I’m currently reading a book called From Good To Great, it’s a study by Jim Collins where he and a team of researchers broke down a huge variety of data in order to craft an understanding of what helps companies and projects move from… well from good to great. It’s interesting stuff – compelling reading across the board. One of the things that really struck me from the book was the idea of the hedgehog concept, that you need to find the one thing you are the best in the world at and then double down on that. So I wanted to talk about how this applies to bands. To do so we are going to dig into what the hedgehog concept looks like in the band world, how you can use that to start to differentiate yourselves, how that will fuel the economic engine of your band and then of course how to develop from there.
4. What Is The Hedgehog Concept For Bands?
So the hedgehog concept for bands is essential, ‘What can our band be the best in the world at?’ Remember there are very few genuinely successful bands out there who are lifers, so if you’re not in the top 3-4 bands in a subgenre, you know you aren’t going to win. So what you need to do is look around you and figure out what you can dominate in. Then you need to make sure that whatever you are doing actually ties into that. GWAR is a great example. They realized they couldn’t be the best or heaviest band or whatever so they chose to just be the most over the top with their costumes etc. This has led to a lot of success for them. Watain is another example of a band who decided they would make their name on being evil and then doubling down, they don’t allow room for anything else in their concept.
3. How Does A Band Use This?
Of course, it’s hard to apply this sometimes for a smaller band. Well, sometimes your hedgehog concept can be regional in scope. That is to say – you could be for instance ‘The best Thrash band in the Midwest’ and then make sure that everything you do ties into that. You would focus on Midwestern festivals, doing relevant regional dates and creating content that appeals to people in that market. It’s really that simple. Figure out what you are going to focus on and then consistently drive around that. Every show you take, album you release or venture you engage in needs to be focused on whatever your core hedgehog concept is. If you have that single-minded clarity then you are going to get a lot further than if you try to be everything to everyone.
2. How Do We Make Money From This?
So this is, of course, the fundamental question every band has as on some level everyone wants to be able to make money from this whole schtick. The thing is -when you are singularly focused on something you can then figure out what aspect of that is making you the most money. Your hedgehog concept can even help inform what your primary income drivers are. If your hedgehog concept is based around touring then you can double down and make sure you are the band with, for instance, the highest merch sales per paying customer. Or you can try and be a studio band who have steady releases and a great returning customer rate. Figure out precisely what ONE area you can make most of your money in and then wholly focus on that.
1. How Do We Develop From There?
Here’s the thing – if you can figure out what you can realistically be the best at and then the optimal way for you to make money, other stuff will fall in line because it will all tie in. So if you are trying to be the best post-Black Metal studio project in the world who make money on high-quality products then you are going to find partners who help you release quality products because it just makes sense. For most bands their income comes from one or two core places, assuming you can identify those and continue to double down then you are going to find a lot of long term success.
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Matt Bacon is a consultant, A&R man, and journalist specializing in the world of heavy metal. Having worked with everyone from Glam Rock icon Phil Collen of Def Leppard, to post Black Metal titans Alcest, by way of legendary thrashers Exhorder as well as labels including Prophecy Productions and Ripple Music, he has dedicated his life to helping young bands develop. Having started his own blog at the age of 14 he views his career in artist development as ‘a hobby that got out of hand’. In 2015 he formed Dropout Media in order to better support the artists he loves. We sit here now, years later with countless tours booked, records released and deals signed, and loving every minute of it.
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