Rick Rubin – Leadership that believes in better

rick rubin and johnny cash

It’s all well and good listening to people talk about leadership. Seeing someone embody it, however, is infinitely more compelling.

I recently watched a film by BBC Radio One DJ Zane Lowe (now at Apple) about music producer Rick Rubin.

Rubin’s made a stamp on almost every aspect of music that I have enjoyed since the early 80s – the Beastie Boys’ Licenced To Ill, The Cult’s ElectricThe Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magic, the reemergence of Johnny Cash in the 2000s and even more recently with Black Sabbath. He’s also worked with pop acts such as AdeleShakiraEminemEd SheeranJake Bug, the list goes on. And in my opinion there isn’t an artist yet who hasn’t sounded their best when working with Rick Rubin.


Therefore it’s strange to hear this legendary producer say, “It can be much better than my way…”. He wasn’t talking about ol’ blue eyes’ song, he was talking about his ideas, his process, his way.

It struck me that Rubin was more than a producer, he’s a host. In the same way that you might have friends over and want the food, the music, the lighting and the entertainment to be to just right – to create the perfect environment for a really great evening – Rubin does that for his bands in order to make a really good album.

I believe we can do this in public services  – we can do this to make better services.



Rubin is clearly a very good listener. Not only of the music but of his clients – listen to how Rubin reignited the musical spark in Johnny Cash. (Cash once said “I will always trust Rick because he believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself”) Rubin talks like an ethnographer, an adventurer, a raider of a lost art!

That’s not to say he hasn’t made mistakes. He admits to have taken an autocratic approach early in his career but those relationships suffered as a result. Over time he has learned to take a step back and capture “what makes the artist them”.

What’s also interesting is how he talks about stepping away from the process when he feels he is not needed – “…I want to be there whenever I am needed to be there to make it better…”.

Trust & investment

Is there anything more important to develop with the people we work with and the people we serve than trust and investment?

“I trust the artists I work with… I don’t want them to feel like they are making my record, I want them to feel like this is their record… and to be invested in it in a very personal way” – listen here.

Rubin talks about the importance of patience in the creative process. He talks about collaboration and the need for everyone concerned to contribute ideas. He also talks about how difficult it can be to translate ideas verbally and that the best way is to experience this ideas (especially the ones that sound bad because they often turn out to be the best ones).

beasties and rubin

As much as I love a lot of music no one ever died because an album didn’t make a release date. Music is important to a lot of us, but we are aware that there are other things that are much more important. Public services are literal lifelines to millions of people. Therefore, should we not treat the process of building and crafting services with at least as much care as Rubin takes over crafting a 45 minute album?

In most cases Rubin will have a lot of money to make these albums. But so do many other producers. Money will always be a factor, but what Rubin brings to the mix goes beyond cash (if you’ll pardon th…).

Make things better. Listen. Build trust and investment. Have patience.

And build relationships.

Rubin is without doubt a leader in the truest sense. The relationships that he has made through with his clients – and his audience – run very deep, and it’s unmistakable in the music.

Why shouldn’t we do that with services?


Record Store Day 2015 Top Ten #RSD

WARNING: Frivolous non-work related post

I don’t know why this passed me by until now but tomorrow is World Record Store Day (RSD)! The short film above will give you a sense of the anticipation that is building for some music fans.

The 18th April is also my birthday (which hadn’t passed me by). I decided at the end of last year that I should finally invest in a turntable on my birthday to justify hoarding a whole stack of records – I haven’t had a record player since 2002 (?) – so it would seem that the ‘vinyl’ stars had aligned!

As is now tradition, there are dozens of RSD related special releases on vinyl that will not be available until Saturday 18th April – and even then, some of them will only be available through participating stores. So if you like your music served up on black (and various other coloured and pictured) plastic then there’s plenty to get excited about.

For more info, including finding participating stores near you, you can visit the official website.

On the official site you will also find a list of the RSD releases, however (and this is why we are here) I have already done some of the dirty work for you…

This is my Top Ten of what to look out for – I’ve listed the format and by clicking on ‘More RSD information’ you’ll find more info on that product. What are you waiting for Pop-pickers!?

– Number 10

False Hope – Laura Marling [7″ Vinyl] [NEW release]

Limited edition from Laura Marling’s new album Short Movie. I lost track of her a little after her first album but I’m loving the sound of her new stuff and so this would be a good place to get back in… More RSD information

– Number 9

Siouxsie and the Banshees – Join Hands [12″ Vinyl Album] [reissue]

This one is going in for sheer effort alone – restored track listing, artwork that was originally rejected (but preferred) and heavy weight vinyl. This looks like a very nice gift for any SatB fan. More RSD information

– Number 8

No life ’til leather – Metallica [music cassette] [new format]

Early Metallica demos (featuring Dave Mustane) reissued on a music cassette – you may never get to ‘play’ it but how could you resist? More RSD information

