Blondie, Ramones Producer Became Digital Music Pioneer … And He’s Got 5 Lessons For Startups

It’s hard to determine what’s most impressive about Richard Gottehrer. Maybe it’s his ability to write songs, like the 1963 No. 1 hit My Boyfriend’s Back. Maybe it’s his long career producing acts like Blondie, Ramones, and Talking Heads. Or, maybe it was his ability to successfully predict the rise of digital music long before it became mainstream.

After decades of producing multi-platinum hits with Sire Records, Gottehrer co-founded The Orchard, the industry’s leading independent music distribution company which was acquired by Sony in 2015. His longevity in the music industry and experience as a successful startup founder made him the perfect speaker at a recent LIFT Labs’ LIFT Your Story event. This series of workshops brings experts from industries like music, film, and science together with startup founders.

Here are five of Gottehrer’s top tips for turning your idea into a business:

1. Live in the moment, not the past.

Businesses and industries evolve, and you’ve got to embrace changes. That’s why Gottehrer didn’t rest on his laurels after years of selling vinyl records and compact disks. Instead, he anticipated the digital music revolution and supplied outlets like iTunes with independent music. When he saw streaming picking up steam, he made a deal with Spotify too.

2. Don’t forget the passion and excitement that made you launch your business in the first place.

The early days of startup life are filled with excitement and thoughts of changing the world. Don’t lose that as the days, months and years pass. “It’s like falling in love. Nothing will ever replace those first two months of a relationship,” said Gottehrer. “The beginnings are really important to remember. I cherish that.”

3. If you’ve got an idea you just can’t shake, go for it.

Start writing that book. Begin your podcast. Launch your startup company. Make a commitment to take the first step and see if it can grow.

4. Find a co-founder you trust.

Gottehrer worked well with The Orchard co-founder Scott Cohen for a simple reason — they trust each other. “I’m not married to Scott but it’s not much different than a marriage. You eat a lot of meals together. You talk about money,,” he said. “Getting along is a matter of trust.”

5. Zig when others zag.

Independent music isn’t nearly as sought after as acts signed to major record labels. But, that didn’t stop Gottehrer from securing the digital publishing rights to an ever-growing catalog of independent music six years before the launch of iTunes. It would soon become the backbone of his business.

“I always had a theory,” he said. “Don’t go where people are. Go where they’re not.”

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