The Rolling Stones are one of the most successful rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time. Their global reach and legendary status didn’t happen by chance, but were the result of careful planning, hard work, and sound business decisions throughout the band’s life — as well as talent.
The new four-part documentary, “My Life as a Rolling Stone,” by Epix Television Network hits the band’s well-recorded highs and lows. But during the interviews, there are many useful lessons in business and economics. Entrepreneurship and good management lie at the heart of an organization still going strong in its seventies.
Watching through this lens is Rolling Stones resident and Marketplace chief economic contributor Chris Farrell, who spoke to “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio about lessons we can learn from the Stones’ success.
Below is an edited version of their conversation.
David Brancaccio: Have you seen the stones already? Like, personally?
Chris Farrell: Yes, of course. twice.
Brancaccio: Well, just check your balance here. Okay, so we’re watching this for many reasons, but you’re watching it for management lessons. like what?
Farrell: yes. Well, look. Do you have this documentary? [that] Composed of four hour-long films, it focuses on each member of the band, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and the late Charlie Watts. It focused on Jagger and Keith Richards. And you know, David, we know about partying and drugs and high gin, right? It’s amazing how much time, energy and passion they put into learning their craft right from the start. So like most talented people with a common passion coming together to start a business, a software company, or a media company, they had no idea how big you would get. During his interview, Richard says, you know, the Stones wanted to be the best blues band in London. Jagger says no, pop band. Either way, they were ambitious, and they worked.
Brancaccio: I know, but they weren’t framing it in terms of “this was a startup and we’re going to have to move our product to the widest market possible”. They are creative souls, but they have been pushed into the role of figuring out how to run a thriving business.
Farrell: This is correct. And I think that’s another lesson here. So one of the most difficult transitions any successful startup goes through is how to navigate the transition from pursuing what [is] Passionate gig for running a big company? So the Rolling Stones, they were famous, they were performing at these sold-out venues. However, they eventually learned and eventually learned that their finances were in shambles. Jagger notes that they did not know that they had not paid taxes in the UK for years. So Jagger took charge, and designed the restructuring. He became a band organizer and observer who pays close attention to the details of global business. Quoting him, he said that someone should be in control of the project. I represent the band and make sure they don’t get corrupted. yes, [he] You use a different word.
Brancaccio: “Drunk” is a euphemism? yes. So, you know, and in many institutions, but certainly rock ‘n’ roll bands, the rest of the group will say, “Who made him the great emperor of the band?” But in this case, Keith Richards went hand in hand with Jagger’s shift in responsibilities?
Farrell: for sure. I mean, many organizations collapse, you know, when these egos collide. But, you know, Richards really appreciated what Jagger did for the band. But what Richards did was he kept the original vision of staying true to music alive. Look, they had disagreements, they almost broke up. But Jagger and Richards realized that work, craft, and money were better together than if they were separated. So this ability to collaborate, pivot, and adapt is key to any successful startup. So, by the way, you have a clear identity for your business. So the discussion found fascinating when Jagger spoke about the importance of developing the now famous tongue and lips logo in 1971.
Brancaccio: Yes, that was a brand exercise. They were very focused on that.
Farrell: Very focused, and it was very important. There are no words. You’ll only see the logo and know it was the Rolling Stones.
Brancaccio: What else hit you while watching all these parts of this document?
Farrell: As you know, Charlie Watts has passed away. But Jagger, Richards, and Ronnie Wood are in their 70s, and they still perform. They are still learning. They are still developing their craft. And most importantly, they are having fun on stage. So you know, David, the population of America is aging. Not surprisingly, the older generation is increasingly embracing entrepreneurship. So the Stones might not realize it, but they’ve become professional role models for the rest of us to learn from, and who would have thought that 60 years ago, when the band was formed?
Brancaccio: Hey Chris, do you want to hear the easiest money you ever made?
Farrell: Yes, of course.
Brancaccio: I bet a friend of mine could guess which band would play if he played the rock ‘n’ roll station I was working on because I knew the format so well. It’s like, “Impossible.” And he said, “You’re on,” and I said, “The Rolling Stones.” Turns on the radio. It’s the Rolling Stones.
Brancaccio: You know how I did it? I knew the station was only playing the Rolling Stones all weekend!
A lot is happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to analyze world events and tell you how they affect you in an accessible and fact-based way. We count on your financial support to keep making this happen.
Your donation today supports the independent journalism you depend on. For just $5 a month, you can help keep Marketplace so we can keep reporting the things that matter to you.