If you’re a tech exec who finds Nickelback a bit too edgy, Groupon’s former CEO Andrew Mason has just released an album for you. Now available on iTunes and Spotify, “Hardly Workin'” is 80s alternative rock about how to run your startup. I can’t tell if it’s a joke or not, but, regardless, it will make you laugh, either with or at Mason.
“I was climbing Machu Pichu / As I beheld the splendid view / An idea came for 100 million / Of shareholder value” is the kind of lyrical brilliance you’ll find on Hardly Workin’. Mason moans and croons over generic alternative rock — the kind that wouldn’t make the cut on a Huey Lewis and The News album.
Mason seems to have found some serious clairvoyance in the four months since he got the boot from Groupon. The first line of the album goes “If you’re seeking business wisdom / You don’t need no MBA / Look no further than the beauty / That surrounds us every day.” Mason’s sense of rhyme is basic, but you still have to hand it to him for being able to cram in so many insider-y tech references.
One clue that this all might be a gag is his reference to riding his GTS 300 to work. Is that some badass sports car or motorcycle? No, it’s his Vespa. But “Risin’ Above The Pack” and “K.I.S.S” are straight-up instruction manuals to getting promoted and avoiding design bloat.
If Mason is pulling a fast one on us, he’s going all the way. His blog post about the release has zero signs of sarcasm. “Executives, mid-level management, and front-line employees are all sure to find valuable takeaways.” He goes on to say that managers should actually be playing this for their staffs. “Sure, you can just leave copies of Hardly Workin’ on your employees’ desks and achieve an incremental increase in productivity and morale but…try ending your next all-hands meeting with ‘It’s Up to Us,’ for example.” Wow.
Things get a bit creepy on “My Door Is Always Open,” a duet with a coquettish-sounding female vocalist. He sings “Now that you know that I want to listen please visit my office more,” and she sighs “I feel much more comfortable coming to you.” The sexual harassment innuendo hangs like a barnyard stench over the meandering country ballad.
At least it’s followed up by “Stretch” featuring Bishop Lamont from Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label. Glam diva vocals, a brooding nightclub bassline, and Mason singing through a robo-vocoder — it’s actually just a little cool. Then you realize it’s about setting stretch goals for your company’s quarterly review. “Quantify your best and then add twenty percent.” Uhh, just try to tune that out and nod your head.
You’re not going to bump Hardly Workin’, ever. But you might give it a spin for fun, and it’s worth that much. Maybe not $9.99 on iTunes, but you could endure a Spotify ad or two just to hear someone in tech do something truly silly. Hate the album, but don’t hate the crazy misfit rebel troublemaker who recorded it. That’s what we’re supposed to celebrate.
And if you are in fact a founder or tech exec, you might take Mason’s management lessons to heart, even if they’d be better delivered via PowerPoint.