5 Startup Lessons from Hip Hop

I’m not an expert on hip hop, but I’m a fan. Its evolution is fascinating. The amount and pace of innovation is remarkable. I believe that some day in the not-too-distant future, people will look back on today as a golden era of music innovation.

I believe the lessons of hip hop, itself an interesting business success story, can be applied to many disciplines.

  1. Collaboration. Hip hop artists today collaborate to a degree that nobody has before. Writers collaborate with each other. Performers collaborate remotely. Performers on the same song don’t ever have to be in the same room or even on the same continent. The notion of “featuring” another artist in your song is both novel and powerful
  2. Crossing and blending genres. Hip hop artists have transformed the idea of sampling. They pay homage to great riffs and have introduced the world to lesser known riffs and artists. Everyday by A$AP Rocky featuring Rod Stewart and Miguel (3 genres in one innovative song) is accessible, fun and powerful
  3. Remixing. The phenom of Desiigner, especially his song Panda is a fascinating study in proving a platform for innovation. The beat and flexible chorus allow for many different artists to create inside his platform. They’re not just covering music, they’re often reimagining it
  4. Commercialization. Hip hop artists have figured out how to commercialize their product in many different ways — much more than just selling albums. They’ve crossed commercial genres in ways that few artists in the past have — from advertising to creating new product lines and brands (Beats is one of many great examples) to merchandizing in new ways.
  5. Distribution model. The speed at which a new artist or song can become immensely popular is remarkable. Social media is displacing the traditional middle-men — the record companies and radio stations. Popularity is becoming democratized.

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