The art of competition requires a sense of where , and where not, to play. In the music business, it turns out that knowing what to play is equally important. Case in point: Jethro Tull, one of the most successful and enduring rock and roll bands in the world led by frontman Ian Anderson for nearly fifty years.
In the band’s early days, Anderson realized they could not make a name for themselves by relying solely on the standard instrument of the rock and roll genre: the electric guitar.( Effective entrepreneurs assess their competition, their markets and themselves). When he compared his ability as a guitarist against reigning virtuosos like Eric Clapton or Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Anderson realized he needed to find a different way for his band to get the attention it wanted.
Visiting a music store to exchange his guitar for something different, he spied a flute on the wall and decided to give it a try. ,Anderson quickly became proficient on the instrument (with no formal instruction) and gave it a leading role in the group’s performances; the first time anyone had featured the flute as a lead instrument in a rock band. Five decades later, Ian Anderson is associated with the instrument in a way that has become an enduring, exclusive trademark; and most importantly, with no competition from anyone in the genre on this instrument. He owns this space.
Anderson the innovator reflects: “I didn’t want to be just another third-rate guitar player who sounded like a bunch of other third-rate guitar players. I wanted to do something that was a bit more idiosyncratic, hence the switch to another instrument. When Jethro Tull began, I think I’d been playing the flute for about two weeks. It was a quick learning curve…literally every night I walked onstage was a flute lesson.”
“Idiosyncratic?” Sure, before he tried it. Wildly successful once he did. The result: a career most musicians would kill for, spanning nearly half a century and over 40 albums. Take a five minute break and listen to what can happen when an entrepreneur decides to do something different…. even if he or she doesn’t know what that might be… or how to do it.