Tag Archives: Marvin Gaye

I Know, It’s Only Rock ’n Roll, but…

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We try to refrain from simply reposting articles but this is a great example of how basic business principles can apply pretty much anywhere.


The Rolling Stones – Masters of Their Universe

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a short article highlighting keys to the remarkable success and longevity of the World’s Greatest Rock ‘N Roll Band.

Ultimately, following these guidelines (with some caveats) are a pretty good prescription for success.

  1. Choose the right name.  We’ve commented before that a company shouldn’t try too hard on finding the perfect name.  If the product is excellent, the name will seem genius in retrospect  (witness Death Cab for Cutie and the Arctic Monkeys – – or the Beatles for that matter).  So, really, there are 4 tips here, not 5.
  2. Find a unique position in the market.  The Stones realized that they could be the bad boys relative to the Beatles’ wholesomeness.  Everyone loves a bad boy.
  3. Creatively beg, borrow or steal.  The Stones’s early hit “The Last Time” was gently lifted from the Staple Singers’s “This May Be The Last Time”  – only with a more catchy guitar riff and decidedly different lyrics.  They made that song their own, unlike Robin Thicke, who more blatantly ripped off Marvin Gaye.  Be inspired, but don’t plagiarize.
  4. Shed barriers to success before it’s too late.  The Stones’s arguably most talented member, Brian Jones, became unreliable and disruptive.  The group decided they needed to kick him out if they were to succeed.  They did, and a month later he was found in the bottom of his pool, another member of RnR’s infamous 27 Club.

5.  Continually reinvent.  Markets change, competition changes – – to survive long-term you must be able to anticipate and change.  Madonna and David Bowie are great examples of morphing to meet the need.  The Stones’s 1978 album Some Girls was a direct response to the threat of the burgeoning punk scene that included new artists the Sex Pistols, Ramones and the Clash.  Definitely different product than “The Last Time”.  As Keith Richards remembered, “It moved our ass, boy”.

Perhaps not something you’d hear from Peter Drucker, but still illuminating.


Marvin Gaye vs Robin Thicke – Blurred Copyright Lines?

We take a break from more typical weighty matters with a lighter story for the weekend.

There’s a bizarre and public music copyright jousting match going on, which raises a few questions:
Who’s in the right?  And has the very public legal wrangling damaged either party’s brand?  YOU be the judge!   You’ll need to invest about 20 seconds (below).

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye









The Song of the Summer of 2013 was Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke.*- it’s a catchy party tune, complete with the standard provocative lyrics and misogynistic video.  If you’re under 20 you’ve heard it at least 500 times.
*Alan Thicke’s son.  Their career arcs have definitely crossed.

Here’s the catch:  many people who heard Blurred Lines heard a strong similarity to Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give It Up  (1977).  The Estate of Marvin Gaye (he died in 1984) sure did, and made a legal claim that the similarity was too close.

Gayes strike first:  The Gaye Estate notified Robin Thicke’s lawyers and preemptively offered that if “…plaintiffs do not pay a monetary settlement of the Gayes’ claim, the Gayes intend to initiate litigation for copyright infringement against plaintiffs.”

Thicke’s camp responds, with a polite lawsuit: “Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye…reluctantly file this action…The suit requests legal confirmation that “there are no similarities between plaintiffs’ composition and those the (Gayes) allege they own”.”

In other words, Marvin Gaye’s heirs claim they’ve been ripped off and want damages; Robin Thicke’s lawyers want a judge to confirm that this similarity doesn’t constitute infringement.

Because of the players involved, this otherwise mundane dust-up has garnered intense 24/7 global media coverage, with one result being you will have a hard time finding these videos online (but I’ve found them for you).

More to the point, it would seem that this increasingly public legal activity would undercut the appealing image that any musical artist strives for, and that this would harm their brand and consequently their ability to make money.
– so there’s 2 questions:  was Marvin Gaye ripped off, and will this harm either Gaye’s or Thicke’s brand?

Listen to just the first 10-15 seconds of each song, starting with Blurred Lines (below) and see what you think.

I found Blurred Lines starting at :40 on this outtake from Jimmy Kimmel:


Got To Give it Up can be sampled here:


SO – – Was Marvin Gaye ripped off?

My opinion:  The two songs’ similarity is striking and unmistakable.   But while I personally have great regard for Gaye’s genius (if not his personal conduct), it doesn’t seem that recreating a 35-year old beat should constitute infringement.

Will this hurt the images of either artist to the extent that they’ll suffer a financial impact?

NO!  Of course not!!  Trick question!

Their brands would be damaged if anyone in their fan base noticed or cared, and neither is going on here.

Robin Thicke’s fans don’t watch/listen to the news and almost certainly have never heard of Marvin Gaye.  This will not make one iota of difference.  Lawsuits are boring grownup stuff.

From the Marvin Gaye standpoint, there are now a lot of people listening to his music as a result of this skirmish, which has probably revived music sales.  And if his personal brand has survived coverage to date, it can definitely survive this.  No harm, no foul.

Net, this is an interesting event to watch unfold, but solely for the amusement factor.   Have a good weekend.