2011-11-08

You Have to Hand it to Steve Vai

Say what you want about Steve Vai, you have to hand it to him: the man knows how to take care of business. Granted, he learned most of what he does (both musically and economically) from Frank Zappa, but occasionally Vai does come up with a pretty fantastic business idea or two.

Case in point, I discovered this ingenious business venture via a Gmail ad (yes, Mr. Varian, they work like a charm - well done).

Naturally, Vai didn't invent the online music lesson. Plenty of great musicians have been offering them for years. (Ron Thal, Derek Sherinian, Mark Zonder, to name a few...) The difference is that Vai has teamed up with the biggest name in rock music education and has mass-marketed the idea.

A lot of this comes down to the fact that Vai's name has more goodwill attached to it than those other guys. Even though they are probably better, more interesting, and more technically accomplished musicians, Steve Vai is a name unto himself. He can draw a crowd just by announcing that he'll be there; the others, sadly, cannot.

The reason I think goodwill is such a key component of success in the music industry is in part because it represents Austrian School economic theory in action. Goodwill is essentially an intangible form of capital built up over years of peerless performance. By giving more than what was required, and making smart business decisions, Steve Vai was able to invest in his goodwill. Now, while others are struggling to sell CDs to an ever-shrinking market, Vai continues to make good money on projects like this music class.

If you don't love him for his music, you have to love him for his business sense. Had he never made it as a guitarist, he surely would have made it as a CEO.