Music, Musicians & the Art of War

If you are a musician or work in the music industry, what can the Art of War do for you? How can the Art of War and military strategy help you to build a stronger, longer lasting career? Before I answer those questions, let me tell you a little about me.

I first picked up a guitar and started playing in the 1960’s. Yes, I really am that old! The first band I saw live was the Who, then Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The end result was that I thought every performance should be an event and I loved improvising and screaming guitars!

I did some recording at a famous and now defunct studio called Mushroom. I met and played with Brian Newcombe (Celine Dion, Ray Charles) Jeff Neil (Streetheart) Mark LaFrance (Bachman Turner) and Jim Vallance (former Brian Adams song writing partner). I met Heart just before the release of their debut album Dreamboat Annie and my claim to fame is that Tina Turner stepped on stage with a band I was in, when we were playing an after-hours club that used to be owned by Cheech and Chong! Tina was only on stage for about 30 seconds but hey, I’ll take what I can get!

So, back to the topic at hand, what has the Art of War got to do with music and the entertainment industry? It’s simple, although my music career ended long ago, I truly believe that I would have done much better, gone a lot farther and ultimately had more success, had I known what I know now about the Art of War, military strategy and human nature!

As the famous Japanese swordsman, military strategist and tactician Miyamoto Musashi put it this way “The battlefield is any endeavor where you are required to deal with people.” He also said “The true path of military strategy is that it applies to any place and to any situation.”

That includes music and the music business! Here is a famous saying by Sun Tzu that can apply to our subject “One who knows the enemy and knows himself, shall not be endangered even in 100 battles.”

I for one, didn’t know myself well enough in the past. I was too trusting and took people at their word. Not the wisest approach to take in the music business, a business that is rife with individuals just waiting to take advantage of you, if you let them! Another Sun Tzu maxim states “Warfare is the way of deception.”

And so is the music industry, at least from my experience! Several times in the past, I trusted the wrong people and they didn’t hesitate to take advantage of that. If I had known myself better, I would have also realized that I had a tendency to stay too long in a failing situation.

The end result was that when several of the bands I was in had run their course and were on their last legs, I hung in there much longer than I should have, thinking that eventually things would get better. In most cases, they didn’t! If I found myself in a similar situation today, I would just bail out and cut my loses.

“Attack your enemy before he has realized that you are in fact, his enemy.” Yamamoto Kansuke.

I have been on the receiving end of that philosophy in my music career and it is neither much fun, nor a good position to be in! If at the time, I had known the enemy and been a better judge of character and human nature and not quite so trusting, those situations would never have happened. They impacted my career, my income and my creativity.

Sadly some people in the music business are sharks and can be incredibly treacherous! Learn from my mistakes.

Here is another principal from Miyamoto Musashi that offers a practical piece of advice for anyone playing in a band and wanting to hone their craft, whether they are a singer, guitarist, bassist, keyboardist or drummer “To practice a technique only half-heartedly, builds bad habits.”

If you want to be good at whatever it is that you do, it takes dedication and daily practice. If you don’t take it seriously and just ‘play’ at it, you’ll never get better. Luckily I never had that problem. I practiced as often as I could. You should too…you can be sure that your competition is!

I will close this article with this martial arts principle. It’s called Jinri – the ability to lead and influence people. If you are fronting a band or if you want to be taken seriously and have a say in how the band is run and what direction you are taking, learning a little about psychology and human nature is a must.

Being able to relate to someone in a meaningful, relevant way and on a level that speaks to them, is always a huge asset. A good place to start might be, learning the Gojo Goyoku…the ninja’s version of psychology.

If you are interested, I talk about the Gojo Goyoku at length in my Amazon Kindle book “Ancient Secrets Shadow Warriors” and in my free course at “Killer Business Ninja.”

I hope this article has given you food for thought and a new approach to take in your music career. Here’s to your incredible success making incredible music!

This has been just a brief glimpse of the time-tested wisdom and inspiration of military strategy and tactics. If you would like more information on unorthodox methods for your business or life, get our FREE no obligation “Killer Business Ninja Course” at or follow me on Twitter at @Master_N_Chase. Look for my book on Amazon Kindle “Ancient Secrets Shadow Warriors.”

My wish is for your continued success!


Nicholas J. Chase