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The Impresario



Do you recognize the name Brian Epstein?  If you don't, you're not alone. Unless you know his business, it's very unlikely you would know of him or his accomplishments.  Much like J.D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford, or Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, Mr. Epstein was a product of his times, his talent and his drive.  He understood what he had, the market share it could command and how it could evolve over time and stay relevant in a finicky industry. Mr. Epstein found a way to market his product that was unheard of in his day and in that industry.  Working with a small group of professionals, they crafted a logo, that was distinct and unique to the product in a very competitive and cluttered market. Just as Mr. Epstein predicted, the product proved to be very successful and the logo became a brand name consumers immediately recognized.  Forty-eight years after its last original manufactured piece rolled off the assembly line, the logo and its product are still selling strongly today. Not bad for a brand that only produced OEM products for eight years. Oh, and the product; Mr. Epstein's product was a band called "The Beatles"!


According to a June 2018 issue of the British newspaper, "The Times" the surviving Beatles (Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney) or their estates (John Lennon and George Harrison) make about $87,000.00-a-day from a company that closed its doors over 50 years ago. The best-selling rock band in history formed Apple Corps in 1968 to manage their business and artistic affairs.  The story reported that in June 2018 that Apple Corps as a business made just over $34,000,000.00 in 2017.

Brian Epstein understood what he had in the Beatles, and while he may not have realized how influential they would become, he got it and them! The right band, creating the right music, at the right time. He managed several other very successful groups and singers like Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (who had hits with Lennon–McCartney songs), the Cyrkle (Epstein's first American group) and Cilla Black (his only female artist).  

But the Beatles were different.  Working with the band and Ludwig drums, the famous logo began with a John Lennon sketch.  It evolved into the famous design with the larger “B” compared to other letters and the extended “T” we all recognize today.  It’s important to note that Epstein was not the genius behind the music, but he got the marketing aspect and how to use it to benefit the Beatles.  What did Epstein do that was so different?

1. TALENT: He recognized their talent, their creative potential and did something with it.  The Beatles were one of many other groups in Liverpool and England trying to make it big. Following his intuition, Epstein decided to manage the band, and he put the group on the right path after seeing something others just didn't see.   

2.  CHANGE THIS, NOT THAT: He understood the band's strengths and its weaknesses.  Working with the Beatles was difficult, and they tended to be very unprofessional.  Imitating their leather-clad heroes (Elvis Presley, James Dean, Gene Vincent, and Marlon Brando), they were unshaven, they were messy in appearance, they smoked, spit on stage and swore in their conversations with club patrons.  Epstein knew not to interfere with the band's music, but to break out of the club circuit, they needed to be rebranded in dress, presentation and etiquette. With a new uniformity to the group, he could approach London record companies.  Epstein knew exactly when and where to step in for the betterment of the band.

3. EXPOSURE OVER IMMEDIATE PROFIT: He knew exactly what, where and when to invest his time and the record company's money.  He was one of the first rock and roll impresarios to push for large monetary investments from the band's record label and its global distributors to promote the group prior to record releases or tours.  One of the smartest moves he made was putting the Beatles on the "Ed Sullivan Show" (the #1 show in America from 1955-1970) as the Beatles hit the number one spot on the American pop charts. Epstein knew the band needed lengthy American exposure and a single performance wasn’t going to be enough. So, he negotiated with CBS and Sullivan for the band to play three consecutive weeks on the show while on their first American tour. Guaranteed the opening and closing slots for three Sunday nights in a row was a strategic marketing ploy that paid huge dividends.  He also agreed with the host, Ed Sullivan, to be the only "live"

show the Beatles would do in America in 1964 (they would agree to the same deal in 1965).

4. A RESPECTED CRITIC: Find the right record producer.  George Martin was the man who transformed the Parlophone record label from a "sad little company" to a very profitable business.  Martin came to fame in the 1950s producing comedy and novelty records for Peter Sellers, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Spike Milligan.  After the experience at Decca Records (who declined to sign the Beatles), Epstein knew he needed to find the right ear. Martin's classical training, interest in jazz and a strong position at EMI Records & Abbey Road studios seemed like the perfect fit.  Epstein went to a friend, Sid Colman, the general manager of EMI’s music publishing company, and he inquired about a demo for EMI. Coleman introduced Martin to Epstein, who clicked with Martin and, after a few listening sessions, brought the band in to record four demos.  Martin made one suggestion that was already in the back of Epstein’s mind which was to get a new drummer or a studio session drummer that would provide all future drumming requirements for recordings. The hottest drummer in Liverpool and on the European club circuit was Richard Starkey i.e. Ringo Starr, who joined the band on August 15th, 1962.

Brian Epstein saw all the Beatles’ greatest triumphs, the rise of global Beatlemania, the concert at New York’s Shea Stadium (over 55,560 fans), the albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely-Hearts Club Band (1967). As the manager of the Beatles, Epstein rarely had any downtime and lived a very irregular lifestyle, one of constant travel and pressure.  He did not see the band tear itself apart in anger and frustration only to dissolve into a decade of vengeful litigation beginning in 1970. Epstein died in August 1967, after suffering a number of other minor health problems, due to a sleeping pill overdose.


Brian Epstein’s dedication to the Beatles led the band to fame in America and around the world.  Although Epstein was a smart businessman, he wasn’t perfect. One of his biggest mistakes was his failure to secure merchandise licensing for the Beatles. In fact, this mistake is still raised today by music promoters because the Beatles merchandise is still extremely popular and continues selling around the world in high volume.

We can learn a lot about knowing when and where to invest our talent, time and money from Epstein.  He captured a moment in time that was relative to his generation and continues with today's young people.

Epstein excelled at understanding the Beatles’ unique selling proposition.  First, he helped clean up their look but kept their unique hairstyle. Their version of rock and roll music was different from the records coming out of America in 1962.  He grasped their humor, their passion and their desire to succeed. The Beatles understood what Epstein was telling them: even as good as they were, they needed to have something their fans could buy into that was uniquely them.


In business, they say your customers buy from you and not your competitors because you stand out from the crowd. You define what you do differently and convey that to potential customers. More often than not, this reflects special knowledge or skills. For example, with the Beatles you have:

1. What did the first fans love most about the band? Talent, captivating stage presence and fan appreciation.

2. What special skills, knowledge or talent did they have? Good musicians (except the then drummer), developing songwriters and great collaboration.

3.  What made fans prefer them over the other talented local bands in Liverpool?  They were from Liverpool and not from London, they were local kids, from normal families and to the Liverpool fans, they were theirs.  

4. What did the fans get out of a Beatles’ club performance that other bands did not provide?  Honing their stage skills and musicianship in the hard entertainment market of Hamburg Germany in the early 1960s gave them an edge and level of professionalism few other bands could present.

5. What did Brian Epstein advertise, promote and sell when it came to the Beatles as a brand? A unique looking, musically gifted band of singers and songwriters that the fans had not seen previously.  Epstein created an image that today is recognized as the mold for the modern-day rock star. Elvis Presley was talented, gifted and unique, but the Beatles were that time period’s four, and three of the four were writing pretty good songs that would be on their first two albums.  

He never wrote a song, fronted a band or played a concert, but Brian Epstein is one of the important people in the history of rock and roll.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thought so and inducted him in 2014, as one of only two managers to be awarded this honor.

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