In My Life

Anyone who has been working in a business or owns their own company or even plays in a band for ten years or more is very well acquainted with the term ”reinvention”. It means that in the life of a business, whatever the profession, things change. That change is often referred to more commonly as “s _ _t happens”. A persons’ success or lack thereof can be immediately traced to how well that person was able to embrace change and guide themselves accordingly on a new path. We may not like the new path, but in order to survive, we must learn the new rules of the ever changing game.

The music business is a perfect example of how performers have learned to stay in the public eye by reinventing themselves over and over again. It took considerable effort to work hard and succeed, but by virtue of embracing the paradigm, many fading stars have put new luster on their career and banked a lot more money because of their ability o reinvent themselves. Here are a couple of examples of performers who have found that “change is security and security is change”.

Lionel Richie

In 1972, The Commodores were the opening act for The Jackson 5. They had a string of hits through the 70’s and 80’s and although most of the members of the group faded from view, their lead singer, Lionel Richie launched a successful solo career after the group disbanded.

His solo career flourished in the 80’s and although continually touring, Lionel never had the incredible success he enjoyed with the Commodores and his solo outings, until recently. Lionel traveled to Nashville and recorded an album called “Tuskegee” which is a collection of his hits redone as country duets with some of the biggest country stars in the music business. Among the musicians who perform on the album with Lionel are Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Chesny, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Shania Twain to name a few. The album peaked as the # 1 album in the country earlier this year.

Who could have imagined taking tunes that were once big R&B hits re-record them with the top country & western acts of the day and expect the type of success that this album has had? I’m sure even Lionel had his doubts at one point. But true to his training as a mega-star, he promoted the album through touring and TV promotion, as well. Lionel understood how to embrace change and achieve success because of it.

Beach Boys

No band has argued more, created more litigation business for the legal profession and been as dysfunctional as the Beach Boys. Maybe it’s because Brian Wilsons is related to Mike Love and we all know family arguments are the worst of all. Who knows? But these guys have had a tough time just getting along with one another.

Brian, Mike, Bruce, Al and David probably realized both individually and collectively that 2012 represented a milestone that none of them could ignore. This year is the 50th anniversary of the band. Whether this realization came in the form of how much money they could make by performing together or whether it was nostalgia about getting the band back together once again or where they were just plain old tired of constantly fighting and running up legal fees, the Boys are back.

And even with the deaths of Brian’s’ two brothers, Dennis and Carl the band is as close to the original as possible. And yes, the years have taken a toll of all them, but they are performing to sell-out crowds literally around the world. The Boys realized that it was time for reinvention if they wanted to make this tour a success together. Putting aside past frictions in order to accomplish a larger goal is a form of reinvention. They reinvented themselves away from of the old methods of disagreeing by agreeing to a new possibility. Whether this new improved, Beach Boys continues after the tour is over is anyone’s guess, but for now it works both musically and financially.

Coke & Pepsi

I couldn’t help but think how Madison Avenue, our symbol of advertising in the world shapes reinvention. And perhaps the most striking is the competition for our soft drink money waged by Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. Even their names are similar. These two companies are using every method they can think of to reinvent themselves as we reinvent ourselves so as to convince us to buy their soft drink instead of the other one.

Music and videos and commercials are shamelessly presented so as to attract our allegiance to one or the other. You can bet at the Olympics, there will be some grand over-the-top commercials presented to sway your consciousness to Coke instead of Pepsi.

In the 60’s and 70’s, Coke and Pepsi were hiring top musical acts like the Who, the Supremes and Aretha Franklin, the Four Tops, Martha & the Vandellas and Roberta Flack to sing the praises of their drinks. Super Bowls, Olympics, etc became the launching pad for the most creative ad campaigns ever devised. Super stars like Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and Madonna lent their considerable talents to align themselves with one or the other drink to tout the brand on a global basis.

Today, Rhianna sings for Pepsi. They are also heavily invested in the music business through Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound that provides an outlet for independent artists to distribute their music. Not to be outdone; Coke is official sponsor of the Olympics and using Katy B in their commercials.

Coke and Pepsi’s reinvention activities seem to take place on a daily basis. In their business, they almost have to be looking to the “next big thing” to eclipse the other. We don’t have to reinvent ourselves quite that often, but in order to survive and thrive in this world; we need to do so, just to stay even.