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The Beat of Your Own Drummer

How do I listen to music? Let me count the ways. I listen on Amazon Music--which saves me money over Spotify. I listen to the All Songs Considered podcasts including New Music Friday, Bob Boilen’s weekly selections and World Cafe. I peruse Bandcamp. I listen to a few DJ’s on Mixcloud. One of those DJ's suggested Live 365, so I subscribed to that. Jango wants me to subscribe. I recently let my subscription to Sirius/XM radio expire. Every once in a while, I will listen to Pandora. And there are many other avenues I could choose from.

Interestingly, in most ways all of these music channels are fungible. Each one of them plays many genres of music. All, but the podcasts, give me some choice in what song or genre I want to hear. They all want me to buy music from their site. As a result, I can go to any of the venues and have a satisfying, but not electrifying, experience. And I often have no idea which venue I am listening to.

One of my favorite thought leaders--Seth Godin--talks about creating for the smallest viable audience. This allows you to create exceptional content that will not please everyone but will excite the few it does please. All of the music venues I listen to seem to be recruiting the largest possible audience. As a result, they are not unique. They don’t generate buzz (at least from me). And I would not miss any of them if they disappeared tomorrow.

As leaders, we need to think about how we can make our product or service special. We want to ensure that if we closed down tomorrow, we would be missed and not easily replaced. We do not want to be fungible. How do we accomplish this?

Unsurprisingly, the drive for uniqueness starts with your mission. If your mission is boilerplate then your offering will probably be nondescript. However, if a mission is clear and lays out a blueprint that differs from your competitors, you have the opportunity to create something special.

To be noticed, you need to be comfortable that you cannot be everything for everyone. A strong offering will be very attractive to some and not at all appealing to others. That is how it should be and how choice works. Further by offering a unique and special program, you will catalyze positive talk about you within your community. That talk will spread to non-customers who will want to understand what you have to offer and determine if it fits their needs.

So do your thing and do it as well as you can. Be different so people understand why you are unique and why that uniqueness serves them better than the vanilla offerings elsewhere. Then let people choose. And in the meantime listen to music anyway you want.


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