March 10, 2009
This post is to celebrate the lead-up to South by Southwest, one of the best music events on the planet.
Women are responsible for the vast majority of music ever created. Either they were creating it themselves, or they were inspiring young men to do the same.
Most women are shocked by this revelation. “You mean all men learn to play guitar in order to increase their chance of scoring?”
“But they say it’s because it speaks to their soul.”
There are two reasons why wooing the ladies is the main reason men gravitate toward musicianship. First, it works. I could go into why I think it works but it really doesn’t matter. The supporting data are overwhelming. Second, learning to play an instrument is difficult. After a few weeks, it seems like you’ll never get to any level of proficiency. Without the promise of a woman’s attention dangling out there, most men give up. Of course, the promise of a woman’s attention motivates a great deal of what we men do (working out, making money, etc.).
I’ve been a musician my whole life, and I do love music for reasons that have nothing to do with getting lucky. But those reasons came later, way after I started learning how to play. Even in 5th grade, where I changed from piano to saxophone, I did it to play an instrument that was “cooler.” This is really just a fifth-grader’s way of identifying a more girl-friendly strategy before he’s even figured out that he likes girls.
The problem is that most men fail to acknowledge the real reason why they should learn to play an instrument, even to themselves. As a result, they don’t optimize their approach to get the results they are after. This can lead to things like playing the oboe. No one ever got a date by playing the oboe. Sorry.
Men, it’s at this point that you need to look at yourselves in the mirror and be honest. Music is a wonderful, beautiful, artistic thing, but if you really want to become a good musician you need to focus on the possibility of one thing: groupies.
As in the earlier oboe-playing example, the point where most guys go astray is the point of instrument choice. If you choose a bad instrument, the ladies will ignore your efforts and you will quickly stop playing. You might even wonder why those harp lessons never stuck. But really, you were done before you started.
So to help you, I have included below a list of what I consider are the ten best instruments to woo the ladies – gathered from years of observing their effectiveness. You can play any of them, based on your personal taste and the type of women that interest you, but I wouldn’t stray too far from this list.
1. Guitar – A good guitar player is like superman, from the arena stage to the campfire. There is a reason why “Guitar Hero” is one of the most popular video games of all time.
2. Vocals – A man that can sing well can speak in ways the rest of us can’t. He also carries his instrument with him wherever he goes. The only reason he isn’t number 1 is because he doesn’t have the mystique of the guitar player (If you need to understand this dynamic better, see Cameron Crowe’s seminal movie Almost Famous).
3. Drums – The drummer is the working man of the rock band, the captain of the rhythm section. As such, even though he is further from the women in the front row than other musicians, the fact that he lays down the beats means his connection with them is more primal. Women will sometimes walk right past the lead guitarist and front man to talk to the drummer right after a show. Laying down the beat lays down the groundwork.
4. Bass Guitar / Stand-up Bass - In certain instances the man on bass can hop over the drummer, but in most cases bass guitar offers the least opportunity for expressiveness in terms of your traditional rock band instruments. But it’s still a powerful combination of rhythm and proximity to the audience. A Stand-Up Bass can earn you a little extra mojo if you work in a few full spins.
5. Piano / Keyboards – Piano is, in my opinion, the most legitimately romantic instrument behind vocals. This is why the hair bands of the 80′s, who were the least coy about their motivations for picking up instruments, would occasionally roll out a piano ballad to further their efforts (See “Something to Believe In”, Poison, 1990).
6. Saxophone – When I throw sax out there, most people think Kenny G. Stop it. This is not the sax I’m talking about. Sax is #6 for one reason, and that’s jazz. The jazz saxophone is the closest instrument to the human voice, and can nearly match its expressiveness. The weakness for the sax, as with other wind instruments, is that you cannot roll a combo with instrument+vocals. (For good sax, see Michael Brecker)
Before I go on, that’s an important note about instruments 1-5 above. Instruments like bass guitar or piano can shoot to the top of the list when paired with vocals. This is the only way a guy who looks like Billy Joel could marry Christie Brinkley (and he’s now married to 28-year-old Katie Lee – no judging, how you wield the power is your choice).
