Beauty and the Bass

Ida Nielsen spent 5 years as the bass anchor for Prince. She is now stepping out in her own right as a singer – songwriter, following Prince’s tragic and premature death. In our exclusive interview and subsequent private conversations with Ida I discussed a number of topics with parallel lessons for anyone seeking to make their mark with their personal passion.

Balancing discipline and freedom

Ida is a perfect example of a professional musician who combines discipline with freedom in her musical life. She took up music at the age of 16, having learned to play piano and bass mostly by ear. She then attended the Royal Danish Academy of Music to hone her natural born musical skills. When amateur musicians tell me that improvisation is all about creativity and freedom and nothing to do with discipline, I believe they have missed the point about the importance of structure / discipline / order. I’ve observed on many occasions musicians who have oodles of disciplined musical training, but who are unable to improvise and sometimes vice versa. Ida is a living example of someone who combines both sets of skills. Prince puts it simply:

“Too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay”

In the business world this is what Tom Peters refers to as “simultaneous tight and loose properties”. I’ve just been discussing direct parallels from music for people interested in bringing more creativity and innovation to their enterprise at Innovation Mauritius

Beauty and the Bass - Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Beauty and the Bass – Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Deliberate practice

Ida is also testimony to the concept of “deliberate practice” proposed by K. Anders Ericsson. This requires the systematic desire to extend one’s repertoire beyond one’s comfort zone. In my experience, some musicians reach a plateau of competence, due to rerehearsing that which they already know. To master an instrument requires practice outside of the known regions of your competence. I know from my own experience that I had to switch from playing rock music to gypsy jazz in order to move my playing skill up a level through seeing and hearing things anew. This concept applies in many fields of human endeavour. Ida has respected great innovators in her field and built upon their innovations, for example Larry Graham, who is credited with the invention of “slap bass playing”, in his case due to not having a drummer in his band so he had to develop a more rhythmic way of playing the instrument. 

Here’s a section of Mr Graham with Sly and The Family Stone and a bass solo from my good friend Mr Paul Moss at a corporate aftershow event we did at Henley Business School from 2 minutes 08 onwards:

Get into the Groove – Working with Flow 

Mastery, unconscious competence, effortless genius, being “in your element” …  These are all ways to describe what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called the state of ‘flow’.  Prince’s sax player Marcus Anderson offers some practical insights into the state of flow:

“Although I can read music and therefore understand the “mathematics” of jazz, the real skill of improvisation comes from using your ear / intuition, paying attention to the other band members, feeding off them and finding a flow that moves the group performance up to the max.”

Marcus Anderson, interview taken from “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“, Bloomsbury

Ida is clearly in the state of effortless mastery or flow with this performance, recorded at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London at an aftershow at 3 am in the morning:

We spoke outside of the main interview about Ida’s 5 years spent working with Prince and she had these things to say about what she gained from working alongside a master of innovation in music:

Serendipity :

Ida explained how she got to play bass with Prince: 

“I simply got a call on my cell phone. The person said they were Prince’s manager and they wanted me to go to Minneapolis and jam with Prince and the band. They said they would call me back – they did not and I began to think it was a hoax, but eventually they called back and I went to Paisley Park to play with them for three days”. 

I completely got the mixed emotions of Ida’s story, having once had an e-mail from Sir Richard Branson telling me I had won a prize, then nothing for two weeks – a social media “expert” mailed me to say it was bound to be a hoax, completely bursting my bubble!  It turned out it was not a hoax mail and I ended up writing and delivering events for the Virgin group.


Mastery : When performing with Prince, Ida had to learn more than 300 songs in order to have the flexibility to vary a given performance, sometimes on the fly. This is quite different than performing with most professional musicians, who prefer to hone a set and perform this as a set piece on all dates of a tour. This level of agility gave Prince and 3rd Eye Girl the ability to personalise their music to a given audience. To do this requires mastery at the individual and team level, with everyone paying close attention to each other’s performances.

“Doing a residency in any particular city requires a large repertoire to ensure repeat business”.


