What An Artist Can Learn From Weird Al Yankovic

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I have a small confession to make. I found myself watching Weird Al Yankovic on Youtube yesterday...and I kinda liked it.

I don't typically spend much time on Youtube during my "work hours"; however, through a series of random thoughts, I ended up on Youtube watching Weird Al Yankovic.

This guy has been around for decades doing the same thing, and has turned his parody music into an amazing career. He truly is a celebrity now (and has been for a long time).

So, of course, I decided I should read his Wikipedia page. I was fascinated to find how he got his start.

What I found interesting is that Weird Al was always unapologetically who he was.

He didn't try to "fake it" and act like he was a big star before he was.

He was a guy with an accordion and a couple quirky songs. He got a small break when a local CA radio station played his "My Bologna" (not to be confused with My Sharona).

This didn't really lead to much, except the local radio station was willing to play his second song a while later, "Another Rides the Bus".

They asked him to perform it live on the radio station.

He had no band. He didn't sing very well. But he really just owned who he was.

He was outside the radio station practicing his song before his live "performance" and a guy named Jon Schwartz hears him and tells him he's a drummer.

Jon says he's willing to beat on Weird Al's accordion case to help him keep the beat. Of course, Weird Al agrees!

Imagine, minutes before you are to perform, you change up your act, with a guy you've never met before. Just own it!

The performance goes "viral" as they call it nowadays. Weird Al gets invited on his first TV show to perform "Another One Rides the Bus"...and he asks Jon (his new drummer) to come along with him.

Do they invest in a new drumset and other equipment? Heck no! They haven't made any money yet!

Weird Al plays his accordion and sings. Jon sits and beats on Weird Al's accordion case and uses a couple of cheap noisemakers for effect.

It looks pretty amateur. But Weird Al and Jon don't care, they just have a good time and perform the best they can.

And this leads to massive exposure and success.

Interested in watching Weird Al's first TV appearance from 1981? Well, it just so happens that Youtube has it and I watched it yesterday right here.

Now, would I say I'm a fan of the song? Not really. But I think his story has a great business lesson here.

First of all, you don't need to pretend to be someone you are not in business.

Just be honest and own who you are. If you don't have a fancy logo or expensive web design right now, that's okay!

If you're a painter, you don't have to have a studio and all the expensive artist oil paints.

Get the core of your business down right (content, SEO, or whatever else is the core of your business), and then figure out the other stuff later when you see success.

Second, be flexible.

Weird Al didn't have a drummer, but was willing to change his performance minutes before going live because someone presented a better idea.

Your first idea for your business path is probably not going to be the actual path that you follow. Be willing to make tweaks and changes and re-assess as you go.

Weird Al discovered after his first national TV appearance that video was important. His music videos along with him music became a key component of his success.

(You can check out his "Eat It" (which Michael Jackson approved of) and "Amish Paradise" for a couple of his more popular music videos.)

Now, I really wish I was getting commissions for mentioning Weird Al Yankovic so much! However, I just thought there were a couple of interesting business lessons we can learn from the guy, so I decided to mention it.

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