What Mick Jagger is to Music, Steve Jobs Was to Business

For people who haven’t delved into Jobs’ and Jagger’s backgrounds, the similarities between these legends in their respective industries are pretty striking. I introduced the parallels between them in a recent blog post.

You think of Steve Jobs and you automatically think of business innovation, right? You think of Mick Jagger and, of course, musical genius comes into play (that was an accidental pun, but I like it). Both, brilliant performers.

The funny thing is that they’re flip sides of the same coin. Or better: they’re mirror images of each other.

So how is Mick Jagger the mirror image of Jobs? Most think of Jagger as the consummate stage performer, and that it’s his musical abilities that brought him fame, fortune, and admiration. But that’s not the actual story, or at least not the whole story.

The truth is that Mick Jagger was, above all, a gifted businessman.

Want proof? How many musically superior bands wind up forgotten in a bin of dusty LPs? (For you kids that were born after Apple was, those are vinyl records, an ancient way of recording and reproducing music, placed historically somewhere between stone tablets and the iPhone you’re probably reading this article on).

How many skilled musicians never become a household name, or even inspire a cult following? Oy, when I think of the viral one-hit wonders that featured people with anything but talent—not all on this list, but many of them—who still managed to achieve fame and fortune, while more talented musicians faded into obscurity. Myself, for instance… But that is a topic for another day.

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones saw decades of success because Jagger is “a savvy businessman who knows what gigs to book and how to best promote the Rolling Stones’ new music,” says David Waring, co-founder of Fit Small Business in New York, as quoted here.

He learned from mistakes and improved constantly. As Mick himself told Fortune, “I’ll never forget the deals I did in the ’60s, which were just terrible. You say, ‘Oh, I’m a creative person, I won’t worry about this.’ But that just doesn’t work.” Any failure became an opportunity to learn.

And just as Jagger built a music empire by using his business acumen, Steve Jobs build a business empire using music.

What does music have to do with Steve Jobs, Apple, or business empires?

Well first, as you may be aware, before it was the iPhone, it was the iPod… Apple revolutionized how we listen to music. Music built Apple. Apple was a band.

But what you might not know is that Jobs built his business on music from the inside out.

Back in the day, new Apple employees were given mixtapes (on actual cassette tapes!) called The Apple Boogie, to immerse them in the culture. Side B featured “Apple II Forever,” which gives you an idea of the company’s optimism and naivete in the late ‘80s.

Music was in everything that made this business unique. Jobs started with his team and seduced them with the idea that they were creating something beautiful—whether or not anyone bought it. One could say, just like music.

Employees weren’t mere tech experts or salespeople. They brought music and art to life; they designed and engineered products the way composers refine a symphony.

Steve Jobs was known for his business sense and presentation skills, but the reality is that his success wasn’t rooted in being good at business, it was rooted in his being a master salesman, and at his heart: an artist.

Music was the tool he used to connect his team, and all the aspects that go into making a band great, are what drove Apple: rehearsal and listening, improvisation and soul…

You can learn more about the secrets behind Apple’s success from a true insider in my book, Live from Cupertino: How Apple Used Words, Music, and Performance to Build the World’s Best Sales Machine, available now, wherever books are sold.

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Author: Michael Hageloh

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