No, I’m not talking about my party plans for New Year’s Eve. I’m referring to Bill Haley and the Comets’ hit “Rock Around the Clock,” a song often associated with the 1950s jukebox heyday. And I’m also talking about an anthem for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Speaking of the jukebox, stop and consider that invention. Did you know that jukeboxes made their debut in 1889, when the first one was installed at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco on November 23? The entrepreneur-inventor who installed it that day, Louis Glass, called it a “nickel-in-the-slot player.” It consisted of an oak cabinet containing an electric phonograph. Four listeners could be plugged in simultaneously through four stethoscope-like tubes that operated independently when activated by a coin. That first jukebox, rudimentary as it was, became a worldwide sensation. I stumbled upon that little tidbit of information and added it to my “brain lint” the Friday morning after Thanksgiving, as I read one of those “This Day in History” pieces that flashes up on my computer each day.
I was probably one of the few people in Kansas City who didn’t step foot in a store during the Black Friday shopping mayhem, but I did have the sale ads spread out across the kitchen table. So after reading about the birth of the jukebox, I turned to the sales flyers—and I had to smile at the juxtaposition. Nearly 120 years after the first jukebox was installed, the modern-day version jumped off the pages at me. But not just one simple device. No, there was the iPod classic and the iPod nano and the iPod shuffle and the iPod touch. And they were all available in a range of styles and colors designed to give users maximum flexibility for expressing their personalities, tastes and lifestyles. In addition to the device itself, a whole new revenue stream has grown up around the docking stations, cases and other accessories iPod owners can’t live without. A far cry from the stethoscope-like tubes that tethered early jukebox listeners to their machines, iPods allow users mobility and portability—they can enjoy their songs, movies and photos on the go.
Innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s what delivered a device like the jukebox to begin with, and it’s what brought us its 21st century variation. But that’s what entrepreneurs do—most aren’t content with what is. They keep tinkering and trying and turning things on their head to come up with something new and better. People who are not entrepreneurs often think they are crazy. After all, they seem to work around the clock, never seem to be content and constantly challenge themselves to reach goals most people would never aspire to. But if you talk to entrepreneurs, they’ll tell you how much they love the chase, the challenge, the unpredictability. Quite simply, all of these things keep an entrepreneur’s adrenalin pumping. That kind of “high” is what keeps entrepreneurs “rockin’ around the clock.” And entrepreneurs will keep the economy rockin’ and rollin’ right into the New Year, as they have done so often in the past.