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What The Music Industry Can Learn From Glen Bell - Founder of Taco Bell

image from www.childrenscancercenter.orgFrom the outset I will add the disclosure that I was commissioned by Taco Bell, as part of their anniversary celebrations, to make a documentary about the life of their founder Glen Bell. However, I will also add that, more than anything, it was the heart of the story that drew me to the project. It is as relatable to someone in the music industry as it is to someone selling food. 

Glen Bell grew the Taco Bell empire from a single burger stand in San Bernardino. It did not happen overnight, it took a several attempts to get right, and most of all it took dedication, passion and hard work. Over the years Bell developed a set of “Recipes for Success” that outlined his approach to making it in business. In music you are ultimately creating a product, and the path to success is to having that product consumed by as many people as possible. 

5 of Glen Bells Recipes for successimage from

1. You build a business one customer at a time.

Whether it is at shows or through social networking, you must understand the power of the individual. If they believe in you, their word becomes stronger than any update you can post yourself, or any Facebook ad you buy. When someone loves what you do, nothing makes them happier than converting others into believers. The foundations of your fan base are the two people you give free CDs to when they are the only people in your audience. When you create a relationship with these people they will become fans for life and they will in turn tell others about you. Speaking with someone one on one is way more effective than shouting at 100 people and hoping someone is listening.

2. Sometimes what you don’t say is more important than what you do say.

The tendency with the onset of social networking is to tell everybody everything all the time. We are told how we have to work social networks, how to best engage our fans. An insight into your world is something, but every great artist was built on a certain mystique. The days of “they are just like us” bought about by reality shows and Twitter is long wearing thin. Sometimes it is better to stop hollering at everyone, and open your eyes and ears to what going on around you. Those ahead of the curve are more often the ones who quietly overtook you, than the ones who blasted past with full guns blazing.

3. The best ideas are often the most simple 

Elaborate music videos, full symphony orchestras, excessive marketing campaigns, stylists, new boobs, celebrity affiliations, and bulging entourages mean nothing, unless at the heart of it is a great song with a great hook. 

4. When you over extend yourself financially it is twice as hard to get ahead. 

If you want the best chance of success you do not have to spend $50,000 making a record. It will not make it sound 50 times better than spending $1000. If you have never sold a record before, don’t get delusions of grandeur, profit should be attainable by selling 100 records. When you know you can sell 100 you can then aim for that next step. This way there is room for your band to grow both as a business and creatively.

5. A dream is a valuable possession.

As the reality of the music industry sets in, that spark which ignited your passion to make music your career can easily burn out. But every great achievement started off as someone’s dream. More and more often, success in the music industry is being realized after many years of dedication. The success of those picked up and branded by some TV show, or talent competition, is commonly fleeting. Sustainable careers become that way because they were built on solid foundations, and solid foundations are not built overnight. 

You can watch the complete documentary below – The Glen Bell Story: An American Dream  (Runtime 15 mins).


Robin Davey is a independent musician and film maker and VP of Music and Film development at GROWvision Studios. Follow him on twitter @mr_robin_davey