Posted in C21st Learners, Social Media

What student entrepreneurs can learn from Macklemore & John Green

At a recent conference we were challenged by our colleague, Jenny Luca to consider the work and success of rapper Macklemore as exemplifying the entrepreneurial mindset and skills that will serve our students well in modern society. Certainly, a Google search of ‘Macklemore success’ provides some interesting stories about this “DIY artist” (Citron, 2015) and his rise to fame.


  • Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) started his music career with a self published mini album “Open your eyes” (AceShowbiz, 2015, para.2)
  • Macklemore spent a number of years building a fanbase through a combination of developing his capabilities at the grassroots and sharing via social media – this included emceeing gigs, Seattle house parties and annual fan appreciation nights, and publishing to YouTube & MySpace (Campbell, 2013, para 5)
  • Collaboration with Ryan Lewis led to a successful partnership resulting in sold out shows on national tours and invitations to feature at major festivals and showcases (AceShowbiz, 2015, para.5)
  • The hit Thrift Shop is the first independent song to reach top of the Billboard Hot 100 since 1994 (Campbell, 2013, para.3)
  • Macklemore is one of the first DIY artists to achieve top #1 spots in multiple areas while being completely unsigned to a major record label (Citron, 2015)


Another great example of an artist who capitalises on entrepreneurial skills is young adult (YA) author, John Green. An investigation into John Green’s rise to success highlights a number of similarities to Macklemore’s story.

John green 2015-06-02 at 8.59.02 pm

  • Green built his fan base through a series of Youtube videos (Forbes, 2014)
  • The book The fault in our stars reached #1 through pre-orders on and before it was even published (Meek, 2011)
  • John Green interacts at the grassroots – holding interactive discussions in forums and vlogs (Allen, 2011)
  • John Green’s social media stats to date:

72 million followers on Twitter

1 million likes on Facebook page

3 million followers on Instagram

6 million subscribers to YouTube channel

So what do these two artists have to offer our students beyond a great song or a good read?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are reporting that young people’s employability is threated by inadequate skills and if they are to succeed in the global job market, there needs to be a stronger focus on entrepreneurial education (Jenna, 2013).

Macklemore and Green demonstrate examples of such entrepreneurial skills, including:

  • an understanding that capitalising from social media requires connecting and communicating with others rather than pure marketing;
  • an appreciation that when making both grassroots and global connections, you need to give and contribute, not just sell;
  • collaborating with others will harness creative potential and lead to innovation; and
  • taking risks is necessary for cultivating ingenuity (Rodov & Truong, 2015)

The need to get kids excited about entrepreneurship (the capacity to start companies and think creatively and ambitiously), is advocated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman who believes we need to have students graduate high school “innovation ready” — meaning that … they receive the critical-thinking, communication and collaboration skills that will help them invent their own careers. For students to develop such capacities, traditional education — the old “chalk and talk,” memorization and regurgitation and bubbling in correct answers – will not cut it. (Rodov & Trupng, 2015).


AceShowbiz. (2015). Macklemore Biography. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from

Campbell, C. (2013). What can you learn fro Maclemore about building a successful startup. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from

Citron, Z. (2015). Why is Macklemore a success and what we can learn from it. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from

Forbes. (2014). The world’s highest paid celebrities. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from

Friedman, T. L. (2013, March 30). Need a job? Invent it. The New York Times. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from

Jenner, C. (2013, June 14). We need to teach young people more entrepreneurial skills. The Guardian. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from

Meek, A. (2011, August 02). Book marketing: How 4 authors are finding success with social media. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from

Rodov, F., & Truong, S. (2015, April 15). Why schools should teach entrepreneurship. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from



As the Curriculum Leader of the Mt Alvernia iCentre, my key areas of interest are: Teaching and Learning The information landscape Digital Literacy Digital citizenship Literature Reading

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