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Marketing like rock stars

This week I’m in Austin for South By Southwest, a festival that unites the worlds of music, film and technology. The part I’m here for, Interactive Week, is basically a huge mixer for people who work at tech companies and creative agencies. There’s nothing else like it anywhere.

Today I want to highlight a South-By presentation I attended yesterday about managing your career. Don’t nod off yet, this gets interesting.

It used to be you could work for one company your whole career. The company would manage your training, set you up for performance-based promotions, take care of your medical coverage, and provide you a pension when you got old. In return, you gave them employee loyalty. Today in the creative field, this doesn’t happen at all. I know more than a few talented, ambitious people who switch jobs every few years, and who have in many cases been let go and re-hired by the same companies.

At SXSW yesterday, Allison Hemming—who runs The Hired Guns, a forward-thinking career services company—summed this up in a way I thought was especially good:

We’ve been outsourcing the management of our careers to our bosses since the Industrial Revolution. It’s time to take it back.

Outsourcing the management of our careers! What a great way to say it.

(That’s my paraphrase of Allison’s words, emphasis added. In full disclosure, Allison is a fellow New Yorker who I know professionally.)

To bring the point home, Allison led a discussion about how rock stars manage their careers, and which ones do it well enough to have staying power. The question on the floor: Which rock stars will still be active and influential 20 years from now?

Here are some names that came up during the discussion (starting with a broad definition of rock star that includes all pop acts):

  • Lady Gaga
  • Beyoncé
  • Alicia Keyes
  • Will.i.am (though not Black Eyed Peas)
  • Coldplay
  • Justin Timberlake

Can you think of others?

Remember, pop music is as much about marketing as talent. The artists who endure all meet a certain set of qualities, which I won’t detail here, but which are positive traits for anyone who expects to have a long and fruitful career doing something creative.

Cracking this code is what brings people to SXSW: To see people who are great at what they do, in an attempt to learn and improve.

Okay, sort of. Also a lot of us are here to get drunk on 6th Street in the middle of the night, which makes the event as much of an endurance test as anything else. On that note, I have to get on with the day. More thoughts about South-By later!

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Marketing, Social Media, Television

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