You may remember him as the quiet half of the rock band Eurythmics, but Dave Stewart has a knack—and a message—for business.
With his tattooed wrists, omnipresent sunglasses and skull-and-bones jewelry, 57-year-old Dave Stewart still looks like the rock star he once was. What he doesn’t look like: a businessman who, since Eurythmics broke up 20 years ago, started his own record label, Anxious Records; founded a production company, Weapons of Mass Entertainment; and served as a consultant to companies such as Nokia and Visa. Now, with collaborator Mark Simmons, Stewart has written The Business Playground: Where Creativity and Commerce Collide (Prentice Hall), due out in July.
Most people probably don’t think of you as a businessman.
For the past few years, I’ve been consulting with a number of companies, including Visa, and giving lectures on creativity. I’m working with Nokia on a project to change the way people receive creative content on cell phones and to make the artist’s payment much more transparent. I can’t give details, but I can tell you that it’ll be revolutionary.
The Business Playground isn’t your typical business book.
The Business Playground resembles a children’s book, with cartoon-like characters and games as a metaphor for the way we want to make you think about business. Whether you’re writing a melody or creating a brand, you need to let go and think creatively.
What’s your business philosophy?
Think like a child and be willing to constantly reinvent yourself.
What’s the difference between working with artists and working with corporations?
They’re not as different as most people think. Artists and more traditional businesses can both be exciting, invigorating and very stubborn. They’re also both very protective of their brands.
Yet the music industry isn’t known for its business acumen.
People tend not to see music as a business, but once you work with a musician like Mick Jagger, you immediately see how aware he is of his brand—both the Mick Jagger brand and the Rolling Stones brand. Art is a business. The difference is that artists are willing to run with their most zany off-the-wall ideas in a way that businesses really should emulate. Businesses often get so caught up trying to protect their brands they shy away from doing anything new.
And that’s where you come in?
I think now, more than ever before, the companies that succeed are the ones willing to do things a little bit off-kilter. Just look at Pinkberry—they’re not just about yogurt, they’re about crazy plastic chairs, which are a brilliant touch.
What else are you up to?
A lot. I just met with Stephen Davis, the president of Hasbro, about Wacky Doo, a world I’ve created for children that will have a TV show, toys and branded products focused on a group of animals who’ve been kicked out of the zoo because they’re not scary enough. I’ve also created a show based on Business Playground, which I’m presenting at the Cannes TV festival. It will have entertainers meet with corporate heads to step into their shoes and give them ideas—I’ll have Lady Gaga meeting with the leaders of General Motors.
It’s like you’re watching cards in Las Vegas, and you see that guy at the roulette table come from nowhere. That’s me.