Teaching as the best way to learn : Ida mused that she had been lucky to have the greatest guitar teacher on the planet in Prince. Moreover, rather than the usual situation in terms of paying your teacher for lessons, Prince had actually paid her !! The greatest gift of innovation is to transfer your skills to others to improve your game.

Check out Ida Nielsen’s music at her website for more insights into the skills of a master craftswoman.


Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics. Check book “The Music of Business” out, which has a chapter on Prince and 3rd Eye Girl.

Charlie Mingus AOR

Leadership Lessons from Two Virgins

I was approached by David Tait OBE recently to form a speaking partnership. David was with Virgin Atlantic from the very beginning and is acknowledged by Sir Richard Branson as having played a pivotal role in the development of Virgin, marking its progress from an underground office to a global luxury brand.David wrote British Atlantic Airways first business plan, a company that would eventually become Virgin Atlantic. In 1984, Tait became the fledgling airline’s first US employee, reporting directly to Sir Richard Branson. He built and led all the airline’s North American operations including sales, marketing, operations, customer service, finance, IT and HR. He was awarded an OBE in 2001 by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to British aviation in the United States”. Since that time he has worked as a consultant to the airline and travel industry and is a founding partner in the online luxury hotel booking site “Discover Luxury”. David has a veritable treasure trove of stories that offer insights into the ingenious and disruptive strategies of a serial entrepreneur and the Virgin brand. Here are just a few of the stories we share in our work together.

I want to break free … frustration and innovation

In the same way that Sir James Dyson’s breakthrough Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner was inspired by his frustration with his existing vacuum cleaner, Branson’s decision to start Virgin Atlantic was inspired by a sense of frustration with existing customer service:

“As the head of Virgin Records, Richard Branson was a frequent flier between London and New York. Frustrated by consistently high fares and bad service he was convinced there had to be a better way and so, never one to be hindered by conventional wisdom, decided he would look at starting his own transatlantic airline. He’d learned from his success in the music business that what doesn’t work in theory can sometimes work in practice. But this was different – in a business ruled by Goliaths, starting another airline was a major leap of faith!

But just ‘another airline’ wasn’t what Branson had in mind. With the help of a few former Laker executives and some entertainment industry flair, Virgin crafted a radically different model. Branded Virgin Atlantic Airways – by conservative airline standards a risqué move – the product it offered would be equally disruptive.”


An obsession with Customer Service – Virgin Upper Class

Being frustrated is insufficient to innovate.  You must go on and do something about it. Some 5127 prototypes later James Dyson produced his first commercially viable Dual Cyclone cleaner. Branson also went past frustration and disrupted the market in a monopoly industry. Find out more about Dyson and Branson in our exclusive interviews with both at “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise

Screw it, Let’s do it

David recalls the “Screw it, Let’s do it” days of Virgin Atlantic’s maiden flights to New York. One of Richard Branson’s secrets is that he is a master of delegation and that sometimes means he does not always “do the detail”. It turned out that Richard had managed to forget his passport for the first Virgin Atlantic flight to the USA, which technically made him an illegal immigrant! David had to skilfully navigate his way out of the problem …


David also shares insights on how to change the customer experience via the early days of Virgin Atlantic with a fellow alumni of my secondary school, Sir David Frost:

“Those on the inbound trip were party to a flight that could well have made the Guinness World Records book for the most champagne consumed on a single Atlantic crossing.

A smiling David Frost, who was almost a weekly commuter across the Atlantic at the time, told me that it was the first time he’d ever made the entire seven-hour trip standing up with a drink in his hand”.


Sir David Frost R.I.P.

As well as some great storytelling, together David and I offer deep insights and takeaway concepts presented in ways that last forever. My experience of teaching MBA’s over 20 years has shown that we are missing out on the heart and soul of leadership by just teaching dry concepts. The mnemonic MBA should really stand for Much Bigger Amplifiers rather than More Blooming Analysis! We cover subjects such as

  • Disruptive thinking about your business strategy and practices
  • Converting ideas into sustainable innovations
  • Building and rethinking your brand to face a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous)
  • The “anatomy” of Sir Richard Branson : Why he leads the way he does
  • How does Virgin organise its affairs? – Culturally, structurally and in terms of day to day people management
  • Customer Centricity without Customer OCD
  • Leadership for good : Balancing Passion, Purpose and Profit

We finish with the hilarious story of Richard’s entrée into the world of Cola, which resulted in failure:

Cola Wars

“When trying to promote anything in the US one really has to “Go big or go home” – well, we went big! … I drove a vintage Sherman tank down Broadway … heroically smashing through a giant wall of Coke and Pepsi cans.”

