A lot happens over the course of 20 years.

It occurred to me, at the recent Outside Lands Music Festival, that I was seeing Metallica perform live for the 5th time in the past 20 years. The first 3 times were in the late 90’s during my college years and then again in 2004. Over a decade had past until I finally saw them again in August of 2017.

A lot has changed, yet so much has remained the same.

Twenty years ago, internet giants Google, Amazon, and eBay were just getting started. Mainstream music was consumed on CD’s, disposable cameras were considered smart, and people flocked to record stores to purchase new music. Fast forward twenty years and we can do all of that through one single mobile device. Much has changed.

Twenty years ago, tens of thousand of people flocked to Golden Gate Park for a two-day music festival called the Tibetan Freedom Concert. I was there and saw the Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins perform live. Fast forward twenty years and tens of thousands of people still flock to Golden Gate park for music festivals. Much has remained the same.

But regardless of generation or advancements in technology, people are tribal. They identify themselves by lifestyle, totems (brands), and lyrics (cultural values). They are bonded by…

  • Experience – People want to share
  • Interests – People want to learn
  • Community- People want to be a part of something

People of all interests and tribes flock to music festivals to experience the music they love most. When those interests align, it creates a powerful community experience. The Gorillaz, Lorde, The Who, Belle & Sebastien, Alt-J, Real Estate, Vance Joy, andMetallica were among our favorite performances at this year’s festival.

Metallica headlined the main stage on day two. Frontman, James Hetfield, often interacted with the crowd between songs. He once asked two questions. “How many people are seeing Metallica for the first time?” versus “How many people have been with us for years?” The visual consensus of hands-raised seemed to be a 50/50 split although it did seem that there were more new fans. They were definitely gaining popularity among millennials and beyond.

There were two boys near the front, one with blue hair and the other with green hair, and both about 6 years old. Cameras and Hetfield focused on them as they were held up by their parents. All had big grins from cheek to cheek, which was absolutely priceless.

Clearly, Metallica was a tradition that was being past down. Hetfield commented how much Metallica loved all their fans especially the new ones, and there were tens of thousands of them at the show.

The Instagram post/image below was taken during the song, One.

Regardless of what tribe you follow or what you love about them, there is strength in numbers and loyalty is in tradition. The more people become connected to an experience(your brand), the more opportunities there are to collaborate and create success among that tribe. This is especially important for growth in small businesses.


We live in a micro economy where details matter. Fans and consumers have more choices than ever. Digital is dominating the marketplace. To stand apart, we must focus on personalizing experiences, nurture opportunities, and position our brand where fans will find value.

Here are a few take-aways from Outside Lands that will be critical to the success of your business or personal brand, especially if you’re just getting started or trying to scale up.

  1. PLAY THE LONG GAME – Know your brand, know your market. Since 1981, Metallica has successfully transcended 3 generations of fans and still going strong. They have an enormous fan club base which was clearly evident when they stuck around on stage after they finished their set. They understand what matters most to their most devoted fans and they deliver time-and-time again.
  2. INVEST IN THE CREATIVE ENVELOP TO STAND OUT – A lot of businesses will get lost in the shuffle of the marketplace because their design sucks! In the 90’s Metallica’s live show was galvanized with pyrotechnics, explosions, and strobe lights. It was riveting and memorable; they’ve always remained cutting edge. Fast forward to 2017 and they still have a lot of that. However, they have invested a great deal to transcend the old Metallica to the new as noted by the powerful laser show integration of their performance. This was a stark enhancement of Metallica that definitely appealed to the new generation of fans.
  3. RALLY YOUR TRIBE – Acknowledge and engage with your fans. Personalization is key to establish authenticity and to stay connected. Nearly 70,000 people attended Outside Lands for each day of the festival. They flocked from different states, countries and cultures. Groups walked around with totems (and flags) of caricatures like Super Mario, Hello Kitty, giant pickles, giant bananas and neon flowers, to more easily locate each other if they were to separate.

How does your business or tribe stand out in the crowd/competition?