The Startup as a Band

Dave Matthews BandI’m always looking to draw parallels between things and one I’d like to share is my analogy of the music world and the startup world, both of which I feel extremely passionate about.

Dave Matthews Band
is my favorite band, and though I’ve blogged about them before, I’m going to use them in an analogy. Feel free to replace this band with one of your choosing and I’m sure the band members will still work.

In the startup world, different people bring various skills to the company. Many times, people have overlapping skill sets, but if staffed correctly, a solid startup will have specialists in various areas. Since I’m a digital media guy, I’m going to lay out a digital media startup:

  • CEO/President
  • Sales Guru (EVP, Sales)
  • Technology Guru (CTO)
  • Marketing Guru (CMO)
  • Financial Wizard (CFO)

These five positions are generally found in most [if not all] digital media startups and are staffed ideally by the highest caliber members possible. The members of these positions have exemplified significant amplitude to their positions and lead their respective charge with a team reporting to them.

Drawing the parallels with DMB, you will find:

CEO/President: More often than not, the public face of the company and the most vocal. Dave, being the frontman (arguably with drummer, Carter Beauford) and setting the tone for the band. Rallies the team through ups and downs and has significant pressure applied by fans (the board) to produce good music.

Sales Guru: Without this rockstar of sales, the company isn’t going anywhere. At the end of the day, the company must generate revenue and if the co. hasn’t taken any funding, the days will be short lived. The drummer, Carter Beauford, keeps the band moving. He calls the shots and decides where the music will go (should they jam out #41, or end it quickly).

Technology Guru: Yes, Stefan Lessard (bassist) would be the technology guru… why? Because technology is an enabler. The technology must be present to successfully run the digital media company, but generally, it holds everything together and provides the beat/bassline that everything else follows. Take the bass out of the song and it’ll sound empty; too much base and it’ll sound terrible. During the song Anyone Seen the Bridge, the technology would shine as there is a minor solo by Lessard.

Marketing Guru: The marketing guru is generally responsible for how the company looks and reacts to the market. This also includes public relations and the conversation the band has indirectly with the fans. Boyd Tinsley, violinist of the Dave Matthews Band fills this role extremely well. Solos, solos, and more solos, but other times, blends in well with the band and plays in the background. Whether it’s a full solo (think product announcement) in Too Much, or blending into the background [everyday marketing] in Two Step, Boyd is a significant part of the band.

Financial Wizard: The financial wizard of the company makes sure everything is moving forward and the expenses and revenues check. Leroi Moore, DMB’s saxophonist watches the band from the sideline and fills in any gaps – and has the ability to blow a horn should the band be off beat. Generally very quiet and sometimes reclusive, these wizards understand numbers and know them cold.Dave Matthews Band 2

A major touring act such as the Dave Matthews Band could not survive without it’s techs (drum & guitar techs), food crew, staff, roadies, drivers, road managers, personal managers, and business managers (as well as label staff). In the business world, this equals investors, mentors, board members, advisors, and consultants.

It’s fascinating to draw the parallels between the music industry and the startup world, but as you dig deeper into it, you’ll see it for yourself.

“Everybody wake up, if you’re living with your eyes closed.” – Dave Matthews Band


  • http://onesmartposse.blogspot.com chris hanaka

    spot on, darrren, this is really great

  • Bill

    Wish you would say where & when the great photos were taken