Sir Richard Branson

On this occasion Richard’s underlying modus operandi of “playing David to Goliath” did not succeed. Coca Cola engaged their massive distribution machine to ensure there was no room on the shelves for Virgin’s product, Coke was discounted massively and Virgin retired injured. The key point here is the idea that success recipes work for a set of reasons and therefore transplanting a recipe (the David and Goliath approach in this case) does not always work in a new set of circumstances.

Contact me via to book David and myself for that very special event.

With Sir Richard Branson at The Virgin Money Lounge

With Sir Richard Branson at The Virgin Money Lounge

Engineering Bohemian Rhapsody

Here is our 1:1 interview with Barry Ainsworth, the man who engineered Bohemian Rhapsody as well as records for people as diverse as Otis Redding, Dusty Springfield, The Kinks, Rush, Deep Purple, Toyah, Yes, Jack Bruce, Hawkwind, Sooty !! and a very long list of music acts from the 1960’s and 70’s. Filmed and produced by Rory Gill, freelance film maker. Barry and I are available to give talks on aspects of working with precocious talents and extracting their genius with transferrable lessons for businesses who are interested in innovation and creativity.

Some of the artists Barry has produced

Just some of the artists Barry has produced … from Otis Redding “Dock of the Bay” to Deep Purple, Nancy Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Petula Clark etc.

To whet your appetite, in this film you will learn about:

  • Working in Liverpool’s Cavern – birthplace of The Beatles
  • Working with Frank and Nancy Sinatra
  • Dealing with Monsters of Rock – Deep Purple, Cream
  • Working with incendiary people – Lemmy, Punk Rock
  • Innovation in music recording and production
  • Working with Queen and dealing with perfectionists

So, please view the film, comment and share it widely.

Barry Ainsworth and Rory Gill at The Virgin Lounge

Barry Ainsworth and Rory Gill at The Virgin Money Lounge in London


Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics. Check his books out on Amazon:

Click to view books on Amazon

Click to view books on Amazon

If you enjoyed this article, try some of our other work:

On Creativity and Playfulness

Prince and Innovation

Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise

Hendrix and Clapton compared – Innovation style

On the One, Bass Ida

We’re very lucky to be interviewing Ida Nielsen, aka Bassida at Camden’s Underworld on Wednesday September 07, organised by Nigel Hart of Nitro Management. Ida has a new album out called Turn It Up.  For the last 5 years was the anchor in Prince’s New Power Generation and 3rd Eye Girl until his sad passing at just 57 years of age.


Bass in ur face – Ida Nielsen and Prince

Ida Nielsen hails from Denmark. She started playing bass at age 16, studying music at The Royal Danish Academy of Music. Ida is a multi-instrumentalist and in 2010 received an out of the blue invite to play with Prince which she assumed was a joke! She is something of a bass tech expert and an advocate of TC Electronics equipment, which a number of my friends also use in their rigs.


Beauty and the Bass – Ida’s style combines resonance in the low register with superb slap bass for punch and sparkle in the high end

There will be a full report on my film interview with film maker Rory Gill and the concert after Ida’s performance. Her music is cool and funky. Ida’s bass playing combines beautiful low registers to reach your soul and a healthy dose of popping to excite your synapses. For now, read this interview about this all round musicologist at Bassida. Here’s two extracts from that piece on what she learned from working with Prince:

“I learned to play tight. He was so tight about making space in the music. There’s always a lot going on in my music, and I’m trying to clean it up because I know that’s what he would do. Not that I wasn’t playing tight before, but he taught me to not play all the notes in between that we bass players normally do. It’s a little bit like a drummer who is always rolling on the snare instead of keeping a tight, simple beat. Prince taught me to keep it simple. With my own stuff, I make everyone else play simple so I get all the space!🙂

The first time I was in the studio recording with him, I was in shock because I found out he doesn’t use a click track. I was like…what? When you hear every record it sounds like there is a click because it’s so tight. It’s all about locking within the band and getting it that tight and I feel like that’s what it’s all about. I love the whole idea of, “we don’t actually need a click. It doesn’t matter if the tempo goes a little up or down as long as the energy and the life is there.”

