I am quietly finishing my long winter holiday in a secluded beach village in Jamaica thinking about writing a music blog post. No, it won’t be about Bob Marley even though I think I could easily write one about him. My inspiration comes from a new Jamaican legend, Usain “Lightning” Bolt. Bolt is the fastest man on the planet. He holds the world records for both the 100 and 200 meter sprints and is a three time Olympic gold medalist preparing for London 2012.
Bolt set the 200 meter world record with an astonishing time of 19.19 seconds. Even as a kid he was fast. At age 14 he could run the 200 meter in just under 22 seconds. By 15, just under 21 seconds. It was easy for coaches to recognize that he had the potential to compete in the Olympics and be a champion.
Too bad we don’t have similar measurements in the music business where we can recognize which artists have the potential to have a career. Lots of people can sing in tune or play an instrument. It is not a special skill. Lots of people can run fast but only the elite can run the 200 meter in under 20 seconds.
So how do we find the music elite? Those artists that have a chance to go on to have a legitimate career in music. I think we have a measurement now: Audience size.
For example, if an artist has had a Facebook page for a year without thousands of fans or the fan count isn’t growing significantly it is like a 15 year old running the 200 meters in 24 seconds. Fast, but little chance of competing in the Olympics one day.
The good news is that unlike sports, things can change for artists. A low audience or fan count means one of two things. First, you’re just not good enough. You need to write better songs, be a better musician; you haven’t found your “voice” yet. Or, second, your strategy for spreading your music is wrong.
What I am suggesting is for artists to have more critical self awareness. No complaining about the system. It is easy to recognize if you are not good enough at sports to be a professional. Can you run the 200 meters in 20 seconds? If not, you don’t go to the Olympics. Do you have 2,000 Facebook fans? If not, you can’t go to the next level. Face it, and get real.