Top Shelf Reference: The Music of Business

For as long as it takes you to read The Music of Business, drop all vices and preconceived notions, then get ready for a heady ride. British author, Peter Cook has compiled a top shelf read that should remain in your library as a reference and an inspiration. This book is about the art of busines explained through the business of music.

MOB Page 1 Cover Low

This review is coming a little later than planned as there’s a lot to think about when you get into the various voices and opinions relayed through Cook’s lens. It takes a good deal of background knowledge to make all the necessary associations here. You need to know about science, business, music history, and pop culture to connect the dots bringing away the full impact of Cook’s intent.


This is a book for the thinking person, the one who is serious about the path they’ve chosen to follow. Musicians and entrepreneurs are not often invited to the same party. However, it appears one of the goals here is to illustrate musicians need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, when most often they don’t. Conversely, entrepreneurs will hopefully see they need to balance watching the bottom line with a certain rhythm their artistic counterparts handle quite naturally.


As with everything we read, some of the information will appear as gospel, already carved in stone somewhere.  Other ideas will be taken with a grain of salt at one sitting, while being incredibly powerful the next time around.  When Cook talks about music, it’s his opinion. As subjective as the discipline is, what appears to be great talent in the eyes of some, will be waved away by others. Still, there’s undeniable truth on the business side.  For instance, among many examples, he lays out much  that works in Lady Gaga’s career on the entrepreneurial side, and how she has bundled ideas from mega stars that came before her. It’s worth paying close attention to Cook’s accounts and how various relationships dovetail into a total package.


Many will determine there’s a common missing link in many of these stories. Cook talks extensively about Gaga, Prince, and Madonna in terms of their success. What remains a mystery to many are intimate details in these storied careers and how the leap from being a nobody to a household name occurred. The struggling artist who reaches for Cook’s book for inspiration will be left wondering just how Madonna became one of the richest entertainers in the world. Was it all hubris? Was it management or a certain investor that actually launched Madonna’s career? That’s the multi- million dollar answer everyone is searching for. Cook masterfully ignores these details in favor of other clues. Why masterful? Because too many try to emulate what has worked in one or a few mainstream stories as the template  everyone can use. Instead, Cook outlines a totally different path and one that can be used by many based on individual achievement.


Cook breaks down much of the information into chapters about innovation, leadership, and a host of characteristics that are common among the most famous entrepreneurs of our time.


Some of the more profound ideas examine universal patterns of thinking. People around the globe are educated through similar methodologies. For instance in public schools, we are taught to be reproductive. Homework is a repetitive reproductive practice.


Creative people think productively, not reproductively. Globally we are a mass production society that grew out of an industrial age. Creative people produce mass quantities of work in order to engender single masterpieces without a cookie cutter mentality.  Einstein, for example, is most well-known for his paper on relativity though he wrote some 250 academic documents. Shakespeare, Bach, and Mozart were prolific in their art forms. Some of their work, Cook points out,  is actually frivolous compared to the genius we find in those pieces known the world over.


According to the laws of nature, the most distinguished characteristic of genus is productivity. Mastering a craft takes productive practice. Practice allows a person to immediately fit into a given situation with ease, being remarkable when called to do so. Innovation is what separates leaders from followers.


The most interesting concept taken away from Cook’s book is the idea there is no such thing as failure. It’s a man made construct. Further, mistakes are necessary in order for us to succeed. It’s healthy to make mistakes, yet each of us has been well-educated to fear failure and deny our missteps. We aren’t born fearing failure. If that were true the human race would not walk, but crawl. Babies learn to walk, talk, eat, and a million other things through trial and error.  To illustrate more fully, I recently saw a quote that says faith and fear demand you believe in something you cannot see. Our natural instinct is to succeed without a shred of evidence that we can. It’s purely innate and all about doing.


Failure is a judgment others hang on patterns of behavior they see in someone else. So the idea of failure is really a powerfully crippling control mechanism and has nothing to do with us.  Until we dismiss the idea of failure altogether we may never recognize the pattern of success.  It is not success when the doing is for approval, or wealth or fame. Success is turning ideas into reality and continuing to create tangible things that resonate universally, then ultimately a scalable model of  innovation and leadership.


Most of us live a soft existence where a great deal of comfort is a requirement. For many, comfort is the very measure of success. Most of the greatest innovative breakthroughs come from environments where comfort is not possible. The music business is fraught with gossip by people who are deathly afraid of being taken advantage of which is perceived as a social discomfort. If you think you are going to coast uphill into a perfect situation you should rethink your entire game plan because business isn’t for those who play to lose. The equation for meaningful innovation does not include comfort, hand holding, or polite behavior necessarily.


Here’s a list of of common qualities among the most notable innovators of all time:

  • They do things differently

  • They are often abrasive

  • They are unconstrained by the past

  • They act on intuition

  • They take larger risks than those who merely adapt to normal circumstances

Herein lies a great lesson for those who want to be successful in the music business, though, it should be noted the era of pop/rock stardom is reportedly over and will  likely never come again.


