What You Don't Do

"Two roads diverge in a yellow wood..."

"Two roads diverge in a yellow wood..."

What you do is important and can define who you are and what you stand for, but what you don’t do is perhaps even more important.

When the norm is to do something a certain way, choosing not to do it becomes glaringly obvious. And often times, not doing something that everyone else does can be one of the best things that you can do.

When everyone is raising huge rounds and making headlines, the companies that succeed quietly like WhatsApp earn our respect. When the popular Silicon Valley motif is “college kid drops out to start an internet company,” the ones who don’t command our attention. When other websites are focused on increasing time spent on their sites, the search engine that decides to decrease it becomes the most viewed website in the world.

Not doing something that everyone else does can also be one of the worst things that you can do.

Perhaps one of the best examples is how the majority of VCs tweet and blog actively. Not tweeting makes a VC seem inaccessible or untrustworthy. In a field based on trust, communication, and positive relationships, not tweeting can be detrimental to a VC’s ability to source great investments. And that’s without considering how many potential deals they might not be hearing about by not being active on Twitter.

It’s necessary then to think hard about what you do, what you don’t do, and why. Sometimes, you’re forced to do things not because you want to do them, but because you fear the consequences of not doing them. But there are things that you can consciously choose not to do that will become a key, positive part of who you are or what your company represents.

If you’re willing to take that risk and bear the consequences, you might find a huge opportunity to differentiate yourself from the pack.

Let’s consider taxis. Taxi drivers are generally pretty serious and professional about what they do: after all, it’s their job. Uber prides itself on a similar sense of seriousness and professionalism, but promises a much better user experience. Now consider Lyft, a company that actively chooses not to be serious with quirky, pink mustaches and drivers that are forced to fistbump you and engage in conversation. It’s ultimately subjective, but a lot of people love Lyft! And it’s all because they choose not to be serious: that’s their competitive advantage.

Yo is also a great example. It’s unclear how successful (or unsuccessful) it will ultimately become, but Yo has carved itself a niche with contextless push notifications, something so radically different (or useless, depending on who you ask) that it has everyone buzzing.

We’re always in search of outliers, but it’s not about being nonconformist for the sake of being nonconformist. It’s about thinking hard about the defaults and questioning them. Certain things you can’t choose not to do, like customer service or making something your customers actually want. But other things, like not being serious in a serious industry, can make all the difference.

At Aflume, we’re trying to shape the future of music by changing how artists and fans interact, but we aren’t trying to be the next website that everyone goes to for music. Everyone these days says, check out my videos on Youtube, stream my music on SoundCloud, buy my stuff on iTunes, support me on Bandcamp, fund my Kickstarter, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. And on each site, musicians are forced to build a new profile, rediscover their fans, and then find a way to integrate that into their artistic identity.

You’ve probably never heard of us, and that’s not because we work with a lot of independent artists. It’s because we’re not trying to build a platform where you find artists to support. We’re consumer facing, but we’re letting artists take full creative and artistic control of our product: we power artists’ websites and want to be the backend of the music industry. And for the first time online, artists can promote themselves instead of yet another platform that they have a profile on.

Hopefully, we’re not doing the right thing.

If you’re a musician and think what we’re doing sounds interesting, please reach out. We’d love to help you succeed.