First up, apologies for not posting for a while.
Been a busy month, but I’m reaching the end of a major copy project that I’ve been focused on and should now have a little more time for bloggery.
Ever See The Movie ‘Anvil! The Story Of Anvil?’
It’s a peach.
It’s a 2008 documentary by Sacha Gervasi about a once-successful band – Anvil – struggling to regain their former glory years. The guys in the band are heading towards their fifties, but they’re so determined to reach people with their music they work their asses off to make it happen, despite holding down gruelling day-jobs.
Hey, we’ve all been there at some point, right? Sticking with our passions with the chips stacked against us.
It’s a real heartwarmer, an against-the-odds classic.
And if you’ve been put off watching by untrue rumours that it’s a clever parody – like This Is Spinal Tap – or by the sight of two slightly ageing, hairy metallers leering out at you from the cover, well…
You’re really missing out.
Anvil! The Story Of Anvil is a beautiful film, filled with compassion, humour, rock & roll (ok, heavy metal – which ain’t my cup of tea either, but it’s really only a ‘metal’ film in the same way Star Wars is a ‘spaceship’ film, or Sideways is a ‘wine’ movie)…
…Anvil has everything, including some important lessons marketers and entrepreneurs can learn from.
I was re-watching it recently and noticed how the film charts these life-lessons so clearly and inspiringly…
It’s Like A ‘How-To’ Guide For Triumphing Over Adversity…
Founder members singer/guitarist ‘Lips’ Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner are aiming to keep the band alive after over a quarter-century for “the joy and pleasure you need to get through life… it can only get better”.
At the start of the documentary, Lips is delivering school meals in frozen Toronto suburbs – not exactly jetskis and private islands, right?
But with the support of their local fans, families, and the hard-earned respect of their peers (including Lemmy, Slash and Lars Ulrich of Metallica) the band soldier on through mis-management, record label apathy, depression and sheer bad luck…
On a badly-handled (comically so) European mini-tour, they learn not to trust the first person who offers to manage them.
They discover the dangers of putting their business in the wrong hands, entrusting their franchise to someone with no business expertise, just misguided enthusiasm.
(What the band really need here – as Lips is fully aware of – is “a manager who can PUT OUR PRODUCT OUT THERE…”)
But we also see Anvil still working hard and kicking ass at what they do best – playing live…
…giving their all despite little reward, and making a few useful contacts along the way.
They don’t give up – despite blowing all their annual leave on one tour that produced no financial profit and no immediate label interest.
Lips is an honest guy, but not blind to their situation…
“Until We Become A Real Commodity, This Is What You Deal With…”
…he says when things seem at their lowest.
They choose to record with a trusted producer they worked with succesfully in the past, and do everything in their power to raise funds for recording their next album.
Lips even tries to raise the cash through tele-marketing (too many of us have been there!), but finds himself too honest to do the hard sell… so he quits in order to concentrate on what he’s best at.
Once the album’s done, Anvil hit the promo/radio circuit in an attempt to get signed by a label who can distribute it.
They enter “the lottery of rock and roll” once again… but their calls aren’t returned, and doors remain closed.
Still, they keep plugging away, their confidence buoyed by the “success of having made a great product”…
And decide to go it alone, pressing and distributing their latest cd themselves to cut out the middle-man and give their fans what they want directly.
This leads, finally, to a major Japanese metal festival organiser inviting them to play in Tokyo.
The band’s never-say-die efforts are rewarded, and in the final scene…
Well, I won’t spoil it for you.
Meantime, What Can We Learn From Anvil’s Struggles?
Do what you love to do. Find a niche you’re passionate about and work in it. It’s so much easier when times get tough – and they will get tough – if you’re still enthusiastic about your work.
If you build a good, solid reputation amongst your peers, customers and contacts, they won’t forget you. Your name still means something to those who appreciate your work, even in lean times. Then, when you bounce back, those who took notice will reward your longevity.
Don’t put blind faith in the skills of people who want to help you. Sometimes they’re just not able to, despite their good intentions. Recognise expertise and choose your partnerships carefully.
If you’re fortunate enough to work with someone who proves themselves an asset to you, reach out to them again when the next result depends on their performance. Anvil did this with producer Chris Tsangarides, and the combination worked again when it really had to.
Not seeing the results you desired? Try simplifying things. Can you cut out a middle-man somewhere? How would self-publishing or self-distribution work for you? The Anvil guys had little knowledge of this but confidence in their market and customers… do you have that?
And finally, never give up… Work hard when things go well and harder when faced with setbacks – every business has its ups and downs… but if you give up you’ll never get that call from Japan.
Stick to your guns. Like Lips says:
“We got our notoriety on our own terms. We’ve done what we want. Not what someone told us to do.”
Amen to that.