Time to take a pause for the cause and address a trend that has been going on in Hip-Hop for way too long. Somehow, the term Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has actually moved from clever, playful lines in rap verses to a way for unknown artists to impress others with the fact that they run a company.
Let’s make this clear, we all come from humble beginnings and I’m certainly not looking to tear down the efforts of the many industrious, entrepreneurial souls struggling to build a successful business venture from the ground up. Also, this is also not a personal attack aimed at anyone in particular, but rather a little advice that can hopefully save some of you an enormous amount of wasted effort and potential embarrassment while pursuing the path to music industry domination.
We’ll skip definitions for now as there is no need to go into elaborate detail of the business and organizational structure that the term implies. A quick Wikipedia search or reading one of the countless business texts can resolve any questions. I will, however, address some of the perceived talents and behavioral tendencies of those have traditionally been referred to as CEO.
Anyone who has worked in a professional capacity will agree that the title CEO implies that the bearer possess a skill set which includes leadership ability, business acumen, strategic insight, and the ability to make decisions vital to the success of the organization. In addition, they are able to transcend industries and head companies in completely unrelated sectors. In other words, a CEO is someone with a clear plan and the means to execute it.
It’s also no secret that a significant part of business is perception. Thus, a large role in performing the duties of a CEO is being taken seriously. The moment that one assumes a serious title for what is currently a disorganized, basement level venture, all credibility is instantly lost. Nobody is being fooled with clownish antics or boasting about having multiple companies that do no business.
It’s standard practice for founders of successful startups to seek an experienced, outside CEO to guide the growth of their company. Yes, many successful founders are smart enough to find someone else competent enough to lead their own company. While your particular organization may never seek venture capital or go through an IPO, there is a very real lesson that can be learned. Real companies are more concerned with actual success than with the appearance of success.
For those who still insist on assuming the coveted CEO title, here are a few questions your may want to ask yourself:
- Would an established CEO outside of the entertainment industry recognize your position or dismiss you as simply another flashy, status seeking title holder?
- Would your accountant refer to you as CEO when speaking with colleagues?
- Would your banker (non-teller) recognize your title?
If you answered No to any of the above, it’s probably time to reassess the label you’ve given yourself.
There are plenty of other respectable titles that can accurately reflect your position in or outside of a company without making you look silly to those who may ultimately play a role in your success or failure
Here’s a thought… do you even need a title? It’s perfectly acceptable to be a professional artist, vocalist, producer, musician, etc.
If you desperately need a title that implies status, try one that does the job without going too far over the top. Titles like owner, founder, partner, or manager can all help define your role without having each of your emails suffer from the delete key or being laughed away by potential decision makers and investors.