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Three Vital Content Marketing Lessons Rush Taught Me

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(Note: I originally published this article in 2012. But, in reviewing it recently, I found that time hasn’t weakened the impact. I hope you agree.)

I happen to be a huge Rush fan.

There. I said it. Razz me if you will.

But the fact is, these guys have continued to inspire and impress me as a musician and music fan for over twenty years now.

And what’s even more impressive is that they had already been doing that for other fans for almost twenty years before THAT!

But now, I’m looking at this awesome band in a different way: as a content marketer. And, wouldn’t you know it?

I’m still impressed.

Here are three vital content marketing lessons I’ve learned from the premier Canadian power trio, Rush:

Don’t settle.

Regardless of whether their music is your cup of tea, if you have any sort of musical ear, you have to admit that the three musicians who make up Rush are absolutely top-notch at what they do.

Geddy, Alex and Neil are each virtuoso players on the bass, guitar and drums respectively. If you look back through the last, oh, I don’t know… 40 YEARS WORTH of magazines like Modern DrummerGuitar World and Bass Player, you’ll find people singing their praises over and over again.

And they also gel together as a band extremely well. It’s not a Yngwie Malmsteen situation where talent and ego are both in the stratosphere.

How did they get that way?

Practice. Focused, progressive practice. And this goes on even now, 40 years into their professional careers, long after Rush has “nothing left to prove.”

So what’s the lesson for content marketers?

Spectacular content doesn’t just happen.

When you come across that really special blog post, or that incredible infographic that just puts all the pieces in place for you, you can be sure that hours, weeks, even years of focused, progressive practice went into it. Whether all that time went into that piece itself, or into the stunning talent that made it possible for that post to be pounded out in twenty minutes, it’s still there.

So don’t settle for good enough content. Practice. Make it spectacular.

Well, you can stake that claim Good work is the key to good fortune Winners take that praise Losers seldom take that blame

~ By Neil Peart. From “Roll the Bones”, Roll the Bones, 1991.

Find your audience and take them with you.

Some Rush fans that started loving the band in 1975 were a little put out by the time 1987 rolled around.

These folks loved the epic fantasy progressive meanderings of Fountains of Lamneth and 2112, but couldn’t stand the pop-synth clarity of Time Stand Still.

Other folks who discovered Rush in the early 90′s (like me) might like the newest music, but can’t stand all that artsy fartsy progressive glam rock from the 70′s.

Some people can’t stand Geddy Lee’s voice. Others can’t imagine what the trouble is.

The point, however, is this: Rush has made their music, their way. It’s not for everyone. Matter of fact, it’s not for many. Rush has never been as big as some of the superstar acts out there who have made billions and saturate the airways.

But Rush’s fan base — their audience — their tribe — is absolutely and totally loyal.

And here, boys and girls, is the key for content marketers: You need to build that tribe, but you’re not going to be successful by going the pop route. There’s no one-size-fits-all instant hit in content marketing.

Instead, it’s going to take some experimentation. It’s going to require being yourself and putting your own unique voice and view into every single item you create. It’s going to require making some adjustments in order to stay true to yourself while at the same time reaching people with different learning styles and preferences.

And, it’s going to require changing with the times without changing who you are.

If you do that, although you may not sell billions, you’ll be talking to the right people: the small but powerful tribe of fanatically loyal people who want to hear what you have to say.

All the world’s indeed a stage And we are merely players Performers and portrayers Each another’s audience Outside the gilded cage

~ By Neil Peart. From “Limelight”, Moving Pictures, 1981

Stick with it.

In the realm of rock music, it’s a rare band that survives five years, much less 40! And it’s even rarer to find a band with that kind of longevity that hasn’t rested on their laurels by going out there every few months and playing the same handful of tired hits over and over again and nothing else.

Rush, on the other hand, has consistently created fresh music every 1–2 years while interspersing the time between studio albums with critically-acclaimed live shows, live albums, DVDs and other connected projects. They’re not resting on anything, despite the fact that these guys are creeping up on the big 6–0 really soon!

If you have a spare 25 minutes, check out this recent interview with the band before a 2011 show. I think it sums up their philosophy really well:

As a content marketer, time is both your enemy and your ally.

Every piece of content you create runs the risk of disappearing in the constant, inevitable stream of information assailing everyone. With each second that goes by, each word you write begins to fade into oblivion.

But, at the same time, your body of content builds on itself over time, gaining strength and momentum as more people discover it and put it to use.

So, by all means, keep creating spectacular content. Keep it fresh and brilliant, and keep seeking out that tribe who feels you deserve their full attention. But, whatever you do, stick with it.

To succeed, you need to be in it for the long haul.

You can do a lot in a lifetime If you don’t burn out too fast You can make the most of the distance First you need endurance First you’ve got to last…

~ By Neil Peart. From “Marathon”, Power Windows, 1985

Tell me: any lessons you’ve learned from Rush? Any lessons you’ve learned from other celebs who do it right? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to discuss it.

Justin P Lambert

Writer, author, freelancer; Editor of Timeless Principles Magazine, content marketing expert, and purveyor of short fiction. 

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