Not all change is bad.
This past Saturday night, I did one of my favorite things at one of my favorite places: see live music at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. The band was Turnpike Troubadours, and the show was, in a word, amazing. There’s something about seeing a show at the “Mother Church of Country Music” that’s almost indescribable. Without digressing too much, suffice to say it is the most acoustically sound building I’ve ever been in, and I’ve never seen a bad show there.
Back to Saturday. During the Troubadours set, they did a cover of the Dawes song “All Your Favorite Bands.” If you’re unfamiliar with the song, it’s a nostalgic and reflective tune about how things change – and not always for the better. After each verse, the lyrics beg, “and may all your favorite bands stay together.” It’s one of those lines that end up being, with apologies to B.J. Barham from American Aquarium, a lyrical sucker punch to the face.
As I listened to the song with my friend Josh Robbins, he turned to me and screamed over the cacophony of bass, guitar, drums, accordion, and fiddle, “there’s a blog post in that line.” I looked at him for a moment as the lyrics again washed over me, and I thought, “I’ll be damned if he isn’t right.”
It got me thinking about some of my favorite bands and how they are no longer a group:
The Beatles only lasted eight years.
The Eagles used to have fistfights on stage.
Guns N’ Roses were so volatile the original powerhouse lineup was only together for a few years.
The Police openly loathed each other.
Peter Gabriel left Genesis because he didn’t care for the band’s direction.
There have been so many incarnations of Van Halen even I’ve lost count at this point.
There’s always a bit of sadness when a band calls it quits - as if there’s a future unfulfilled potential that fans will never hear. However, more than that, it’s the concept of change that we as fans have no say in. We invest our time, money, hearts, and allegiance, and it feels unfair when band members start going their separate ways.
But, what if we saw a band breaking up as an opportunity instead of something to mourn? If the above bands stayed together, we wouldn’t have heard John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s excellent solo work, we never would’ve had songs like “Red Rain” and “In Your Eyes” from Peter Gabriel, and we might never have heard the artists that Don Henley and Glen Frey could be on their own.
Truthfully, it’s no different in business. Change – specifically change where we have no control – feels wrong. In those moments, we often forget that nothing lasts forever and industries, companies, products, and marketing campaigns all have a beginning, middle, and end. Bands, like businesses, can stagnate. Friction happens as the pressure to grow mounts, there are differences in leadership philosophies regarding long-term direction, and, sometimes, people feel they need to leave for their personal development to flourish.
Depending on how you look at things, change can be harmful and uncomfortable or represent a fantastic opportunity for growth and new ideas. I suppose my advice is that not all change is bad – even the change we can’t dictate. If Ralph Lauren hadn’t left Brooks Brothers, the brand Polo wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t enjoy Kentucky Fried Chicken had Harland Sanders (better known as Colonel Sanders) continued to operate a service station for the Shell Oil Company. If Walt Disney hadn't been fired from a newspaper for “lack of creativity,” the world would’ve been robbed of unimaginable joy.
Again, it’s about opportunity and perspective. Next time your favorite band has members that do solo projects, take a break because of creative differences, or just outright break up, remember that you may end up getting more with the sum of the parts than you did with the whole.