As solo-business owners, we embrace the “solopreneur” lifestyle — we treasure the independence and flexibility that it gives us.
But being a solopreneur doesn’t mean you shouldn’t collaborate with others. Look at the music industry, for example.
I’ve always thought of musicians as solopreneurs. They learn their crafts individually and often in isolation, but they come together to form groups of varying sizes and longevity.
Consider Fleetwood Mac
If you’re not familiar with Fleetwood Mac, it is one of the most commercially successful music groups of all-time. Their music and their feuds are legendary, and the band is currently on a sold-out tour of the U.S.
But it wasn’t always platinum records and sold-out concerts for Fleetwood Mac — far from it.
Fleetwood Mac formed in 1967 as an English R&B band. It enjoyed modest success but was plagued by chemical abuse, legal squabbles, and an ever-changing band lineup.
By 1973, Fleetwood Mac as a band appeared to be dead, but its persistent head, Mick Fleetwood, was in California searching for a new guitar player. A studio engineer played Fleetwood a song on a demo tape from a group named Buckingham Nicks. Fleetwood liked the song and was introduced to the band’s guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham. Fleetwood asked him to join the band. Buckingham said he was a package deal — with his girlfriend and musical partner, Stevie Nicks, who at that time was cleaning houses to make ends meet.
Fleetwood agreed, and Buckingham and Nicks joined approximately one month later.
By 1976, Fleetwood Mac was massively successful — and Nicks probably had enough money to buy the houses she’d been cleaning.
How Did It Happen?
What kind of strange alchemy turned Fleetwood Mac’s members from musical frogs into rock-and-roll royalty?
In an interview yesterday, Buckingham provided a glimpse into the band’s process when he was asked about writing songs for a future Fleetwood Mac record:
What needs to happen now if we are to do a complete album — because I think my portion of the material is not only written and recorded, but probably mostly finished — Stevie needs to come with some new material. She’s not like me, I work alone a lot when I do my solo stuff. It’s like going down to the studio and painting. I’m kind of self-sufficient. With Stevie, she will write lyrics and keep them in a file and a lot of times she doesn’t even come up with melodies until later, until someone says, ‘well, you’ve got to come up with something.'”
Fascinating, isn’t it? Buckingham spells out two of the ways songwriters can produce art. The first is Buckingham’s solitary approach, where he retreats mentally and physically and does the work all by himself. The second is Nicks’s solitary/collaborative process, where she does most the writing herself but receives help and prodding to finish the songs.
Limitless business collaboration options are available to you as a solopreneur, too. You are free to work entirely by yourself, or you can bring in others to produce your products and services.
My final takeaway from the Fleetwood Mac story is: always be alert to potential collaborations; don’t enter into them blindly, but don’t categorically reject them.