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What the music industry can teach you about business

The power of creating an online community through social media engagement is vital to small businesses especially independent authors, artists, health and wellness practitioners, and musicians. Taylor Swift’s actions against Apple’s new streaming music policy demonstrates the power of staying true to yourself and your commitment to right and wrong to preserve the integrity of your craft whatever that may be. And we all need to remember…“standing your ground while remaining respectful can truly effect change.”

I used to stream my favorite music selections on Apple’s new streaming music service to get into a creative frame of mind to write plots and character scenes for my first historical fiction crime novel “Hayden’s Chair;” but now I feel dirty after reading about the real reason for Apple’s music business model change. Hypbot’s Getting What You Want In The Music Industry Without Burning Bridges summarizes what transpired that caused Apple to change the terms of its streaming music business. It basically went down like this:

Apple wanted to offer listeners 3 months of free streaming to test out the platform.
It initially was not going to pay artists their royalties for those 3 free months. Taylor Swift withheld her multi-platinum album, 1989, from the streaming service until Apple agreed to change its policies via an open letter on her Tumblr page, stating

This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.”

Taylor Swift

Apple senior executive, Eddy Cue, responded promptly to Taylor’s request and granted a change in policy. End of story. [Excerpt by Suzanne Paulinski of TuneCore]

Business Lessons From the Music Industry

1. Be mindful of your tone

In business communications, you want to be sure that your message is not lost in translation by using the wrong tone. Effective communication and emotional regulation are not only two pillars of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) used in group sessions aimed at helping those suffering with anxiety, depression and PTSD; but emotional regulation and effective communication are the exact traits that every respected business professional must display when arguing their point.  For example, Taylor Swift’s communication in a letter to Apple begins by stating her objective, followed by how much she respects, 

…the company and the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.”

Taylor Swift

Swift’s effective communication and emotionally regulated stance against Apple’s music royalty policy continued to praise the company in the letter; which helped to diffuse any misunderstandings common when written communications, like email or letters, are used.  Business Lesson Learned? Make a habit to monitor your tone in all methods of small business communication.  Always communicate effectively by stating your objectives in a respectful manner.  How do I remember this important business lesson? I tell myself to remain in perfect gentlemanly fashion like my favorite TV character, Captain Jean Luc Piccard of the Enterprise. #WWPD

2. Ease their objections from the start

Every small business will need to be ready for parties of differing opinions to be on the defensive when dialog is opened.  Jump on this potential block to effective communication by squashing their objections from the beginning.  Taylor Swift demonstrates this smart communication business lesson when she wrote to Apple, 

This is not about me… This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success.” 

Taylor Swift

By addressing the letter reader’s potential objections to her stance on their royalty policy first, Swift let Apple know her intentions were coming from a good place.  Business lesson learned? Effective communication in business takes place when every party shows respect and considers objections at the start of the dialogue. How do I remember this important business lesson? Never allow your sentiments to be open to interpretation. Let the person you are communicating with know there is value to your point of view.

3. Speak their language

When speaking to other small business owners, including suppliers, independent contractors, and foreign manufacturers, use terms and scenarios they understand to get what you want.  Taylor Swift’s professional opposition letter regarding Apple’s music streaming policy illustrates this final business lesson perfectly when she states

Three months is a long time to go unpaid… We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

Taylor Swift

Swift effectively puts Apple in the role of the struggling artist by speaking their language about being asked to give away their flagship product, the iPhone, for free.  Business Lesson Learned? If you’re unhappy with how you are being treated, paint a picture for them that illustrates what their reality would look like if the “shoe was on the other foot” so to speak. How do I remember this important business lesson? Communicate effectively with an empathetic approach because “you never really understand a person…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 
– Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

A disagreement or one injustice is not worth burning bridges, slowing business growth and tarnishing the professional image you are trying to build.  Cultivate a respected reputation by keeping your cool and communicating your thoughts clearly and respectfully. Let what you say be what people talk about and remember.


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