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Business Lessons from a Subway Station Musician

On a frosty January day in L’Enfant Plaza, a Washington DC subway station, one of the greatest violinists in the world, Joshua Bell, opened his violin case, positioned it to accept donations from passers by, and began to play.

Over the course of his 45 minute performance, he made just over 50 bucks. Twenty of the 50 dollars he made came from someone who recognized him.

He usually makes around 50 grand per performance and sells out concert halls.

So what’s the difference?

In the subway, he was like all the other subway performers. Probably playing for a little bit of cash for lunch or whatever.

In a concert hall, he’s the best violinist in the world.

Joshua-BellIn a subway, listening to performers is free.

In a concert hall it’s not.

In a subway, there are 1000 people walking by you. Many of them don’t know anything about classical music or the violin. It’s just 1000 random people.

In a concert hall it’s still 1000 people, however these 1000 people are have very specific interests and tastes, including the love and appreciation for classical music.

So what’s the difference?


In a concert hall, Joshua Bell is one of the world’s best violinists, you’re going to pay to listen and watch, and the people who buy tickets know and appreciate him.

Playing in a subway, Joshua Bell may as well be homeless. The people who walk by have no idea.

I used to stand in the street and pass out flyers for my business. Dumb. But hey, I didn’t know any better.

How you position yourself in business is critical to who you attract.

Some things you can do to improve your positioning are:

  1. Write a book. It’s really easy these days. You can publish it yourself on Amazon. Books are GREAT marketing tools. They position you as an EXPERT, and can work to bring people into your practice, especially if you put an offer in it. Plus, unlike a business card, ain’t nobody gonna throw away a book if you give them one.
  2. Define who you want in your practice through your USP and website copy. Want to have golfers in your office? Write to golfers. Want chronic pain patients? Write to them. Want golfers who are in chronic pain and can’t play golf? Write to them.
  3. Learn how to write compelling advertising copy (ad copy is the text in advertisements – I didn’t know this. Yes I was naive. I thought “copywriting” meant something about “copyrighting.”  Stupid, but I digress). You can learn that here, or get started with the AWAI Accelerated Program for 6 Figure Copywriting, which is where I started.
  4. Run newspaper ads. Newspaper ads automatically give you some credibility.
  5. Radio and of course, TV, will boost your positioning and credibility as well.

I’m not running newspaper ads yet, however I’ve written a book (albeit a short one), continually am learning how to write more compelling ad copy that attracts the clients I want, and I’ve positioned myself as the go to guy for lasting correction of chronic and recurring pain problems.

All of this has allowed me to demand advanced appointments, have higher fees, run a more sophisticated high value practice, and all it took was a choice. You can make the choice too. You have the power.



To learn more about the power of positioning, check out Dan Kennedy’s GREAT book: No B.S. Price Strategy.




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