Consumer behavior advocate, singer, business mogul, and TV personality Kate Hardcastle sat with Communicate to discuss the global launch of Rock n Roll Business and bridging the music world with the business one.
Kate Hardcastle was in Dubai in September, in part for the launch of her new venture, Rock ‘n’ Roll Business, a new platform and podcast demonstrating why cross-sector learning and collaboration will be key for all businesses going forward and how we can all learn from the music industry. Hardcastle will also be collaborating with regional personalities and business leaders through her platform.
She sat with Communicate to delve a bit into the past and explain how she sees the future.
You came to Dubai for a variety of projects. Can you tell us more?
I’m here to do the UAE launch of our new platform, Rock n Roll Business. I’m also here because of Expo 2020, because anyone who believes in the positivity of working together is really going to be behind that concept; I’ve spent my whole career working around the world and bringing businesses together, so it seemed like a perfect outlay for those thoughts and experiences. And I’m here moderating a keynote at Seamless Middle East.
You started your career in music. What got you to move to the business side?
You want the honest answer? I needed to pay my bills. I’m married to a drummer, so we had two musicians in the house. It wasn’t sustainable as a lifestyle long term. It was time for one of us to get off the road and into the boardroom, and that was me. My husband is still a drummer to this day.
Most people would consider that you can’t have both the artistic mindset and the business mindset. How did you manage the shift?
I am accepted more as that kind of right side/left side brain mix now than 25 years ago, when I started out, I was very much told not to let on that I was a singer if I wanted to be in the boardroom. I was trying to make myself as disciplined and business-focused as possible, and I felt like my personality was being removed by the minute; those qualities that I now think are so brilliant in business were not accepted or enjoyed by the people who were my role models or my managers. There was a lot wrong, in their view, that I had to correct, whereas what I’ve actually learned 25 years later is that those skills are what has helped me have my career and survive in this industry. So, I’m very grateful for them.
What changed compared to 25 years ago, in your view?
I did enough and succeeded enough to be able to say that I should be listened to and that my views and my thoughts should be accepted. Your platform grows with you. You have to do things the right way, authentically, respectfully. You have to really spend a lot of time on that career ladder, not trying to take shortcuts. I’d love to say that what changed is the number of women that are in boardrooms, but I don’t think we’re there yet.
You were talking about the qualities that allowed you to grow. What are these qualities?
First and foremost, you need to have a level of drive, tenacity, determination when you’re a musician because it’s quite a cutthroat industry. To be on that stage, it’s quite a privilege.
Diversity and being able to be multifaceted is really helpful as well. You can’t just say, “I’m a singer and I’m not going to sing any other genre than this” or “I’m not wearing that dress.” You will be as versatile as you need to be.
Respecting your audience. If you go and give a performance one day, and that same song doesn’t deliver in the same way to the next crowd, you have to work to engineer this real-life experience every day and have that ability to be flexible and to understand that your set of constants can have very different outcomes.
And more than anything, really understand what teamwork is all about. You are on stage, relying on the musicians and the crew. You’re part of the team. It’s not about who’s on stage and who’s off stage. It’s about all working together to deliver. There are far more people off stage to achieve the gig than you on the stage, so be respectful. I’ve always been very engaged in strategic alliances and partnerships because I know that, no matter where you stand and where you are in the company, you’re part of the team and you wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for most of the people in that infrastructure.
So, you’re basically saying that being a musician is just like any other business.
Because it’s real life. You can make a big mistake on the stage and all 5,000 people are going to watch that mistake. Today, many businesses are living and breathing by social media on a day-to-day basis. You can’t do a brand quality report in 2021 telling all the stakeholders that everyone loves their brand and everyone is happy until the next report in 2022. We’re living at a different pace of life, and for me, that’s why there are similarities to the music industry.
And with the pandemic that has really turned the tables, behaviors have changed forever. This chaos has happened and, obviously, we’ve got to deal with crisis management. That’s rock n roll, and that’s why I think I’m using those skills more than ever.
You’re really emphasizing cross-sector learning and collaboration. How do you help legacy companies, that often are very siloed, to adopt this mindset?
As I always say, I’ll die trying because it’s so important. The bees cross-pollinate to make the honey, and that’s really the example we should learn from. It is about taking the very best of the other sectors and disciplines and trying to apply them to us. Some will work, some will fail, but at least we tried. This copy/paste world that we’ve lived in is not getting us anywhere, not satisfying our consumers, not making us happy as businesses, and not getting us outside of that box to make the changes we need to make. I’m comfortable being the advocate for a perpetual journey of learning.
How well-positioned is the Middle East in that sense?
I’m launching here because I think the maverick, entrepreneurial nature of the area will give me more opportunities, whereas in other regions, there can be quite a formulaic approach. But do I think this region has got everything? Of course, not. It would worry me that any area, business, brand, or personality would think that everything is ticked off. How boring would that be? We’ve got work to do.