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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.

Filtering by Tag: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Beware Schools That Only Make You Better at Following a Path

Andrew Hitz

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

99% of all college music degrees in the world today have curriculums which are designed to help you follow a path better than the next woman or man. And there's a reason for this.

They were all designed many, many decades ago when it was close to impossible for anyone to blaze a trail for themselves.

There were gatekeepers everywhere you looked deciding who was allowed to make an album, who got to write a book and who got to do just about any other artistic endeavor you can think of.

But those people are all gone.

To make matters worse, there are thousands upon thousands of students graduating every single year with music degrees in the United States and all over the world who are being taught these same "just follow the path better than the next person" skills. And they're all competing for the exact same jobs. (A number that is getting smaller with every year that goes by.)

What you have there is a math issue.

What are the odds that you are going to one of the incredibly lucky few who will find a path that's already been cleared and will make a great living, both financially and artistically, as a result? They are not good.

Of course it happens. But you have a shockingly better chance of finding success in the music business (whatever success means to you) by taking Emerson's advice above and leaving your own trail.

Look around at all of the people who are making their own go of it. They are everywhere.

And you certainly have the best chance of success by getting an education that provides you skills for both the "path" and the "trail" approaches to a career.

Once you get out into The Real World™, literally no one gives a crap that you went to Northwestern or that you studied with (insert famous teacher here.) No one.

So if you're looking for a school to attend to be a music major, consider what skills they are offering you as a major factor rather than just going to the famous place or to study with the famous person.

You'll be happy you did.

© 2017 Andrew Hitz   Sunrise in The Berkshires which has nothing to do with anything in this post but it's pretty so I threw it in!

© 2017 Andrew Hitz

Sunrise in The Berkshires which has nothing to do with anything in this post but it's pretty so I threw it in!

Ignore the Path and Leave a Trail

Andrew Hitz

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm not sure you could get better advice in less than 20 words for someone making a go of it in the music business today than this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson (who obviously wasn't speaking about the music industry in 2015!)

If your plan is to play in a string quartet that is very similar to the Kronos Quartet that simply does it better than them, good luck to you.

If your plan is to write a book that basically mirrors the message of The Savvy Musician by David Cutler and simply write it better, good luck to you.

If your plan is to play in a brass quintet that mirrors the repertoire and persona of the Canadian Brass and simply do it a little better than they do, good luck to you.

To be clear, I'm not sarcastically wishing you luck because any of those three things are impossible. To the contrary.

You can absolutely do what Kronos does a little better. You can absolutely write a better book than Dr. Cutler did. You can absolutely be a better version of Canadian Brass. (Although all of these will be incredibly difficult to accomplish!)

The point is that the market place is not looking for a book that is 2% better than The Savvy Musician. Why was it such a wild success? Because there were no books like it. People talked about it. People shared it. People spread the word.

No one will get excited about a slightly improved version of anything that already exists and that's if they even notice in the first place.

But if you leave a brand new trail that is interesting, people will do your marketing for you. Just ask Time for Three, Gustavo Dudamel, Alarm Will Sound, and countless other artists and ensembles.

It's been done many times before and the beautiful thing is there's always room for more trails. Always.