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7 Business Lessons from Dave Grohl

Dave Grohl - july 2008 2
Image via Wikipedia
In honor of the Foo Fighters finally getting back in the studio to produce a new album, I thought I would take a look at the career of Dave Grohl, their "CEO," recently named one of the ten most exciting persons in music, and derive some business lessons from it. What can you learn from a musician who went from being functionally homeless to having over a 1000 employees? 
Lesson #1 Embrace Failure/Fear
After the death of Kurt Cobain, Grohl did not wallow in grief. He refocused and put himself back into the music. First by playing with and then rejecting a job offer from Tom Petty (who is still a close friend). Then, by embracing a DIY attitude to produce what became the first Foo Fighters album nearly entirely on his own with demos he had accumulated over the years.
Lesson #2 Challenge Yourself
Despite being known as one of the hardest working drummers in the business having played with Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, and many more, Grohl started playing guitar very early in his musically inclined family. When he switched bands early in his career, he taught himself how to play drums.
Lesson #3 Do It Yourself
Beyond creating the first Foo Fighters album on his own, Grohl put together another side project to honor his love of heavy metal, Probot. He produced the music and solicited singers from favorite heavy metal bands to add vocals. The project was produced virtually in most cases with tracks being sent to the singers to add vocals to.
Lesson #4 Collaborate
Last year, Grohl went on tour with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin as Them Crooked Vultures. The project was built on the relationship he had built with the two separately, but also as a fan of their individual works.
Lesson #5 Find your Focus
Grohl self-admits in a 2005 MOJO interview:
"I'm embarrassed when people ask me about my interests outside of music," he laughs, later, "because I have none."
He earlier told MTV:
"The idea is just to make music and make good records. There's not so much career ambition as there is personal ambition... ...When you go in to make an album, you want it to be better than the last, you want it to be the best thing you've ever done, and you want to stretch yourself musically."
Lesson #6 Know Who is in Charge
Bandmate Taylor Hawkins describes Grohl as "the nicest control freak you ever meet in your life." When Grohl first established the Foo Fighters, he created his own record label for the band and maintained control of the rights through it.
Grohl in '99:

"We recorded our new album our own way. We did it in my basement, without a record label, and without anyone telling us what to do. It's exactly what we wanted to do, and it's exactly what we sound like."

Lesson #7 Find Mentor/Colleagues
Beyond the musicians mentioned early such as Petty and such heavy metal singers as Lemmy from Motorhead, Grohl seeks guidance across the musical spectrum. Mike Watt was one of the first to bring Grohl back into the music fold after Nirvana folded for his Ball-Hog or Tugboat album. Grohl has performed with David Bowie and members of Led Zeppelin, but is just as likely to take the time to play with Nine Inch Nails or help up and coming bands.

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