The Phish Model

I had no idea when I was 16 years old in that basement smoking a joint, listening to Phish’s album Rift for the first time, that the band I fell in love with that day would be such a great model for modern business.

Unbeknownst to most people in the music industry and for that matter the rest of the world, in the eighties and nineties, while the whole world was busy hanging on to what had been built by the Industrial Age, Phish saw the future.

Phish built a business around a tribe. Something small. Instead of making 20 cents on a record sale and trying to do that 10 million times a year to make money, Phish built a business around getting a small handful of people to support them with thousands of dollars per year at live concert experiences. Of course, they weren’t the first to do this, they were really copying the Dead. But where the Dead were more a group of ragtag hippies just having fun and were known for shabby business, especially in the early days, Phish built an empire.

Not that long ago there was a white paper put out by Harvard Business School showing that a Sole Proprietor can make a hundred thousand a year by getting one thousand people to spend a hundred dollars a year and that with the internet, that is easier than ever. Phish understood this concept innately before the internet and built a tribe of thousands who would support them no matter what.

Phish was creating the kinds of tight communities thirty years ago that the internet is now producing through groups on social media and chat platforms. They built a fully independent nomadic economy that lived on the road and in the parking lots of venues and cities around the nation.

Phish created a world and an experience that their fans never wanted to end and still don't. There are fans that spend ten thousand dollars a year and more on tickets and merchandise. A lot of them. Like thousands and thousands of them.

Our challenge as freelancers, business people and entrepreneurs is that we want the fast option. The Phish Model is not fast. It is slow and dedicated. It focuses relentlessly on the core why, faces big challenges and grows and evolves over time like any good relationship.

So in the end, refocusing on our why, and narrowing our vision to what gets our tribe truly inspired up is a surefire path to long-lasting success in anything we do. It takes time and there will be major bumps along the way but our determination and dedication will not fail us. In this refocusing we find renewed energy to hack away at the big mountains in our way to building our own tribe.

Have a nice day and I hope you enjoy focusing your efforts in your life as I do.

Jesse Barney

January 20, 2020