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The love affair of start-ups and rock bands: a case study of Linkin Park

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You might not realise it yet, but start-ups and rock bands have more in common than you might think.

Remember Linkin Park? That rock band from Washington DC? Or was it Philly? Or Jacksonville? It’s difficult to remember because there is a Lincoln Park in just about every city in America – and that right there is the genius of the band’s name. Every time they toured a new city, everyone thought that was their home town.

So, what can start-ups can learn from Linkin Park?

Let’s start off with some fundamental similarities between a newly formed rock band and a start-up. They both start by hypothesising about what the problem is, what they’re going to build (songs and products) and who is going to buy it (fans and customers).

When launching a new start-up, if using Lean Start-up Methodology, an early milestone is to release a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and begin the flearning (fail +learning). The goal of a MVP is to test fundamental business hypotheses.

When Linkin Park launched back in the late 90s, they were effectively a start-up and like a start-up they built a MVP. Their MVPs were demos. They didn’t record and produce an entire album; instead they wrote a couple of songs and began a dialog with their fans (customers) by sending out their demos (product) in order to get feedback (validated learning).

They were validating some fundamental hypotheses that musicians make when recording an album: People will listen to our music; People will tell their friends about our music.

Linkin Park did this remarkably well, listening to their fans (customers) and adjusting their product (iterating) based on their feedback (validated learning), eventually confirming that people wanted their music (product/market fit)  by gaining a significant following (traction), all achieved before releasing their first album.

When they did release their first album, they put the PR/Marketing machine into full swing (scale). The album sold nearly 5 million copies in its first year. It became the highest selling album for that year and won a Grammy for best hard rock album.

Not bad for a start-up, eh?

Tom Pastro is an intern for Sydney based startup incubator Pollenizer.

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