How To Win When You Feel Like An Artistic Underdog
I’m about to blow your mind. Especially If you’re a regular reader of my articles and listener of The C.L.I.M.B. Podcast. Ready?
Your goal is NOT to sell music, merch, tickets, and make a living as an artist.
This is Johnny D! What the HELL did I just read?
I’ll repeat it. Your goal is NOT to sell music, merch, tickets, and make a living as an artist.
Sales and cash flow are the byproducts of successful communication.
Your goal is to find people who believe what you believe.
Your goal is to define, locate, target, and ultimately connect with people who believe what you believe as an artist.
If you do this, they will buy and you will be successful. Period.
Consumers don’t buy what your selling. Ever.
Fans don’t buy because you have a cool shirt.
They buy because you believe what they believe. They buy because they wholeheartedly believe in what you stand for and your successful communication of that concept resonates with them.
This information, this amazing fact is so powerful that all the money in the world to fund your project, all the connections with well-known music industry minds, and all the perfect market conditions won’t matter if people don’t know why you’re making music.
The opposite is also true. If you REALLY understand why you do what you do, the world will take notice.
That means you’ll get what you need to successfully deliver your message to larger audiences if once you really start connecting.
I was just in Las Vegas with my dear friend Eric Mitchell from Los Angeles.
Eric and I have amazing conversations. Sadly, I’m not around him enough these days.
During one of these cherished exchanges of intelligence, he BLEW MY MIND with the concepts behind a Ted Talk from Simon Sinek.
This Ted Talk inspired this article.
If you don’t know why you do what you do, how on earth can you expect the market to understand you, be loyal to you, want to be a part of what you do, and ultimately support you?
Read that again.
Now think about it.
In the new music industry, like every other industry, the goal is not to sell people who need what you have (because nobody needs new music by the way) rather the goal is to sell people who believe what you believe.
Right now a ton of artistic purists just cringed saying, “I don’t want to ‘SELL’ anything”. Well think again, you’re always selling. You just have a different word for it…like convincing, promoting, debating, PERFORMING, blah, blah, blah. (it’s just a term, get over it and focus on the concept).
This notion is part of branding if you haven’t picked up on that already.
When building your team, the goal is not to hire people who need a job but to hire people who believe what you believe.
If you hire people who can do a job, they’ll work for your money, if you hire people who believe what you believe they’ll lie down in traffic for you.
Here’s a famous example.
I want you to follow this and think about your intentions, your music, your goals, what you honestly believe, and apply your project to this story.
You probably have no freaking idea who Samuel Pierpont Langley is.
Back in the late 1800’s the pursuit of powered flight was the “dot com” of that time. EVERYBODY was trying to do it.
Samuel Pierpont Langley had what y’all would covet, envy, and admire. He had the perfect recipe for success.
Samuel Pierpont Langley had plenty of cash. He was given $50,000 by the war department and $20,000 from the Smithsonian Institute to figure out this “flying machine”. That’s worth about 2 million dollars today. (Nice record budget, yeah?)
He held a seat at Harvard and worked at the Smithsonian so he was extremely well connected to all the greatest minds of the day. He hired the best minds money could buy.
The market conditions were also amazing for Samuel as the New York Times followed him around everywhere. Everyone was rooting for Langley.
Why have we never heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley?
A few hundred miles away in Dayton, Ohio, is where Orville and Wilbur Wright were located.
They had ZERO ingredients to what we would consider the recipe for success.
They had no money. Their experiments to create their dream were paid for by proceeds from their bicycle shop.
Not a single person on the Wright Brothers’ team had a college education, including Orville and Wilbur.
The New York Times followed them around…nowhere.
The difference was that Orville and Wilbur had a belief, a cause, a vision. They believed deep down that if they could figure out this flying machine it would change the course of the world.
They were interested in giving something valuable to the world.
Samuel Pierpont Langley was different.
He was in pursuit of the result, which was fame and fortune.
The people who believed in the Wright Brothers’ dream worked for them with blood, sweat, and tears.
Langley’s team just worked for the paycheck.
There are stories about every time the Wright brothers went out they would have to take 5 sets of parts because that’s how often they would crash before coming in for supper.
That’s the definition of blood, sweat, and tears. That’s the definition of dedication.
On December 17th, 1903 the Wright brothers took flight and nobody was there to experience it.
We all heard about it a few days later.
Here’s the takeaway. Further proof that Langley was in it for the wrong reasons lies in the fact that on the day he heard that the Wright brothers successfully took flight, he quit.
He could’ve said, “That’s an amazing discovery and I will improve upon your technology,” but he didn’t.
He wasn’t first, he wasn’t going to get rich, he wasn’t going to get famous, so he quit.
Consumers don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.
When you know and can articulate what you believe you’ll attract people who believe what you believe.
You’ll attract team members who will give their heart and soul to helping you succeed because they believe what you believe.
You’ll attract fans who will line up behind you in droves to be a part of the movement you create.
The money, the recognition, and maybe even fame will be a byproduct of defining what you actually believe in and then successfully communicating that belief.
Isn’t that the very definition of an artist?
Great artists successfully communicate their beliefs, perspectives, and experiences through their art.
I’ll remind you that communication is NOT the artist’s intent, rather, it’s what’s being received.
That means the art doesn’t count unless someone is moved by it. It’s not communication until someone gets it.
If you’re after fortune and fame, you’re going down the wrong road.
If you’re unsure of what you believe then I can just about promise you that your art is derivative.
That’s easy because if you’re not sure what you stand for then you’re standing for someone or something else.
Don’t worry, we’re ALL unoriginal at first.
I think most artists stop there, at “stage 1 clichéd”, because they can’t smell the fame and fortune they seek. It doesn’t come fast enough. They’re in it for the wrong reasons like Langley.
The true artists, the important artists, they stay in it because they believe and they are searching for a better method to more deeply express their beliefs, perspectives, and experiences.
That deeper method is the next rung on the artistic ladder, the step above cliché.
That’s where the artistic payoff is.
The living you’ll make is just a byproduct of better communication y’all.
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