A few weeks ago I sat down here in Tokyo with Slash, the legendary Guns N’ Roses guitarist who is currently on a world tour promoting his latest album “World on Fire”. We talked about the business of music. Here are a few simple business lessons from a very successful entrepreneur who has sold over 100 million records.
By Stefan Nilsson
Most of you know Slash as the legendary guitarist for rock band Guns N’ Roses. But he’s also an entrepreneur with the guitar as his weapon. And you can learn from his success, whatever it is that you do, or should be doing, for a living.
What are you? A rock guitarist or a musician?
“I just sort of do what I do,” says Slash. Playing his guitar and performing his music for as many people as possible around the world is what he does. Don’t let people’s perceptions of what you are stop you from being whatever it is you want to be. Slash is known as a hard rock guy. People expect him to play heavy rock. That didn’t stop him from playing with the likes of Michael Jackson and Chic. Why? Because he sees himself as a guitar player and working with pop stars such as Michael Jackson enabled him to do what he loves doing for a living – playing his guitar and getting paid doing it.
Progress through trial and error
Don’t be shy. Get on stage and perform and you’ll get better at whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re not practicing by performing you’ll never become great. Slash on performing guitar solos: “I’m really not the secure sort of confident guitar player that I might give you the impression that I am. So I go out there and do it and that’s a section where I just make it up every night. Some nights are better than others. Some nights you know that you hit certain moments that are really great and sometimes you’re not really sure. The band sometimes goes ‘Hey! That was a really good guitar solo’ and I’m like: Oh! I wasn’t really sure.”
Life’s too short: Do things you enjoy doing
Professionals who enjoy what they do get better at it, get noticed and get rewarded. Slash: “I mean, it’s just for the fun of it, it’s not because we have to. I love playing all the new stuff. It’s really just the fun of going out and just enjoying playing. It probably sounds so crazy in this day and age. Everybody is doing it for the man.” Slash is doing his work for fun which is why he is so good at it and why people pay him money for it.
Take control of your career
Do you need to belong to a big corporation to do what you do? Can you monetise your skills on your own terms and then work with business partners to deliver it to the market? Slash: “The whole record industry is in a complete state of flux. It’s just barely surviving. I don’t want to be part of a record company. I don’t want to be a product of a record company. Hey, I have nothing against record companies as a concept. It’s just so f****d up right now that if you can NOT do it you’re in a better position to be able to survive. So I do it myself but I still work with record companies to be able to distribute it.”
Business models and revenue streams change – be pragmatic, spot opportunities
Slash: “I’m working on material for another record. You know, the cyclical sort of way that works is fine for me. I am, like, going out touring, writing a new record, making it, going on tour… Hahahaha! I make records so that I can tour. You know, I love touring. It used to be the driver to actually promote your record. It doesn’t necessarily support the record as much as it used to. Now people go out and tour because it is the only way to make any money. I just do it because I love it.”
If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, quit your job and start doing what you should be doing. Slash is his own man and after more than a decade in Guns N’ Roses he quit to go and do his own thing. “When I discontinued working with Guns N’ Roses… I didn’t really quit, I just sort of decided not to carry on,” says Slash with a big smile.
So, if you’re miserable in your job, “discontinue” and do something you love instead and do it on your own terms. Life’s too short. Set the world on fire!