So farewell David Bowie; global superstar, rock icon, writer, singer, actor, artist, the very personification of cool, my hero and very astute businessman.
Businessman? Well he’s left £135 million and a back catalogue which will deliver a very healthy living to those astute enough to have invested in ‘Brand Bowie’. You may not have 10% of his talent, I know I haven’t, but there is much we can all learn from him and here are six things that I’ve picked out.
1. The key to career longevity is relevance.
Bowie’s career spanned 50 years, yet even on his deathbed (as we subsequently discovered) he could turn out an album that had the critics purring and the music-buying public clamouring to add to the 100 million plus albums he had already sold. Listen to it and you’ll discover it’s totally different from previous albums. It’s no surprise; evolution and sometimes revolution were second nature to the man and it kept his public interested.
2. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Bowie famously created personas; Major Tom, the Man Who Fell to Earth, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and the Thin White Duke… the list goes on. One by one Bowie killed them off, not because he had to, but because he wanted to while they were popular. He never allowed his fans to get bored or complacent, he stayed ahead of them (as leaders do) and set the agenda.
3. Package your product. Bowie wrote great songs and they stand on their own merit, but his success was massively enhanced by his penchant for dying his hair, wearing make up, leotards, dresses and thigh high boots! He was fearless with his image and whilst it alienated some (my dad wouldn’t allow my copy of Hunky Dory in the house) it wowed millions more.
4. Embrace technology. He experimented with technology from the beginning, both in his music and his career. He played a stylophone on his first hit, Space Oddity in 1969 and embraced synthesisers on later albums paving the way for electronica under the influence of both Brian Eno and various chemical enhancements! His videos were ground breaking too, Ashes to Ashes at £250k was the most expensive ever made at the time. When the internet came along, Bowie was the first to make his music downloadable, the first to conduct interviews by email, the first to become his own ISP with BowieNet.
5. Collaborate. Bowie was never one to keep the best for himself. He collaborated with Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Annie Lennox, Queen and Mott the Hoople, all of them benefiting from his incredible creative genius.
6. Pick your moment. If anyone ever got their timing right, it was David Bowie. He influenced social and sexual politics, popular culture and the media in many ways. Often controversial he was always at the edge without being over the line. He was principled, twice declining a knighthood, and he never stopped being creative and pushing the boundaries. He died a national treasure releasing ‘Blackstar’, the album that will be his epitaph the weekend that cancer cruelly took him. That is perfect timing and none of us should be surprised.
I’ll miss Bowie, but what memories, what music and what influence he has left us. Thank you David - rest in peace.
David Langdown is Sales and Marketing Director of Focus7 International.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07495 023068.