Jazz – a driving force for research and development and sensible business practise

Larry Elliott in the The Guardian,  ecoonomics blog Sunday 3 February 2013 17.35 GM wrote a piece “Rock giants offer a sound model for business, says man from the Bank. From HMV to the economic crash: business and policy makers could learn a lot from the big names of pop”. This was repeated in the The Guardian on Monday 4th February as “The UK is more lead ballon than Led Zeppelin. Please see: http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2013/feb/03/music-of-business-hmv-economy

It was a very interesting article on the analogy between music and business and commented on the thoughts Andrew Sentance, the former Bank of England monetary policy comittee member, that are contained in a book by Peter Cook; The Music of Business. Larry Elliott was of course right on target with the economic analysis of the uk and the answer of live music  to the appalling returns of royalties accruing to musicians from online music stores. However the notion that rock music can provide the inspiration for the four building blocks of companies; strategy, innovation, creativity and leadership is a little too glib. The side-lining of jazz is to ignore the real fact about music as an analogy for business; where music is an ecology and the different genres of music inform each other. Jazz for example is a broad church  with a number of disparate “brands”  and whilst there is an altercation in the vestry someone  is building a new extension to the church. A crucial factor in Britain’s economic malaise is research and development. In 2010 Britain spent 1.76% of gross domestic product on research and development compared to Germany for example that raised its spending on research and develoment from 2.47% of gross domestic product  in 2000 to 2.82% in 2010. In jazz this research and development is invariably  funded by the musicians. Jazz in terms of innovation has been a phenomenal success as it continues to reinvent itself. Where rock scores is as a mass market, popular music that knows how to market itself by creating strong brands with an incredibly loyal following. Also tnotion of the product life cycle is  missing from the equation. The Rolling Stones have now probably reached the fag end of their product life cycle and have repositioned themselves as a “nostalgia” band. In terms of leadership; music and jazz in particular  provide rich examples of leadership styles ranging from the autocratic to the laissez fair as  well as a never ending workshop in group dynamics and team building. But the real crunch is that jazz is incredibly “cost effective” as invariably musicians pay for their own research and development and subsidise their work with low wages. Many rock bands on the other hand could be said to be prima facie examples of conspicuous consumption on a par with the bank’s senior managers – or perhaps they are copying the rock stars. I wish it was all as simple as Andrew Sentence seems to think it is.

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