As years go by
Cohesion also comes from the team's wisdom
in building a highly skilled and long-serving supporting cast to protect and enhance their
own capabilities. Working with Loewenstein, Jagger re-engineered their operation to create four different businesses around each of the Stones' key revenue streams: records and image, publishing, merchandising and touring. From 1989 the band partnered with Canadian rock promoter Michael Cohl to transform the business of touring.
Early Stones tours helped build their bad-boy rockstar myth, but they were loss-making and frequently chaotic. Cohl offered them a simple deal — 40 shows for $40m, with a single point of co-ordination to cross-pollinate and amplify each of the Stones' sources of revenue. The 1989-90 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle tour was the first under the new structure and grossed $260m. The subsequent Voodoo Lounge and Bridges To Babylon/No Security tours generated just under $400m each, and the 2006 Bigger Bang tour made $550m.
Over 50 years of togetherness the Stones have developed a set of practices and rules to help them stay performing at the highest level. They have evolved and adopted a method of decision-making that works for them. In many instances, Jagger can take the lead, taking input from the others and with Richards effectively having veto rights. "You know when Keith disagrees," notes Wood. "He normally pulls a knife on you."
Like all great teams they know there is no substitute for the hard work of practising together. The Stones commit two months to rehearsals, usually held in Toronto, before heading back on the road. They are professionals honing their craft, working at their teamwork. Rehearsals allow them to re-familiarise themselves with the music and each other, developing that almost telepathic communication. Richards states that he knows exactly what's happening on stage simply by watching Watts' left hand. The band practises to perform as a unit, each individual listening and responding to the others in what Ronnie Wood calls "a conversation through music".
All the requirements, rules, rituals and protocols of performance serve a specific purpose: to provide a structure for the Stones to harness their differences, to channel the band chemistry and to deliver the four principals onto the stage, together. Group dynamics theorist Bruce Tuckman's model of team development states that teams go through four stages in becoming effective. First is forming, where the members join the team and objectives are shared. Second is storming, in which the initial excitement and hope gives way to differences in opinion and approach, leading to conflict. The third stage is norming, where the team discovers ways of resolving conflict and of working together. This leads to the final stage: performing, when the team has become effective at working as a unit. The Stones story suggests that the best teams go back over these stages again and again. They are able to form and reform, as needed, bringing in new talent to help maintain the high standards and add new ideas. They also take breaks and consciously choose to reform and recommit to the common purpose and each other.
The core of the Stones' success is the energy generated by the creative abrasion amongst the team members. Storming has provided an important edge in keeping the Stones vibrant. Their determination to put consistent effort
into rehearsals and preparing for their concerts demonstrates norming activity that is revisited
on an ongoing basis. The Stones show that teamwork does not come easy. A danger of the norming phase is that teams become so comfortable with each other that their creative edge is dulled. For the Rolling Stones,
the storming seems built-in, especially between Jagger and Richards. Part of their longevity comes from having developed the protocols to deal with the recurring storms, harmonising the diverse skills but not averaging them.
The Rolling Stones keep going together because they can, and because they still want to. As long as the fans want to see them perform, the Stones will play. The buzz of performance is the ultimate, and only, satisfaction. On stage they
are free to share what Richards calls the real release: "Once we're up there doing it, it's
sheer fun and joy."
Khoi Tu is author of Superteams (Portfolio Penguin, £20). Khoi will be donating all his royalties from the sale of this book to the British Red Cross.
THE ROLLING STONES BY NUMBERS
£20m the amount Ronnie Wood says he's spent on drugs and alcohol
sales have reached over 200m
Largest live audience 1.5m
273 is the combined age of
Number of major concert tours 40
£190m the reported
Mick Jagger's fortune
Read more: seven ways to make your team super.
blog comments powered by