What Does Rick Rubin and Paul Graham Have in Common?

My brother recently took me to a Sound City Players show here in New York.  I’d never heard of the band before other than hearing it was a mashup of Nirvana, Foo Fighters and a dozen other artists.  How bad could that be?

In order to prepare for the show, he told me to watch this iTunes movie which is the history of Sound City.   I was not able to watch it before the concert but did end up watching it last night (romantic Valentines evening).

To sum it up quickly, Sound City was a recording studio in California that became famous for it’s location, home-y yet raw venue, and the volumes of gold and platinum albums that it turned out.  The studio was dedicated to tape based recording (pre-digital) and was magical in how it produced and directed everyone from Fear to John Fogerty, from Stevie Nicks to Nirvana.  The list of artists that stepped foot through their doors is unbelievably diverse and deep.

While watching the documentary, it got me thinking about how Sound City is similar to some of the incubator and accelerators that we have in the marketplace today for technology companies.  Are YCombinator, TechStars, Science, and others the next Sound City?

In other words, are recording studios similar to accelerators and incubators;  In many ways, they are.

I’ve spent some time in recording studios – specifically one here in New York City during my music business days.  Producers and recording engineers play similar roles to mentors and advisors that come thru accelerators and incubators.

Producers help to shape the music and if good, get the very best out of the artist.  They push the artist forward and move them into uncomfortable zones… often telling the artist things that they might not want to hear.

Recording engineers are making sure the music is being captured correctly and in a way that can move into production after its mutually agreed upon.

Artists who go thru recording studios are not guaranteed a hit song or album.  But the chances of going thru a solid recording studio with a reputable producer and creating an album will have a higher probability (I would think, not grounded in fact) of being taken seriously by the music business (A&R folks, etc).  The album also is accelerated thru the recording process as there is a lot of time dedication, attention, and focus on shipping the very best album possible.

Bringing this back to entrepreneurship, is Paul Graham or David Cohen the Rick Rubin of the accelerator industry?

It sounds like a hyperbolic and trivial statement, but think about it.

Not all startups need to go thru a accelerator or incubator.  Many artists don’t necessarily go thru a recording studios.  A big reason for this is that the digital tools available today do not necessitate getting together in a professional studio when Ableton Live or Pro Tools can have similar output at a fraction of the cost.  This is also similar in the accelerator space, though while the tools can be had whether or not in an accelerator, the network of people you engage with are most important.

Just something fun to chew on.

  • Brendan

    I think you’re spot on in your evaluation. Maybe the LCD is that the TechStars, YCombinator’s, and recording studio’s of the world play the mentor role… which is invaluable. Thanks for posting, enjoyable.