– Number 7

You Really Got Me – The Kinks [7″ Vinyl] [reissue]

One of three exclusive 7″ reissues from The Kinks for RSD. The grandaddy tune of heavy metal – I’d be tempted to buy this for the cover alone. More RSD information

– Number 6

Kings of the Wild Frontier/Ant Music – Adam and the Ants [7″ Vinyl] [reissue]

At the time Stand and Deliver was the AatA track for me – these days it’s Ant Music. It’d be great to hear the faint crackle of the turntable over the drum sticks intro… More RSD information

– Number 5

Detroit – Gaz Coombes [10″ Vinyl] [NEW release]

This is the latest single from Gaz Coombes (formerly of Supergrass) and while I’ve only heard it the once on YouTube it’s stayed with me. RSD is not all about reissues, it’s about new music too so this isn’t a bad start. More RSD information

– Number 4

Alone + Easy Target – Foo Fighters [10″ Vinyl] [new format]

I’m not the biggest Foo Fighters fan but Dave Grohl is the official RSD ambassador for 2015 and this looks a nice little EP of demos (including a classic Kim Wilde cover) to coincide with Foo Fighters 20 years anniversary. More RSD information

Number 3

Walk On By – Dionne Warwick/The Stranglers [7″ Vinyl] [new format]

The Stranglers deliver a great cover version. This special edition 7″ has the Dionne Warwick classic on the flip side. Neither is better than the other – just different – highly recommended! I’ve included the Top of the Pops version below but the full version runs for much longer with a classic Dave Greenfield keyboard solo. More RSD information

 Number 2

More Roar – Robert Plant [10″ Vinyl] [new release]

A life EP of from Percy’s recent tour – featuring a reworking of Whole Lotta Love – what more could you want?! More RSD information

Number 1

Now That’s What I Call Music Volume 1 – Various Artists [Double Vinyl Album] [reissue]

This one is a pure indulgence. Ordinarily buying a reissue on vinyl is less satisfying than tracking down an original (unless the original is prohibitively expensive). In this case however, owning a bright and shiny indulgent reissue of the 80s classic somehow seems more appropriate. If you were around the first time then, like me, you might be tempted – if you weren’t then you really should get this – watch the original TV add below for proof!! More RSD information

And bubbling under the Top Ten…

Take On Me – Aha 7″ picture disc (another eighties indulgence)

Bernard Herrmann – Psycho Original Score (Great for scaring the neighbours)


Chime in and let me know what you would (will, or do) chose..!


Andy Lowndes – Playlist For Life

I’m all about the creative use of technology and I get particularly excited when creativity and technology together translate to real and meaningful value in someone’s life and Playlist for Life fits into that category.

Playlist For Life is based on the very simple truth that people respond to sound – even when almost every other memory or sense has left them – and Playlist for Life has built on this idea to promote personal playlists as a therapy for connecting with people living with dementia. The effect is extremely moving – people who were previously unresponsive to loved ones seem to awaken, stimulated by music and songs that revive lost memories.

I had the opportunity to hear about Playlist For Life in May at an NHS event at the SECC where Andy Lowndes and founder Sally Magnusson had 500+ people near to tears as they witnessed, through video, the impact of the work; and then, in tears of laughter as the same audience shared stories of songs personal to them.

To learn more visit playlistforlife.org.uk

The videos on the website speak for themselves – in particular look out for Harry and Margaret.

Andy visited the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) in Dundee this week – I recorded the audio below for their SSSCfm channel.

Listen to what Andy has to say, think about what would be on your personal playlist and consider donating any old iPods or mp3 players you might have doing nothing.

Don’t wait for Billy to say “Yes!”


Came across this video being shared on Twitter earlier tonight… at which point it had about 58,000+ views and now an hour or so later it’s over 60,000!

Billy Joel holding court at a Q & A in Nashville and a student named Michael Pollack there has the guts to ask if he can play with Billy Joel… what can you say..?! So Billy Joel gets him up on stage, turns out the fella plays piano and as you’ll see he’s pretty confident… …you should probably just watch now:

There is no question that this was an event where you really should have been there. However, how great is it that, about a week after this happened, it’s all there for everyone to see?

That video is going to get a lot of hits… What a calling card for the fella! Won’t do Billy Joel any harm either!

It’s great that Pollack didn’t hold back, he really made it happen and now at least 60,000 people have seen and heard him play! How powerful a simple YouTube clip can be.

However, the other person who didn’t hold back was on the other side of the camera.
Who knows when you’re going to get a moment like that… but one thing is certain, the fella didn’t wait for Billy to say yes! He got the whole story, he already had the pixels rolling…

With a smart phone in your hand you not only have the camera, but the editing suite AND the means to share across the world! And this can work for you at your event, for your project, whatever it is you do that people need to know about…

So don’t hold back! Be ready, be prepared, or prime someone else to be there for you. Whatever you do, don’t miss out! And Don’t wait for Billy to say yes before you press the button!