Rock your business hard, get paidDecember 21, 2012: 6:22 AM ET
In his new book, Rock Your Business, David Fishof draws valuable life lessons from the world of rock.
By Richard McGill Murphy, contributor
FORTUNE -- It took chutzpah to walk into the office of legendary New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and talk him into paying your client more than a million dollars, particularly if you were only 22 years old at the time. As a young sports agent, David Fishof did just that for outfielder Lou Piniella. As a concert promoter, he brought the Monkees out of retirement for a wildly successful world tour, and he convinced Ringo Starr to hit the road with his All-Starr Band.
Nowadays Fishof is best known as the founder of Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp, a musical retreat where aspiring rockers pay thousands of dollars to jam with their peers under the kindly tutelage of "camp counselors" like Roger Daltrey, Steven Tyler, and Slash. In Rock Your Business, written with Michael Levin, the irrepressible Fishof spins yarns from his five decades in the entertainment industry, and argues that rock stars have much to teach us about succeeding in business and leading full, happy lives.
Sadly, it's not about flying Trinitrons, X-rated fish tricks and pharmaceutical-grade refreshments. In Fishof's telling, rock stars are businesspeople just like you, only better. He writes: "The rock and roll industry offers some invaluable business lessons to those in other industries -- such as working collaboratively, promoting, creating a buzz or sense of excitement, and selling."
Fishof develops this insight through 14 garrulous chapters, each one devoted to an aspect of business and personal development. He delivers sound advice about developing business ideas, overcoming fear, negotiating, crafting the perfect pitch, dealing with competitors who steal your ideas (no baseball bats or Sicilian associates required), selling your business and much more.
Although Fishof dishes plenty about the boldface legions with whom he's worked over the years, he has no trouble holding center stage in this book. A born showman, he writes with gusto about building hype for a Dirty Dancing live show that didn't yet exist by inviting reporters to a fake rehearsal in New York City, complete with hired dancers and choreographers. The trick works: Investors flock to fund the production, and the Dirty Dancing show rapidly morphs into a world tour that kills in 20 countries. "All we needed to get from point A to point B was the hype -- and we created that from scratch through a little ingenuity," Fishof writes.
A devout Jew, he flies regularly to Jerusalem to consult the Amshinover Rebbe about new business ventures. In one memorable scene, the Rebbe vibrates silently for 20 minutes before providing Talmudic sanction for Fishof's American Gladiators Live tour,in which amateur combatants pay for the privilege of getting their butts kicked by professional pugilists in Spandex.
Fishof shows heart as well. He flies home to Detroit to renegotiate his aging father's contract as a cantor at the local synagogue. Instead of negotiating, the rabbi tells Fishof that it's time for his dad to retire. Nothing doing, Fishof retorts. He whips out his checkbook, writes a $10,000 check and tells the rabbi to add the money to his father's $10,000 annual salary. He then tells his father that he convinced the rabbi to double his pay. Fishof's dad gets to keep on doing what he loves. He dies some years later, none the wiser.
Fishof ends this charming and useful book with the following exhortation: "If I could do it, you can, too. Don't stop believin', keep the eye of the tiger, and rock your business. It's time for you to rock and roll!" Spandex, one hopes, is optional.
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