By Jeff Zeller (EC), Founder of the HBS Sound Society
There are consistent elements that set up a company for success: an addressable market, effective communication with customers, capital, differentiation, and a strong support team. It’s no different with musicians, and DJ duo The Chainsmokers was at Harvard Business School on Monday to discuss the business of being a musician.
Artists Alex Pall and Drew Taggart were joined by their manager Adam Alpert, CEO of Disruptor Management/Records, and their CAA agent, Mac Clark. In an hour-long panel discussion, the foursome sat down with Sound Society co-president Jeff Zeller. Topics ranged from how international touring is impacting the artists’ schedule, to the importance of authentic (and constant) communication with fans, and finally to the impact of digital distribution on the importance of putting out full-length albums.
While not every student in the room will work directly in the entertainment industry, the team made it clear that there are enormous cross-over opportunities emerging between large companies and acts like The Chainsmokers. Sponsorships play an increasingly important role in sustaining musicians, and Alpert made it clear that partnering with big companies like Jaegermeister or Google has to be authentic and completely on brand for the team to say yes.
They also stressed the importance of constantly pushing out new content — whether it’s actual music, Instagram photos, Snapchat videos, and more. In an era of constant connection, consumer mindshare is a zero-sum game, so remaining top of mind is the only way to ensure long term success.
The conversation was insightful, humorous, and authentic — showcasing the magnetic personalities that draw so many people to these guys’ shows. Achieving a Billboard Dance #1 is a great accomplishment, but The Chainsmokers have much grander ambitions, and they admit as much in one of their songs, stating matter-of-factly: “I wanna be like Kanye.”