By Rob Barratt
I Know, I Know, But Bear With Me On This.
Like more than a handful of people walking this earth, I've found some of Kanye West's behaviour over the last few years, erm, distasteful?
Unrelatable. Yeah, let's go with that.
Then I watched the Netflix documentary about his journey.
If you're thinking of changing careers, starting a business or you're running one right now, I challenge you to watch it and learn nothing.
Not Your Average College Dropout
You see, Kanye started out as a music producer, not a rapper.
That means he was making beats for rappers to overlay their lyrics onto.
He was good at it. Everyone loved his work, which lead to him working with some of the biggest names in the industry.
But Kanye didn't consider himself a producer, he wanted to be a rapper. More than that, he BELIEVED he was a rapper.
So, every chance he got when producing beats, he rapped for - sometimes at - people who were in a position to help him. In one scene you see him rapping at a secretary in a record label office. Her reaction was to carry on tapping her keyboard, answering calls, and talking to colleagues.
That song was called All Falls Down (currently at 61m views on YouTube and nominated for a truck-load of awards).
And she ignored him!
So, there he is, with a song that would skyrocket profits at the label, and he was getting ignored.
Sound familiar entrepreneurs?
(Side note: you KNOW she bought that song as a fan when it was eventually released).
How to Move From 1 Follower to 1 Million
At this point, Kanye is creating music that he believes is going to be huge but the problem is his two biggest fans are his Mum and a guy who inexplicably followed him around with a camcorder from day 1.
He knew he needed two things:
Number 1 was easy.
He set his sights on getting signed by just one label (know your customer). Then leveraged his connections there who were using him to create beats for their artists (use your network).
Every time he had a project with the label or its rappers he either played his music for an artist or rapped for them. Acapella.
Eventually, the label signed him. But, they never gave him a release date for his own album and instead kept using him to produce music for their artists. Which meant his talent was held prisoner by the label - no one outside of it knew he existed as a rapper.
He needed to create exposure (which accounts for 60% of success).
So, he spent $30k of his own money - a huge amount to him at the time - to create a video for one of his songs. Then he threw his own launch party and invited the label execs (only one turned up).
Oh, and by the way, he recorded that song with his jaw wired shut after breaking it in a car crash. Which is the equivalent of me writing this email after breaking my hands and then slamming my fingers in a piano lid.
The rest, as the mystical 'they' say, is history.
And here's what you should take into your career or business from his story:
Refuse to be seen as an _____ if you want to be known as an _____
Take every chance you can get to promote your work. You cannot succeed without it. Anyone that tells you otherwise is a liar or hasn't even attempted to succeed in business. Get. The. Word. Out.
Be absolutely relentless in pursuit of your goals. What's your version of getting the thing done even when your jaw is wired shut, you don't have much money, and people don't really care about your product?
Don't get comfortable. Kanye was making money and had a good reputation as a producer. It would have been easy to settle for that. But he put himself through a mountain of stress in order to go after what he really wanted.
How are you following Kanye's example today?
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Rob Barratt is Co-Founder of The Industry Leaders. Starting out his career consulting on complex construction projects, he eventually made the leap into entrepreneurship by co-founding and running a successful restaurant brand which was quickly acquired.
Now, he occasionally writes interesting takes on life as an entrepreneur, alongside growing The Industry Leaders brand.
Follow Rob on LinkedIn.