I know it’s hard to believe, but according to Nielson, the Beatles were the best-selling rock band during the first half of 2020. Nobody, apart from perhaps the Beatles themselves, would have predicted their monumental success in 1962 when a catastrophic mistake almost caused the band to collapse.
Fortunately, “Quitting” was not in the Beatles book
“Listening to the tapes, I can understand why we did not pass the Decca audition. We weren’t so good … “Paul McCartney
The words “failure” and “The Beatles” rarely appear in the same sentence. However, just like a nascent startup, the Beatles’ first career was made up of a series of failures, culminating in their unsuccessful audition with the leading record company of their time, Decca Records – a misstep that almost made the band close.
Entrepreneurs can draw several startup lessons from how the Beatles dealt with Decca’s devastating rejection.
Wrong product – The audition material was selected by the group manager, Brian Epstein. Brian’s music industry experiences were nominal, having recently signed on as Beatles manager. The Beatles were impressed by him for his refined behavior and the fact that he took care of the recording department in his parents’ furniture store.
Of the thirteen songs chosen by Brian, ten were uninspiring covers of American melodies, which the Beatles sang with exaggerated American accents. Brian’s intention was to show the group’s multi-generational appeal by drawing on mainstream songs, including songs from Broadway shows. He selected only three songs by Lennon and McCartney for inclusion in the audition, none of which was subsequently released by the band, as deemed inferior. (Note: “Hello Little Girl” and “Like Dreamers Do” were later published on the Beatles Anthology collection. “Love Of The Loved” remains unreleased.)
Lesson – Entrepreneurs must have the confidence to listen to their consultants and reject their advice when they go beyond their areas of expertise.
Wrong audience – For George Harrison, “At that time it was unusual to have a group where everyone sang. In those days, he was … a boy in front of singing. “John’s memory is similar:” They were so stupid. When they listened to these audition tapes, they listened to The Shadows. So, they weren’t listening at all. “
Lesson – Understand the perspective of a potential stakeholder before interacting with them. Focus your time on wooing aspiring investors, customers and employees who believe in your company’s product / market, ignoring those who don’t.
Wrong team – The Beatles’ final lineup was incomplete at the time of their audition on Decca. The affable, but musically mediocre, Pete Best was the Beatles’ drummer rather than Ringo Starr.
Lesson – One of the keys to the Beatles’ final success was the creative tension and balance they achieved once Ringo joined the group. Likewise, a startup can afford to compromise when establishing its core team.
Wrong time – Timing is all about comedy, life and business. The Beatles weren’t just ready at the time of their Decca test. According to Paul McCartney, “By listening to the tapes, I can understand why we failed Decca’s audition. We weren’t so good, although there were some pretty interesting and original things. “
Lesson Start-ups have limited resources to protect key customers, investors and employees, which makes recovery from a negative first impression difficult. Therefore, entrepreneurs must balance their desire to accelerate their path to success with the skills of their startup.
Wrong reasons – Brian paid Decca £ 15 to record the session (equal to $ 42 at the moment and $ 360 in 2020). While this isn’t a huge amount of money, it seems strange to pay for an audition. Therefore, it is unclear whether Decca’s motivation was a sincere desire to evaluate the band or an opportunity to score a small payday using an otherwise empty studio (the audition was held on January 1, a vacation).
Lesson – The two most limited resources of an entrepreneur, time and money, must be strictly monitored. Therefore, when a customer, investor or partner makes a request, the reasons must be clear. As the Beatles know, “Can’t By Me Love”.
Wrong expectations – According to John Lennon, “I think Decca expected us all to be polished, we were just doing a demo.”
Lesson – Establishing adequate expectations with the startup stakeholders is imperative, as excessive promise and failure to deliver will destroy your credibility. If you deliver a prototype to a potential partner who expects a marketed solution, the relationship could be irreparably damaged.
Baby, you’re a rich man
After the group’s immense success, the Beatles remembered their refusal by Decca with bitter satisfaction.
George: “… they (Decca) signed Brian Poole and the Tremeloes instead. Decca chief Dick Rowe made a cunning prediction: ‘Guitar groups are going out …’ ”
Paul: “He’s kicking himself now.”
John: “I hope he commits suicide.”
Fortunately for music fans everywhere, the Beatles have managed their failures as successful serial entrepreneurs. They ignored the alleged experts, internalized their mistakes and improved their prop value, working tirelessly.
Entrepreneurs can take comfort in the reality that everyone, including people who are hugely successful, suffers from overwhelming soul failures. Setbacks on the road to success are inevitable. What matters most is whether you allow your mistakes to define you or motivate you to achieve a higher level of success.
You can follow John on Twitter: @johngreathouse.