The music industry is unique. Success in the space requires a diligent work ethic, a double dose of creativity and the right combination of business acumen and emotional intelligence, according to Evan Rubinson, founder and CEO of ERA Music Brands.
As a former leader of internationally recognized brands including Dean Guitars, Luna Guitars and ddrum Percussion, Rubinson has a deep understanding of the industry.
Musicians are known to be a paradox. According to the stereotype, both are very passionate, but so are the numbers. In reality, they act like most consumers, buying based on a combination of emotional connection and perceived value, Evan Rubinson said.
This is why it is essential for any company in the industry to connect with consumers astutely, especially newer consumers who are looking for entry into the game or performance.
“Ukuleles were definitely a profit center for me previous company, Luna Guitarss, which I still own 50% of,” Rubinson shared. “Luna made a line of travel-sized ukuleles and acoustic guitars, and it became the most profitable line in our company. There’s a lot of money in ukuleles and a lot of money in acoustic guitars if done right.
“But even if it was a loss leader, I would still be very passionate about offering these products because it helps grow the market and create a positive relationship with the consumer. When someone falls in love with a tool, they become a long-term customer of the brand. From starting with an inexpensive ukulele or acoustic guitar, they often want to move up to more expensive instruments and full-size guitars. Fortunately, these lock lines are a profit center, but even if they weren’t, they would still be a key factor in growing our business and connecting with customers.”
When it comes to business, Evan Rubinson offers the kind of insightful analysis you’d expect from a former investment banker with a degree from Duke University. But if his move from the skyscrapers of Wall Street to the hills of Broadway required any adjustment, it was the kind not taught in business school.
“I would say in a nutshell, doing deals in finance and real estate is usually a little bit easier than doing deals in the music industry,” Evan Rubinson said. “People in fields like finance and real estate tend to have a firm understanding of the value of theirs companies and market conditions. They tend to be quite involved in this aspect of things. But people in the music industry tend to be a little more inflexible. You meet people who say, “Look, I’ve had this company for many, many years. My father had this for many, many years. I won’t give it for anything less than that amount. So it all comes down to this question: Do you want to overpay for a company, or do you want to wait for them to change their mind in the next few months?”
He compared the behavior of the music business to that of the musicians themselves. In both cases, appealing to the emotional part of the brain is key to establishing trust and building the connections needed to make things happen.
Relying on soft skills, kindness and understanding probably goes further in the world of the music business than in the realm of stock traders. But mastering the human element of business pays dividends at every level in every sector, Evan Rubinson said.
“We all like to think that we are emotionless, rational beings who make logical decisions at every turn. But if you want to succeed in this business, you have to understand the human psychology that goes along with buying tools — or anything, really,” he explained. “You have to offer something that people want, and you can’t decide whether they should want it or not. That’s up to them.”
To learn to consider the expectations of yours target audiencewhether it’s a corporation, small business owner or street user, is an excellent way to build relationships, Rubinson said.
“With my previous company, just like with all established brands, you can do a little bit more with them because they already mean something to people in the market and they already have an accepted audience,” he said.
“People already know what they’re getting if they buy an electric guitar from one of my other companies. But when you start a new company, you have to consider this aspect of behavioral psychology and human psychology. You have to think about where you and your partners are going to get the most bang for your buck in the marketplace and where you’re going to be able to really integrate with people who will hopefully be participating in this ecosystem for years to come as more and more products come out.”
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