential Habit and Fear

Learning From: BKLYNR

BKLYNRThe extreme saturation of the internet is a cause of annoyance for many people. Facebook users, for instance, usually enjoy the social network’s connection value, but are drained by the constant invitations (Facebook Events, Farmville requests, etc.) Today, artists and businesses alike are often focused exclusively on dropping prices as low as possible, and are willing to sacrifice quality to get there.

A recent Brooklyn startup, aptly titled BKLYNR, is doing just the opposite, though. And it’s working.

BKLYNR’s mission is to create quality journalism about Brooklyn, specifically topics that are usually ignored (i.e. they don’t write about food trucks). But this theme of quality is densely engrained in every aspect of the publication – which focuses on politics, culture, urban development and the community at large – from the stunning website design to the confident yet approachable voice in their Tweets. As a subscriber since the day they launched, I would describe what I’ve seen from BKLYNR pretty simply: they’re confident that they’re creating something truly valuable, and are willing to bet that you’ll appreciate the quality enough to pay for it.

BKLYNR 2For artists/bands, aside from BKLYNR’s prioritization of quality, there is a different (and truly massive) lesson to learn here. It is critical to recognize that, again, they are not writing about the popular, common, trendy topics. Instead, they are creating content for an extremely focused audience that most people simply don’t really care about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard new artists, whose goals are not much different than a startup business, talk about how they play an obscure genre and therefore find it too difficult to get their name out there.

In reality, though, focusing on a niche audience allows you to become a trusted source, while diving directly into your community much more easily than you would if you were trying to appeal to everyone. The beauty of the internet is that it allows like-minded people to form communities around things they love. So, if you’re a new artist worried that your music is too obscure to appeal to the mainstream, recognize that, today, obscurity is actually empowering, and that the difference between failure and success is often just a matter of embracing the pocket of the world that you identify with.


1) Daytrotter: How Community and Value Can Trump “Cheap”

2) The Power of Focus and the Danger of Expansion

Daytrotter: How Community and Value Can Trump “Cheap”

DaytrotterThis is the first blog post I’ve written where I came up with the title before the piece itself. That’s because the title describes the exact movement happening over at Daytrotter is one of few companies I can think of who prioritize the creation of something truly valuable, while nurturing a fan community. This mentality goes sharply against what most businesses do (create something average and sell it for as cheaply as possible, knowing that a low price is the only chance they have at making a sale).

Last week, Daytrotter increased their monthly subscription fee from $2 to $4.

My first thought, as it always is when any company raises their price, was “People are going to be pissed.” I expected to see an angry mob on Twitter, and bloggers and music fans alike responding with a “Who do they think they are?” attitude. So I dug through Twitter, and did multiple Google searches for news on this, cringing with anticipation. But, after a while of searching, I found… nothing.

Glenn Peoples, a music business/tech journalist for Billboard did Tweet about the news. But instead of people responding with frustration, the only response was from Daytrotter’s founder, looking to connect about an exciting upcoming announcement. That announcement he was hinting at turned out to be a fantastic one: that Daytrotter was now allowing new members the opportunity to send $5 to a Daytrotter artist of their choice. While this may seem generous to those unfamiliar with Daytrotter, it likely comes as no surprise to their incredibly tight-knit community of supporters, who have come together over the years through a like-minded passionate love of music discovery.

Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie

To top it all off, Daytrotter is smart enough to know that, while personal music discovery is a powerful force, true community is ultimately generated through friends talking about and sharing Daytrotter-related things. With this in mind, they are known for their cartoon drawings of each artist they work with. These drawings are enough to catch your eye, and to cause a fan of the artist to share the drawing with a friend (and therefore discover Daytrotter through the “where did you find this?” question).

There’s a lesson in all of this. If your goal is to make your price as low as possible, in hopes of being accessible to everyone, you are going to have to sacrifice something in the process. That something will most likely be quality. Even further, it’s important to remember that nobody is for everybody.

It is better to be a trusted source of value for a focused community, than to only be relevant until something a bit cheaper comes along.


1) Fanbases Are Conversations

2) Passes Supporters, Active Fans and Super Fans