The Leonard Cohen Economy
March 2nd, 2012
Leave it to The Economist, and specifically the Schumpeter management column, to find the intersection between Leonard Cohen and entrepreneurship. The February 25th Enterprising Oldies explores, in a neat package, why all of us (no matter where we are chronologically in adulthood) may have to explore entrepreneurship and other forms of self-employment at some point in our working lives.
As we think about how to diversify our portfolio of work experiences, it’s worth digging deeper into how we can apply some of the life lessons of the 77 year old Cohen, a singer/songwriter/poet/novelist who was inducted into the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. He’s written such oft-recorded classics as “Suzanne” and “Bird on a Wire,” and the more recent “Hallelujah.”
As pointed out in The Economist and a recent New York Times interview, part of Cohen’s recent renaissance has come about because he had to resume touring and recording to help make up for millions of dollars lost in dealings with a former financial adviser. But no matter what the impetus was, the fact is that he has a new album, Old Ideas, and has toured the world recently at far beyond traditional retirement age. What can we learn from his example?
1. Diversified creative output. He has a tremendous body of work, going back more than 40 years, to draw on. It’s entirely possible that his poetry books are not major money-spinners, but he also has his albums, songwriting royalties (perhaps a considerable sum, given all the cover versions of his songs) and concert fees.
2. A powerful personal brand. Mention the name and people instantly associate it with him and his work.
3. A global outlook. He has a worldwide following, with his books and music available worldwide, and fans everywhere, well beyond his native Canada.
4. Remaining relevant. People are eager to listen to the new output of this 77 year old man, and he’s adding new fans all the time.
5. An impressive body of work. One reason millions of dollars are at stake from Cohen’s career is that he has written and recorded so many important songs over more than 40 years.
Even if the work you do is not creative in nature, chances are you still may have to/want to work beyond 65. It’s never too soon, or too late to be thinking about amassing a high-quality body of work, diversifying your output, building your brand, thinking globally and remaining relevant.
As ties to traditional jobs and employment arrangements continue to evolve and become more tenuous, we will increasingly find ourselves in what could be called The Leonard Cohen Economy.