Be an innovator.  First and foremost continue creating within a productive routine. Be prepared when called upon to be remarkable. Don’t listen to gossip among your peers who warn you against the behavior of innovative gatekeepers in this business. They have earned the reputation of being gatekeepers for a reason. Those who want to adapt to a certain substandard  of mastery, a substandard style of behavior, with a substandard set of expectations will constantly rail against the qualities innovators have no fear of.

Adapters will fit neatly into manufactured boxes fearing failure and talking about the failure of others. Innovators are too busy to engage in this and will never fit neatly into anything as uniform as a box, or a measurable pattern.

They are off the creative charts where mediocrity is the yardstick.

Purchase The Music of Business at: AMAZON.CO.UK or AMAZON.COM. For more information please visit


About scout66

2017 marks the 33rd year of Janet Hansen’s career as a music marketing specialist. With three Grammy award-winning campaigns to her credit, Hansen has also contributed to the legacy of two of history’s most popular songs. “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams is the most-broadcast instrumental tune in history; and “Louie, Louie” by The Fabulous Wailers is the most-recorded rock song in history. In 2009 Hansen launched the unique music platform Scout66 to encourage reviews of live shows from the ticket-buying public. You may contact Janet at for information on consulting, campaigns, and tour support. Please follow us on Twitter at
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Top Shelf Reference: The Music of Business

  1. pfcnpfcn says:


    The author perhaps unknowingly hints at ICONOCLASM in which such as Axiomatic Design mitigates the risks of failure to innovate. This heads off the #2 reason for lack of innovation which is FEAR of ridicule and failure.

    Now it’s only to solve the Social Intelligence barrier to communicate the far-outside-the-box visions to the investors and thus finally achieve World-Wide Wealth & Welfare..

    Good job Peter!
    Alias Sir George the Dragon Slayer
    Knighted in Canadian Dragons’ Den 2009


  2. uday pasricha says:

    wonderful review on the book. Music is relevant In this non linear era (as we live in now) because traditional linear logic and past education has taught us to always try and research what the customer or market wants. In todays era where every product and service ( like a tune) has to be something never hear before, traditional past knowledge fails because they try to find past patterns that will be emulated again. This has increased the number of failures. true Musicians have to innovate because they have to come up with an innovative tune or song every time. For musicians failure is the only source of learning and improvement. Business needs to learn that from musicians. Can someone please find a better word for failure ?? As the only source of learning its past connotation (as something to hide) is preventing growth.


    • scout66com says:

      This review mentions that there is no such thing as failure. It’s a man made construct. Your points are quite valid and appreciate you taking the time to make comments.


  3. Thank you for posting this remark Uday and thanks also for a thought provoking review – I had not seen some of the angles you explore in your blog.

    This interesting comment came from a Linkedin group : Lots of good stuff there but no I don’t think innovators need to be abrasive – rather, they need to be persuasive – and the style of persuading successfully will depend on the audience. Though we may be thinking in different sets of categories – she may have the inventor in the shed, rather than the innovator doing a pitch, in mind.

    On the other hand they do need to be relatively impervious to, or have defenses against the dark arts of, abrasion from others in order to sustain the necessary resilience for a role that usually invites more knock-backs than positive strokes.

    I’ve also learned that “top shelf” has different connotations around the world! 🙂 I was wondering if my book needed wrapping in black plastic aka The Spinal Tap “Smell The Glove” album! 🙂


  4. scout66com says:

    Innovators don’t have to be abrasive. It is one of five common characteristics as noted in “The Music of Business.” Innovators do need to be persuasive as well, though I’m not certain they see it as their job. They see creating as their job and the great ones are too busy creating. The persuasive business is often put in someone else’s hands. Steve Jobs was a great persuader. He seemed to do it naturally, but he was also quite abrasive!


  5. Indeed he was – we forgive him for that because he was a genius 🙂


  6. Reblogged this on Peter Cook's Musings – The Music of Business and commented:
    This blog is a review by US Music Journalist Janet Hansen. In my opinion she has gone WAY beyond the normal reviewer’s task and created a piece of writing that stands on it’s own merits as a superb set of insights into the creative process in music and business. She makes points from her own experience in the music business and I was delighted to receive this recently having had nothing more than a Twitter conversation with her. Check her other blog posts out which offer rare insights into music, musicians and creativity at work. Janet is also part of a women’s empowerment movement across the USA entitled ‘Women Who Rock”.


  7. Rob Owen says:

    Wonderful review, a great advert for the book and some really good observations. I was lucky enough to meet Peter on a residential course during my MBA some years ago and he is every bit as energetic and enthusiastic in real life and was without doubt the lecturer that everyone wanted to listen to… He’s a pretty good guitarist too !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s