What Bruce Springsteen Can Teach Us About Online Success

On Monday, I took my brother to see Bruce Springsteen as a way to celebrate his birthday. But truth be told, I had an ulterior motive:

I wanted to experience GREATNESS.

I am not a huge Bruce fan, I generally like his music as much as the next person, and being from Jersey, take a certain amount of pride in his success. But his performances are otherworldly.

When I experience greatness, I always try to find lessons that I can take back an instill in my everyday life. In the case of creating compelling online products, this is what Bruce has taught me:

  • Focus on what matters most. Scrap everything else.
    Bruce’s performance is without gimmicks. No big sets, no backup dancers, costume changes, skits, or even opening acts. To my knowledge, his tour doesn’t have any sponsors, which is an extreme rarity in todays’ concert market. It is just Bruce, the E Street Band, the songs, and you. I see a lot of performances, and am always amazed at the barriers that some performers put up. Sometimes it is attitude; sometimes it is a lousy performance; but all the time, these barriers are about a focus on the needs of the performer, not the audience. Bruce does away with this entirely. What I find most surprising is how truly rare this is.
  • Its not about the songs, it’s all about connection.
    Bruce doesn’t take any breaks in his set, running around for close to 3 hours. The whole time, he is talking to the audience, touching the hands of fans, and reading the many handmade signs people hold up for him. When he sings these songs, he knows it isn’t about the song itself – it is about the place that they take you, and the feelings and experiences they connect you with. I absolutely love watching folks who NEVER dance flail themselves wildly, mouthing the lyrics – unable to stop themselves from connecting with something deeper than something as petty as knowing how to dance.
  • Resources shouldn’t hold you back.
    Unbelieveably, he removes boundaries that most people embrace. He is 58 years old. He puts on a 3 hour show, the entire time, running, jumping, and doing minor acrobatics. Veins pop out of his head and neck when he sings. For 3 hours. It is exhausting just watching him.
  • Overdeliver.
    For most fans, Bruce would meet expectations by simply showing up. But instead, three-hour sets are the norm for Bruce. On Monday, he played 28 songs. Craig Finn, singer for the band The Hold Steady, described his experience with Bruce in this month’s issue of Rolling Stone magazine:

    “Not until months later, when I saw him play in St. Paul. I talked to him backstage, and when I left he said, “Any requests?” And I said “Thunder Road.” He said, “All right, what’s your girl’s name?” I said, “Angie.” Later, during the show, he said, “By special request, this one’s for Angie!” There are a lot of opportunities in rock & roll for your heroes to disappoint you, but I have a hard time believing Bruce has ever disappointed anyone.”

During the show, I was transfixed by people’s hands reaching out to touch him, as he worked the front of the crowd, trying to touch as many as possible. Why do people do this? What does it mean?

People want to experience GREATNESS. They want to be inspired to by those who forget about the barriers, forget about the rules, and deliver something so extraordinary, that simply being near it makes their lives more complete.

I spend a lot of time reading and learning about the state of publishing: B2B, consumer, newspapers, magazines, books, and media in general- from both an editorial and business perspective.

What has Bruce taught me about how to succeed in publishing in a time of transition? Simple:

  • It’s not about a new feature or functionality.
  • It’s not about adding yet another product to the lineup.
  • It’s not about redesigining.

There is nothing more important than understanding the needs of your industry, and serving them with greater passion and invention than anyone else. It is that singular focus that matters.

Simplify. Connect. Overdeliver. That is what Bruce has taught me.

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