5 Career Lessons from the Beatles

It was 50 years ago this month that the Beatles hit the American music scene. You may have watched CBS ‘ salute to the Beatles Friday night, “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles,” on the 50th anniversary of the band’s debut appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

While there are numerous documentaries and celebrations of this legendary rock group and their impact on music, it is also worth noting the career savviness of these young men.

The actions they took five decades ago are worth heeding for those also seeking a long and successful career.

Among the Fab Four’s smart moves:

  1. They understood their market. In an interview in February 1964, Paul McCartney was asked how long he thought the Beatles would be around. “As long as you keep coming,” McCartney responded. What McCartney and the other band members revealed was that they understood they had to continue to be relevant to customers and deliver results if they wanted to thrive in their music careers. If not, they understood they could be quickly replaced or forgotten.
  2. They evolved. While the Beatles sent thousands of teenagers into screaming fits while performing, they didn’t stick with the same formula for their music as time went on. They watched other artists such as Bob Dylan, and realized their music needed to evolve. They didn’t spurn the competition, but instead raised their own performance to meet or surpass it. If you rely only on past glories as a way to maintain your status in the workplace, you will soon seem outdated.
  3. They had a signature style. The hair. The clothes. Whatever the Beatles wore defined them. They found a style that helped make them memorable. While you may not be able to do anything too outlandish in your workplace, branding experts recommend adopting a signature piece of jewelry, hairstyle or piece of clothing that can help you stand out and be more memorable.
  4. They evoked emotion. The earsplitting screams when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show were only the beginning. The Beatles always managed to make their music personal, and that is one reason why every 13-year-old girl thought she would become a girlfriend of one of the Beatles, and eventually marry him. When you communicate with others, do you make them feel special? Do you bore others with your statistics and buzzwords? Or do you tell a story they can identify with and increase their desire to get to know you and help you?
  5. They wooed their critics. When the American press first met the Beatles, they fired off as many criticisms as they did questions. For example, one reporter asked the group about their hair, which was considered extremely long in those days. “I just got a haircut yesterday,” George Harrison quipped. Instead of becoming angry with the press, they used humor and upbeat answers to charm them and eventually began receiving better press. David Crosby, who in the 1960’s was with The Byrds, said he used to sneak into press conferences with the Beatles just to learn how they mastered hostile or unfriendly questions or comments. No matter how hard you work, you won’t get ahead if you’re not capable of overcoming objections or obstacles so that others can focus on your talent and skills. 

What other lessons do you feel the Beatles have to offer?

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  • 1. Be Heartless
    When The Beatles were on the verge of success they were urged by Decca to get rid of their handsome drummer, Pete Best. The other 3 didn’t hesitate to do so but they didn’t have the guts to do it themselves.

    It’s impossible to say how having Pete Best as their drummer instead of Ringo would have changed their careers.

    2. Get A Manager
    The Beatles didn’t groom themselves for their market. They did their own thing and were successful in Liverpool.

    When Brian Epstein became their manager, he gave them their famous look. I don’t think they liked it but they did what they thought they had to to get success.

    3. Be Smarter Financially
    Like many young musicians, they didn’t know anything about contracts and lost a lot of money as a result.

    See: 7 Financial Mistakes Made By The Beatles

    4. Control Your Egos
    After Brian Epstein died there was apparently no one to hold the Beatles together. They couldn’t get along and broke up. They all had successful careers after The Beatles but nothing like what had gone before.

    The Beatles ended in a series of embarrassing court appearances where they argued over money managers. This was the laughable end of the Love Generation.

    5. Know When To Go

    George Harrison was over-shadowed by Lennon and McCartney in The Beatles. He had a very successful career with his own music after they split.

    6. Spend money on promotions

    Capitol Records spent a lot of money was spent promoting The Beatles on their first trip to the USA. Please, Please Me had been released in the United States a few months earlier and disappeared.


    • Anita Bruzzese

      All good points….they also fine-tuned their craft in some real dives before they played in better venues.

      • How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Malcolm Gladwell over-emphasized that as the key to success. Lots of practice. PS: No, Bill here.