7. Trumpet – Ok, trumpet is a little bit of a stretch at #7 but I put it in not only because it’s another great jazz solo instrument, but also because it’s arguably the manliest instrument in the symphony orchestra (I know I’m reaching, but in the same room with men playing bassoon and viola, this guy is a rock star).
8. Violin / Fiddle – Violin is another cross-over instrument, because although it’s the prima donna of the symphony, it’s a great solo instrument for country/western/bluegrass/celtic. Unfortunately, fiddle-style violin just isn’t that sexy in most cases. But you can’t say Charlie Daniels didn’t considerably increase his luck every time he rolled out “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” (1979)
9. Trombone – Trombone brings it in at #9, as it too can be a powerful jazz or orchestral instrument. Though it’s a little pokier than its brass cousin the trumpet, it makes up for it a bit with deeper, manlier timbre.
10. Bagpipes – I personally think women get freaky when they hear the bagpipes. But I might be alone in this opinion. I mean, they play the bagpipes before Irish battles and at the funerals of policemen and firemen, for pete’s sake. This is a much better choice if you are looking for something non-traditional than say, the dreaded accordion.
So men, I hope my list will help you budding musicians out there in the early choices that can mean the difference between virtuosity and obscurity. And if you try them all and find that you have no musical talent whatsoever, remember that you can always grow a mustache.
March 4, 2009
Today at work we were discussing the prep for a big presentation next week, and getting into some pretty esoteric discussions (as we usually do) about how to communicate the vision and direction of our company.
One of the issues with what we do is that we are not only in the marketing world, but we are also in a subdomain of marketing (“social marketing,” or basically building communities online for marketing purposes). The social marketing world deals with a lot of pretty innovative web tools and a lot of specialized terminology that many people, even professional interactive marketers, don’t understand completely yet. In prepping for any presentation outside Powered’s four walls, we have to be cognizant of that. If we don’t constantly stay vigilant we run the risk of speaking in a language our audience can’t understand.
In more general terms, this is the “Nell” Effect, referring to the 1994 movie starring Jodie Foster that received mixed reviews like “Stunningly awful on almost every level.” But useful for a blog post!
In the movie, Jodie plays this woman who basically grows up in complete isolation from the world. As a result, she has invented her own language and built a completely unique world view. Neither of these translate to the world we know very well. Of course, in Hollywood fashion the movie tries to show us that our world view isn’t as beautiful as Nell’s, but Nell isn’t trying to make it in the private sector either.
I think we’ve all experienced the Nell Effect before, though, in various places where we’ve had an immersive, shared experience. When I graduated with my MBA, it was extremely difficult to get to where I was talking and writing like a normal person again – and not using terms like “sustainable competitive advantage” when talking about my favorite places to eat. Of course, my MBA classmates would know exactly what I was talking about!
While it’s important to internalize the learnings from each of these closed environments, you have to find new ways to express them once that environment has fallen away. When have you experienced the Nell Effect? Are there still traces of it in the way you talk, or the way that you write?
March 3, 2009
There are three questions I think a salesperson has to answer for a potential buyer:
- What is it that I’m buying? (Understanding)
- How is it relevant or valuable to me specifically? (Relevancy)
- How risky is it to buy? (Risk)
The difficulty of answering these questions can vary widely depending on what you are selling and to whom you are talking. But they all have to be addressed before someone will buy.
For a salesperson, understanding which question seems to be the most challenging to answer most of the time can be key to focusing your message. Also, experience in answering these questions in order, while choosing just the right words to answer each question quickly and effectively is key.
For a marketer, by choosing potential buyer segments that easily understand what you are selling, find what you are selling very relevant, and feel that it is less risky than others do, you will likely make things much easier on yourself. With each successive sale, understanding and relevancy will be better understood by tougher targets – while risk will be perceived as lower.
For a businessperson, you can rate the worthiness of a business on these three dimensions. If one out of the three is a real barrier, you can probably find a way around it and capitalize on doing so. But if what you are thinking of providing to buyers is confusing, lacks wide relevancy, and is a risky thing to buy, it’s clearly not a wise investment.
A final point: most salespeople, and most websites, ignore the first question. Then they wonder why they just can’t get past the second or third one.