Students Megan Himel and Louis Pratt from the global entertainment and music business master’s program reflect upon the eleventh of the Music Business Seminars, where they had the chance to listen to George Howard talk about his experience in the music industry.
During the week of February 6th, 2015, the students at Berklee Valencia were honored to host George Howard, a seasoned music industry veteran, as a guest lecturer. George found remarkable success over the years, running record labels (Rykodisc, Essex River Work and Slow River Records) as well as co-‐founding TuneCore and other respected names in the music industry. With his latest venture, George Howard Advising, George hopes to draw on his years of experience in the industry (and running previous advisement firms) in order to help artists and brands fulfill their potential to work smarter, not harder.
George is also widely regarded as one of the most popular teachers on Berklee’s Boston campus. After speaking in front of Berklee Valencia’s GEMB class, the students unanimously understood why that was the case. It was obvious how passionate George was, not just about the industry, but also about the students studying it. It is one thing to claim your students inspire you in your professional bio, but George wore his feelings on his sleeve. His humbleness, even after years of success, resonated with the audience. His drive to highlight the fact that educators can learn just as much from students as the reciprocal situation, helped tune students into the conversation at hand. We love to see music industry pro’s investing in students’ futures -‐ both personal and professional: it won’t be long before these students are disrupting the industry they love (in good ways, of course.) George articulated his purpose loud and clear, which made his speech about the topic just that much more special.
When talking about creating value in a company, George discussed the (wh)Y, as in “it’s like X, but with Y.” This is what we call the competitive advantage. A competitive advantage can take many forms: price, or any number of unique services or features. Latching on to one of these can give your company a Key Market Wedge -‐ something which allows you to ram into the market -‐but runs the risk of being undercut (price) or mimicked (services and features): we are in a race towards homogenization. George expressed that the element which gives a company real grasp in a market circles back to the question: “Why do music stores have mirrors?”
The answer is simple: as consumers, we care about how the products we consume make us look -‐ we want an external manifestation of our internal values. Therefore, when you build a company or a product, an important question is: for which value or desire does this product allow hope to manifest?
George expanded his dialogue on how to best run and market a company by discussing the Innovator’s Dilemma. This is a fascinating issue companies always struggle with: how much do you invest in the Cash Cow (the product currently servicing your customers and earning you money), and how much do you invest in the Shooting Star (the product that is not yet mainstream, but has the potential to be your next Cash Cow)? Many companies focus all their resources on the Cash Cow, neglecting the Shooting Star, therefore setting themselves up for a slow decline into obsolesce. With this in mind, we wonder what the Super Bowl half-‐time show would look like if the parties involved decided to use the platform to break rising stars, rather than supporting the main act with aging cash cows of years past (cough, cough, Lenny Kravits). Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE Missy Elliot, but she hasn’t put out a record or been in the spotlight in 10 years! We would have loved to see an emerging act explode onto the scene and really benefit from Super Bowl sized platform and audience, instead of watching somebody who is already rich and famous…well, get more rich and famous.
George has been one of our favorite speakers to date. Along with sharing an amazing ethos and professional philosophy, he provided a mountain of practical experience to draw from. His words of encouragement were aptly timed and greatly appreciated.