Why The World Needs More Bullsh*t Artists
The world’s greatest music manager reveals the secret to his success.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
The man with the close-cropped hair and camouflage pants who greeted me at the door of Sarabeth's in New York City was a far cry from the shaggy-headed mod whose image I knew from countless rock biographies. Yet from the moment he opened his mouth, there was no doubt I was in the presence of Andrew Loog Oldham, the master hype artist who talked his way into handling publicity for the Beatles and then went on to create the bad-boy image of The Rolling Stones.
As a fan and student of both business and rock 'n' roll, I was bursting with questions for this legendary promoter and pop culture propagandist. As the owner of my own marketing agency, I am always looking to reverse engineer the secrets of the greats. And Oldham fits firmly into this category.
Like all elite marketers, Oldham naturally fell into storytelling as his main medium of communication. He regaled me throughout the course of our interview with firsthand accounts of Swinging London, including the period he spent as Mick and Keith's roomie. But as much as I enjoyed these tales, my favorite story was one that had nothing to do with rock music at all.
That's because it holds the key to success in every area of entrepreneurship.
Surfaces Are Everything
Oldham had just finished describing how he got the Stones featured in a major newspaper before anyone knew who they were, when I interrupted him.
"How did you do it?" I asked, "You were only nineteen years old."
He thought for a moment, as if even he wasn't sure himself.
And then he began.
"One time Aristotle Onassis (the shipping magnate and husband of Jackie O.) was asked by a reporter what his secret to success was," Oldham recounted, "Onassis looked at him and said, 'All you need in life is a suntan, a nice suit, and a good address. And for the last one, it doesn't matter if it's in the attic or the basement.'"
It was a model that Oldham followed. For example, when he first got into the publicity business, he barely had enough money for a place to live, let alone an office. However any time he would receive a call, he would pick up the phone and proclaim with utter confidence, "Oldham House."
From the very beginning, Oldham's instincts told him to present himself not as he currently was but as the institution he would become.
Become a Bullsh*t Artist
Early in most entrepreneurs' careers, they don't really have much of anything. No money. No contacts. Often, no actual products. As such, the best of them create a surface level impression of success and competence and then make the reality fit the projection.
But as entrepreneurs begin to experience real success, they often forget what got them there. That's when they get themselves into trouble.
The best entrepreneurs, on the other hand, continue to project themselves as being bigger than they are, no matter how big that is. If she owns a million dollar company, she talks about billions. If he already pioneered electric cars, he becomes the guy on the verge of colonizing Mars.
Andrew Loog Oldham said, "I have often been accused of being a bullsh*t artist. However, to my mind, a prophecy of success is always the first step in making it a reality."
It seems that as entrepreneurs, a little more bullsh*t might not be such a bad thing.