The Beatles and Business (Happy Birthday, Paul McCartney)

by Tim Pate

BeatlesToday is the 70th birthday of Sir Paul McCartney. Though his days with the Beatles only lasted a decade, the success of the British band is unrivaled even today. To date, the Beatles have sold a staggering 2,303,500,000 albums. When the Beatles catalogue became available on iTunes in 2010 – 30 years after the band broke up – users downloaded 2 million Beatles songs and 450,000 Beatles albums.

How could any business person ignore these results?

George Cassidy and Richard Courtney, authors of Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles  (Turner Publishing, 2011), think that there is much to be learned from the success of the Beatles. In a guest blog post the pair wrote for CNBC, we get a quick taste of the types of business lessons the Beatles taught us.

Cassidy and Courtney’s advice from the blog included such tidbits as:

  • Dream big, and articulate those goals.
  • Build a strong team that can help you strive.
  • Find challenges and conquer them.
  • Establish a location where opportunity is available.
  • Create a business plan to help you navigate your way to success.
  • Understand that sometimes things go wrong, and learn from your failures.

At the College of Business, we have a couple items to add to this list. Whether you’re selling a product for a business or trying to demonstrate why you are the best candidate to a potential employer, the Beatles can teach everyone a thing or two about best business practices.

  • Word of mouth is essential – and sometimes works better than the best advertising. When the Beatles came to the United States from England, sparking the famous “British invasion,” they were all young people could talk about. Friends shared Beatles albums and went to concerts together, and the popularity of the Beatles expanded to the point of bursting. Know how to get an intriguing conversation going about whatever you’re trying to sell.
  • Give the customer a reason to come back for more. In the 1960s, the Beatles were a virtual album mill, pumping out record after record. Although the band was producing music at an alarming rate, the fans knew they could expect something new and exciting every time. From the more poppy A Hard Day’s Night to the deep and complex Abbey Road, the Beatles displayed a vast array of musical capabilities that kept the fans wanting more.
  • Think outside of the box. It’s an old saying, but it is still monumentally important in attracting new customers. The Beatles defied the musical standard with strange and bizarre lyrics to unique compositions to vibrant, mysterious album artwork. They weren’t afraid to be different, and their new style changed the music industry forever.

The Beatles can teach us all something about success. Whether you enjoy their music or not, the fact that we are still talking about them today is a testament to their undeniable innovation and ability to captivate audiences of all types.