I think the reality is the following: 99.9-some odd percent of every kid in the world that wants to have a recording career won’t have one…. And of the people that … really get a shot, some fraction of a percent will have any chance of having a career. So the truth of the matter is that when you do the math, it is really like winning the lottery to have a successful career.
This sobering observation is from Ken Hertz, a music industry attorney who counts will.i.am and Britney Spears among his clients. Obviously, these two have won this music industry lottery. Will Smith has won it, too. Come to think of it, so have a lot of people.
There are two points to be made here. The first is that Hertz can only be talking about winning the Mega Millions lottery, as winnings with much better odds (and much smaller winnings) are paid out every day. In that respect, he’s probably right: in a Mega Millions lottery, the odds of picking the winning numbers and collecting a cool $554 million are 1 in 175,711,536, according to the LA Times. Spears, will.i.am, and Smith would represent those that beat the odds and hit the big payout.
This analogy helps Hertz make his case to the jury of would-be American Idols about hoping for a music career. But it is misleading in a couple of ways. First, buying a lottery ticket and expecting to win the jackpot is like wanting a music career without planning for one. And the second is that Hertz never defines what a successful music career is. I can only assume it means having mega millions.
In keeping with the analogy, my second point is this: why play the established lottery when even Hertz admits the odds are stacked against you? Why not invent your own lottery and win at that? Or, as Dr. David Cutler puts it, stop competing against the other players and create your own market.
One way to create your own market is to figure out how you’re different. Not better, as that’s relative, but different. Dr. Cutler notes that he’ll play anything at a concert – from jazz to pop to classical to Broadway. The late piano virtuoso Victor Borge combined his musical skills with his sense of humor to create a niche market that propelled him to international success. And my bandmates and I market our band to brides and wedding consultants: not only can we play for the reception, the lead singer and I can perform a wide repertoire of service music as well.
Another way to succeed at your own game is to be the first to market. Consider the wild success of Steve Jobs, who forever changed the way the world thinks about buying music. When you’re first, you set the rules.
But the best way to succeed – to win your own lottery – is to know what success means to you. It isn’t the same to all people, and there’s more than enough of it to go around. Sit down with yourself, a notebook, and a pen, and write down all of the music goals you’d like to achieve. Once you have a realistic list, plan what you need to do to achieve those goals, then work the plan each day. You’ll feel like you’re in control of your career because you are, and it won’t be long before you start to feel successful.
Then you can reward yourself. Go buy a lottery ticket.
Note: There’s an interesting discussion on LinkedIn that is about this very topic. To view the comments, follow this link.