In 2018, Think Like A Freak.
It’s the new year. Lot’s of people are probably getting over a severe hangover. You know the type. The type that last for what seems like an eternity. You probably should have said no to that 45th tequila shot. Just saying.
Now, once you’ve recovered…
To all creators, whether you’re a musician, actor, painter, director, photographer. Dauntless envisions a world of creative creators. Because as creatives we all have the ability to be the creator of our own little universe. So, let me just put a crazy idea out there. What if your goal this year wasn’t to get on an industry professional’s radar? This year, how about making your goal to take some chances with your creativity and perhaps experiment with ways in which you could create a sustainable living off your art on your own terms. Let go of the pressure and stress that comes with the need to impress someone else.
On that note, I want to share an insight I picked up from a book called Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner and then propose how we can apply it to the music industry.
Imagine you’re a talented football player…
It’s the final of the World Cup championship. You’re standing about 11 meters away from the goal and are faced with the opportunity to win the game if you score this penalty kick.
Now, ideally you’d want to aim to one of the upper corners of the goal and it would need to be kicked with enough force so that the goalkeeper wouldn’t be able to predict where the ball is coming from in time to guarantee a save.
Statistically, goalkeepers jump towards the kicker’s left corner 57% or the time and to the right corner 41% of the time. This means that they stay put in the centre of the goal only 2% of the time.
Knowing these numbers you’d think that everyone would kick the ball straight down towards the centre of the goal. Right?
Let us imagine you, the kicker, choose to kick the ball in the centre of the goal. You score! This is followed by a roaring crowd who will chant your name for years to come. You’ll have won the game for your team and country and your reputation will be undeniable. You were that guy or girl who kicked the ball to the centre of the goal like an absolute legend and won the game.
But what if this goes wrong. What happens when you aim the ball to the centre of the goal and the keeper stays put and subsequently catches the ball?
You’ll look like a complete idiot. You literally kicked the ball into the loving arms of the opponent. You will be shamed by your peers and your country and the sports commentators will have a field day with this idiotic move which will be played on replay countless times, each one mocking the fact that you made such a risky and seemingly unskilled decision.
So, most players will kick the ball to the right side or left side of the goal because even if they miss, at least they gave it a good try. They made a decision that makes sense to the majority of people.
There are two types of decisions we make. One from a selfish incentive and another from a communal incentive. Levitt and Dubner conclude that if you follow this selfish incentive you will be more likely to kick the ball to one of the corners of the goal. You are protecting your own reputation and are more concerned with what others will think about you than what’s right for the team. In parallel, if you are following this communal incentive, you are ready to risk looking foolish if things go wrong and so you kick towards the centre.
How this relates to the music industry.
Now take this idea and apply it to the music industry. Numerous A&R’s and label managers have been vocal about the pressure on their shoulders. Jobs are precious, budgets are tight and as a result, most decisions are made from selfish incentives. Generally speaking, no one wants to be that guy who took a chance on something not on trend and risk looking foolish.
There has been criticism about there being a lack of talent capable of being global success stories and it’s challenging when one is found because making them heard through all the noise is not an easy task. Even artists who are added to the BBC Sound Of poll are faced with immense pressure because generally if the act doesn’t take off immediately after their nomination they’ve missed their window.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers he presents a story about an artist named Kenna. Kenna was an artist who after years of struggle finally got his break and signed a deal with Columbia records. His story was the typical one where someone from the label heard his demo and immediately dialled his number, eagerly saying that he needed to meet him. Everyone was convinced that Kenna was it. The next big thing. Yet, his music did not go down well on radio. The music industry pretends it can measure something it really cannot. Kenna describes his experience:
“They (the record labels) don’t want to put money into something that doesn’t test well. But that’s not the way this music works. This music takes faith. And faith isn't what the music business is anymore.”
If we look at the music that’s really made some noise over the past few years, grime is what comes to mind. Nobody thought it had a place in mainstream music yet, for some reason it took off. It’s a great example of artists just doing their thing, performing the music they want to perform, for the niche that wants to hear it. Stormzy, Skepta and Lady Leshurr grew their fanbase on their own and today, audiences want to care about the artist they’re supporting. Buying into the person behind the music is what launches an artist’s career.
What this means for you.
It’s no secret that the music industry is fickle. Top level A&R’s, label managers and radio pluggers can have all the experience in the world yet still be faced with the fact that they can’t predict what the public will like. Every new signing is a gamble. Do we kick the ball to the right side or the left side of the goal? We need to remember that labels are run by human beings and what they say is not an absolute. It’s not a guarantee and is not the be all and end all. Just because they have the fancy titles and the experience does not mean they know what’s best for you and your career.
Now, having a team is crucial to your success. But this team is what comes along once you’ve been able to communicate your creative vision. Build a foundation for yourself so when the time comes to get a team you’re not desperate for just about anyone to work with you and give yourself a leg to stand on when it comes to negotiating your contracts.
As a self-releasing artist you have a better chance of being able to kick the ball to the centre of the goal because the pressure a record label would put on your shoulders simply does not exist. You’re not spending their money. The opportunity to experiment with new and unique methods of marketing and creating your fanbase is unlimited and if used correctly will be rewarding in more ways than one.
So, why not try and bet on yourself this year and make it your aim to figure out how you can sculpt out your own career, on your own terms? How can you make a sustainable living off your music? To answer these questions you’re going to need to look beyond what you know and what you’ve been told.
And this, is where Dauntless comes in. We’re here to help you on that journey. We’re a platform for the independent artists. Our mission is to empower you to take your future into your own hands. We aim to inspire new ideas, question the rules, offer a community of support and resources to help you along your way.
Your voice matters. Let us know what you’re thinking and leave a comment below.