Commodores is an American funk and soul band, popular for producing several hit tracks from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s. 

The group is renowned for their R&B hits “Just to Be Close to You,” “Easy,” and “Brickhouse,” only to mention a few, they were one of the top bands during the mid-80s.

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We studied the success of this group and have highlighted simple steps that can suffice as a model of the upcoming music group.

Why is the success of Commodores worth studying?

The group is credited with seven number one songs and a horde of other Top Ten hits on the Billboard charts, and their vast catalogue includes more than 50 albums.

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A revelation of how they made this happen knowing they started to like some other groups that weren’t successful. But defied to odds to create a group that still resonates with music lover today is worth your time.

We have identified the steps they took and it can serve as a model for others to follow:

1. Commodores Started from their Base

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Commodores originally came together from two students disbanded groups called the Mystics and the Jays.

The groups had to break because of their separate interest of different genres of music. In fact, Lionel Richie described some of the members of the Mystics as “Jazz buffs.”

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Altogether from the dissolution of the Mystics and Jays, a six-man band was put together to form “Commodores”. The members of the Commodores were:  Lionel Richie, Thomas McClary, and William King from the Mystics; Andre Callahan, Michael Gilbert, and Milan Williams were from the Jays.

The members of Commodores, all of whom attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The initial objective of the group was to simply play music as a pastime and to meet girls.

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But it soon evolved to a more serious venture that needed more of their commitment.  The group’s fame immediately spread through their locality as they performed in gigs and several outings. They spread their songs all around Tuskegee, Montgomery, and Birmingham, AL.

Lesson: Upcoming music groups should not despise the days of humble beginnings. They should work hard and seek opportunities to perform and display their talent in their locality.  You might confront performance anxiety for your first outing, keep at it and make sure you practice. The more you perform the more you become better at what you do .

2. They Seized Opportunities

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After securing dates to perform at gigs and several concerts in their own backyard, they were ready to seize opportunities outside their locality.

Commodores convinced a club owner in New York that they could give an outstanding performance in his club, the band then ventured to New York for a gig at Smalls Paradise.


After their performance, the club owner told them their band was not happening, after which they returned to their base. A few weeks later, they were recalled back to the club to fill in for a last-minute cancellation.

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That night the evolving Commodores gave an outstanding performance before a standing-room-only crow, most of which were friends and family of the band. Impressed by their performance, the club owner booked the band for two more weeks.

Lesson: As an upcoming group, you need to seek opportunities to showcase your talent. And when you get such opportunities make sure you give it your best shot that may be all you need to get into stardom.

3. Commodores Were Unique

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In a landscape of competition being unique sets you apart. It creates the attention that brings that makes people consume your content. The group was famous their funky and soul genre of music. Songs like “Just to be Close to you” “Fancy Dancer” among others were songs that displayed their uniqueness against other groups.

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Meanwhile, the song “Easy” differs from their other tunes. The song was very serene and not as soulful or funky as the band’s other tunes. It claimed the number one spot on the charts, and it paved the way for the style of ballads the group became known for.

Lesson: As a new music group, define what makes you unique, it will help capture a significant part of your target audience.

4. They Built their Network

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“Effective networking isn’t a result of luck – it requires hard work and persistence.”—Lewis Howes. Building your network is an important aspect of career or business growth. You may have all the talent or skills without the right network; you will never translate your passion to profit.

Commodores’ association with Motown record came because of a tour opening for the Jackson 5 in 1971.  They got this opportunity because of an audition they partook of in New York for a high profile gig.

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About two weeks later they appeared for a prized support slot and they were on this project for two years. Their excellent performance led to a deal with Motown records and they debuted with the up-tempo instrumental dance cut “Machine Gun.” Written by Milan Williams, its Top Ten outing gave the group immediate attention.

Lesson: In trying to build your network, be tactical about it. Make sure you give every performance your best. You never know who is watching.

The group evolved, and some artistes went solo. Lionel Richie left the group for a solo career in 1982. In the absence of Richie, the group promptly courted tenor J.D. Nicholas (formerly of Heatwave) and ended up recording their biggest hit.

During the ‘90s, the members of the band were reduced to three: Orange, King, and Nicholas. The three of them were as active as they’d ever been, managing their own label, Commodore Record and performing around the world.


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