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TEM Blog

The Entrepreneurial Musician Blog by Andrew Hitz featuring articles on being an entrepreneur in the music business. Show notes for The Entrepreneurial Musician Podcast.

Don't Follow the Leader

Andrew Hitz

"The reason it's so hard to follow the leader is this: The leader is the leader because he did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken. It's no longer remarkable when you do it." 
—Seth Godin from The Purple Cow

I would say a full 95% of all musicians I speak with who are struggling to gain traction within their corner of the music business are following the leader. This is a fool's errand.

The brilliant Seth Godin talks about marketing aspirin in his book The Purple Cow. (Bear with couldn't be any more relevant.)

He asks the reader to imagine how easy it must have been to be the first person to market aspirin. It's cheap, easy to try, and solves a problem for just about every person alive. That copy writes itself.

Next he points out there over 100 kinds of aspirin in some form or other currently being sold. He then asks "Do you think it's still fun to be a marketer of aspirin?"

The answer is of course it isn't. That's a nightmare. Where do you even begin?

So the question you have to ask yourself is this:

Is what I am offering the music business (and therefor the world in general) the first aspirin or the 93rd aspirin?

It is also important to note that the manufacturer of each of those 100+ versions of aspirin can easily articulate how their version is different than the rest. Doo you know why that doesn't matter? If I had never taken aspirin in my life and was looking for a brand, do you think I would take the time to listen to 100 different manufacturers explain to me how each one is unique?

The answer is no. None of us would ever do that.

So if your woodwind quintet or your resume for a college teaching position are not obviously unique to your target audience with no explanation (since you won't have the opportunity to give that explanation anyways), you are most likely on a fool's errand.

So don't follow the leader. Be remarkable and lead yourself.