Check Ida’s new album Turn It Up on iTunes.


Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics – offering long term development programmes on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity and shorter masterclasses and keynotes via The Academy of Rock, which uniquely fuses Business School insights with parallel lessons from the field of music. Author of 7 books on creativity and business – check them out at Amazon:

Click to view books on Amazon

Click to view books on Amazon

An intimate audience with Jordan Gray

At The Pheasantry in Kings Road, Chelsea - Photo by Rory Gill

Jordan Gray at The Pheasantry in Kings Road, Chelsea – Photo by Rory Gill

A few months back I conducted an intimate interview with Jordan Gray, Star of The Voice and with talents way beyond many artists I’ve ever seen in my life. Singer, songwriter, musician and performer all rolled into one, without any formal training in any of these disciplines. The interview offers transferable insights for anyone seeking to carve out their career as an entrepreneur in any field of endeavour. Jordan talks candidly about her life, learning her craft, managing fame, creativity, staying true to yourself and looking after her brand as a self-made musician and musicpreneur.

We also did a showcase event with Jordan at The Virgin Lounge in London.  Here is a behind the scenes piece of music recorded at Pizza Express Jazz Club in preparation for the Lounge event

Check Jordan’s new album The Baffled King is out on iTunes. Jordan is currently on tour in the UK. Don’t miss a chance to see her perform live whilst you can. She has been described as wistful, whimsical, expressive, eclectic; the sky falls staggeringly short of the true limit for this peculiar pseudonymous superstar.

Filming and production by Rory Gill. Photography by Christina Jansen.

Jordan Gray at the Virgin Money Lounge - click image to listen to her album

Jordan Gray at the Virgin Money Lounge – click image to listen to her album

Come to our next series of free events at the Virgin Money Lounge, featuring Vicky Hamilton, former manager to Guns N’ Roses, Poison and Mötley Crüe. All details at Virgin.


Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business Development around Strategy, Innovation, Creativity and Change.

Buy Peter’s new book out on innovation and creativity with Bloomsbury. Check out our full development programme for sustainable and profitable innovations.


Got The Brexit Blues?

Better Together – A Song for Europe is released on iTunes today – grab your copy and let’s see if we can make Theresa May wake up to the fact that we are better off in Europe. It would be nice to make this a Summer hit – can you help by sharing this article, the iTunes link etc.

Click to buy on iTunes

Click to buy on iTunes

Our IN / OUT referendum was confounded by information overload on all sides and lies, with some of the biggest howlers being denied by The Leave Campaign on the actual day of winning (We’d get £350 M per week back for the NHS and that we’d be able to control our borders etc.). As a result we have a Disunited Kingdom. And all of this because one man does not like Brussels:

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 10.27.23

We are now just beginning to see the start of the consequences for the UK:

We have begun Quantitative Easing Round III (QE III), a measure which is more usually used in recessions or crises. Put simply, this is rather like the UK having a large credit card, paid for by the masses into the future. Quite plainly living beyond our means and a measure which usually raises inflation when incomes are flat.  The Governor of the Bank of England did not even reach his target for QE III, which speaks volumes about appetites to invest in UK plc. Here is an extract from a new book which explains why QE stores up problems for the majority:

Buying your way out of trouble ... or just storing it up for the children?

Buying your way out of trouble … or just storing it up for our children?

There is already a queue of people asking for bailouts as a result of the ending of European subsidies if we leave.  Farmers are at the head of the queue (although paradoxically many of them voted Leave), EU funding bodies such as Erasmus, The Army are claiming that they have lost nearly £1 billion due to import costs over a weaker pound. It seems that nearly everyone who has a movement will be queuing up for a bailout in the wake of Brexit, when we are about to enter a new era of austerity. The numbers don’t add up and it’s quite likely that this will be reflected in further cuts to services and local government.

