No, I am not talking about my pasty race – I am once again talking about that musical mensch, Jack White. Although he is even pastier than I am. Which is fine because that probably means he is working on a new White Stripes or Raconteurs or Dead Weather song rather than lounging on a beach somewhere and NOT providing me with excellent new music to listen to. Work, Jack, work! Jack recently did an interview with Rolling Stone, talking about his decade in the music business, which I found very interesting. On any professional level, he can be considered a great success – he plays the music he wants to play, it sells well despite sometimes being waaaay away from the mainstream, and seems happy about the work he’s done and excited about the projects he will do. He makes, it seems, very few concessions or compromises. How is Jack White getting it right? There are answers in the RS article, which I shall mine and refine for you now.

1. Control: The pop music business is in the midst of its most rapid transformation since Gertrude fired up the Victrola. It’s everyone for themselves now, and if you want a pro career you have to align yourself with old-style companies that form and market and profit from your product, or you DIY. This means you try to hook up with an independent music company or you REALLY DIY. Jack White knows this, and last year decided to fully flesh out his Third Man Records label into a Nashville-based production studio and store as well. His goal is to create some opportunity and stability for other musicians as well as investing in the nuts and bolts of what he needs to create and distribute his own product. It’s a smart move for him – he’s got enough bankroll, credibility, and reasonable understanding of realities of business to succeed here where others might not.

2. Diversify and Expand: Another smart business principal, and one that has paid off tremendously in the creative area for White as well. He is a multi-instrumentalist (and genuinely very good at each one, whether it’s guitar, piano, drums, vocals, etc.), a songwriter, a producer, a filmmaker, an artist, a financier, a marketer, and a master performer. Instead of leaving most of the work to others or resting on his laurels, he works hard at improving everything he does and takes opportunities to learn and practice. People want to see what he will do next, because he brings something different and interesting to the table. That takes hard work, confidence, bravery, and humility.

3. Go With The Flow: Another quality that makes White’s work exciting is that he is willing to see what happens, what might inspire him day by day, what he can grab from all kinds of sources to make what he makes. That isn’t to say he’s lounging on the beach waiting for the magical muse to hit him; we have already established here via his pale countenance that this is not the case. No, I’d be willing to bet that Jack White is attuned to his surroundings more than most, where rain falling on a piece of scrap metal can become a drum sound, a girl standing alone at a bus stop can make for a new set of lyrics, and watching a modest street performer can renew style and energy. He’s open to the world and pretty sure that it will bring him stuff to think about, therefore he can get the most out of it.

4. Please Yourself First: Most artists start out this way – they write and perform in their natural style, what they like to do. The danger lies in what happens next, and success or the lack of it has everything to do with it. If you are hungry for recognition and sales, the temptation is very strong to modify what you do to fit in with those who are getting the press and the bucks. If you are successful, then you can get caught in the trap of opinions from fans, friends, family, critics, managers, producers, your dry cleaner, the guy at the 7-11 – everyone wants to tell you that you are wonderful and don’t ever change, or that you suck and should quit, or that you are boring, weird, perfect, derivative…pick a term, any term. There’s nothing more true than “you can’t please everyone.” White went through his own period of doubts and difficulty, and then decided just to keep doing his thing, whatever happened or whatever anyone said, and would live with the outcome. It worked.

It’s a funny coincidence – last night as I was driving Mr11 to his martial arts class, “Icky Thump” by the White Stripes was playing on the car radio and he asked me how old the band was. I told him I thought the White Stripes had been around about 10 years, and he was quite surprised. “I thought they’ve been around as long as the Beatles or something!” he said, as I smiled and told him, nope, not quite that long.

To Mr11, the White Stripes are classic. I am sure that would please Jack White a whole bunch.