The “rapid trade deals” that we were promised have not materialised. Quite to the contrary, estimates suggest we are looking at maybe 10 years minimum to make any sensible deals with larger countries around the world and this will be on their terms, not ours.

Anyway, enough politikking.  On with the music ….


A Motley Crew – The Brexit Blues Band with the great Bernie Tormé


Better Together” was written as a poem by Dave Brooks, who I dubbed “The Poet L’Oreal”. A former MBA student of mine, Dave worked in high finance, writing poems about the human dimension of business in his spare time and we stayed in contact long after the MBA. He sent me the poem and I composed a demo of the song – you can hear the original instrumental track from my basement below:

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I invited my friend Paul Crick to join us on keyboards – Paul is a management consultant with IBM who has a vision to help musicians make a living from their music, not just the 5% with record deals and so on.  He describes himself as a music performance coach for music students, semi-pro and pro musicians, helping them tune up your inner game for the performance you want.

I resorted to Facebook to recruit the rest of the band as I had done with my macro-economic anthem “Fiscal Cliff“. The strategy resulted in finding Rhiannon Georgia Daniel, a singer and her partner Al on bass. Rhiannon also does a bit of drumming in her spare time, so the offer of a drum and bass partnership seemed very attractive. There we had it: a full band recruited from the internet, without rehearsal, band politics or any of the usual troubles.

We came together on Saturday August 6th. I always schedule in breakfast as a teambuilding opportunity. After an unhealthy start to the day we hit Bernie Tormé’s studio and in about 3 hours we were done. I’d met Bernie several years back when I stood in on bass guitar for an ex colleague at Pfizer’s recording of a song for his wedding. We got talking and I’ve since recorded there on many occasions and Bernie has performed at corporate events for The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply and at a team building event for a train company. Bernie played guitar for Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan amongst others and is one cool cat. he was kind enough to credit me alongside Arthur Brown for some informal coaching / provocation …

Bernie Torme Quote

Check Bernie’s work out by clicking the picture

The man in charge - at Barnroom Studios in Kent

The man in charge – at Barnroom Studios in Kent

Get your copy of Better Together – A Song for Europe and let’s start a positive revolution for reforming our relationship with the EU via the catharsis of the blues …


Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Book him for your next interactive motivational keynote or longer masterclass series. His new book with Bloomsbury, entitled “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise” is available direct from the author or via Amazon.

UK Tour : A Motley Crew

Here are the dates of our tour of UK Virgin Money Lounges with Vicky Hamilton, former manager of Guns N’ Roses, Poison and management consultant to Motley Crue. Vicky worked directly for the inflammatory character that was David Geffen, CEO of Geffen Records and Capitol Records during her career and learned at the School of Hard Rocks rather than Harvard Business School. The combination of Vicky’s hard bitten experience and my own distillation of MBA’s makes for a powerful combination. All dates are entirely FREE and run from 3.00 – 4.30 pm.

On each tour date we are also booking business masterminding session where you will gain insights into management of some of the most incendiary people on the planet with transferable value to your own enterprise.

Click to book your place at the relevant Virgin Lounge:

Glasgow - Tuesday September 13 Click to book your place

Glasgow – Tuesday September 13 Click to book your place or call 0141 221 1952


Manchester Wed 14 Sept - Click to book

Manchester – Wednesday September 14 – Click to book your place or call 0161 832 8259


Sheffield - Thursday September 15 - Click to book your place

Sheffield – Thursday September 15 – Click to book your place or call 0114 276 8262


London Eagle Place - Friday September 16 - Click to book your place

London Eagle Place – Friday September 16 – Click to book your place or call 0207 439 8802

We’ll have copies of Vicky’s book available after lounge events alongside my books “Sex Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and the latest one for Bloomsbury “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“.

Leadership Lessons from The Academy of Rock

Leadership Lessons from The Academy of Rock – Where MBA = Much Bigger Amps !!

Come lounge and learn from someone who has managed the tantrums, bizarre expectations, dysfunctional behaviours, creativity and hair of these people. I sense she managed this by being something of an equivalent diva herself. Expect fireworks!!

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Attitude for dysfunction