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« If music was sport | Main | 10 Mistakes Bands and Musicians Make »
Friday
Oct172008

Nobody knows the future.

Nobody knows the future.

That’s a hard but crucial lesson to learn.

If even ultimate insiders like Greenspan, Bernanke, and Paulson don’t know the future, then neither does Jim Cramer, your stockbroker, Nostradamus, nor you.

We have a human need for certainty that desperately yearns to believe that someone can turn our future from unknown to known.

Even if we logically understand that it’s impossible, we’re emotionally sucked back in and fooled again when someone important tells us with such conviction what the future will hold.

But nobody knows the future.

Some people predict so many things, so when the random future lands on their number they can say, “See! I told you!” But how many times did they say so, and it didn’t come true? (Like the joke, “He correctly predicted 12 of the last 3 recessions.”)

Our pleasure-seeking brains remember the times in our past when we were right, and forget when we were wrong. So it’s easy to think we’re smarter than we are.

Every time I speak on a panel, the moderator has to ask, “What’s the future of the music business?

My first thought is always, “Nobody knows. Anyone who pretends to know is not to be trusted.” (And, even the ultimate insiders, the heads of every major record label, got it wrong.)

But then my thoughts turn to whoever is asking the question.

Why should it matter what anyone says?

Realistically, what would you change about what you’re doing, day-to-day?

And so it comes back to fundamentals.

Just like we know there will be gravity, and water will still be wet, there are laws that don’t depend on predicting the future.

You know that people love a memorable melody.
You can’t know what instrumentation or production-values will be in vogue.
You know that people prefer people who make an emotional connection with them.
You can’t know what technology will carry that communication.
You know that writing lots of songs increases your chances of writing a hit.
You can’t know which song will be a hit.

So the best thing to do instead of predicting the future is to focus on the fundamentals that never fluctuate.

If you’re a songwriter, write at least a song a week, always aiming for a memorable melody and words that make an emotional connection.

If you’re a performer, make weekly improvements on your ability to captivate an audience, and make a goal of really connecting with 10 new people every week.

The details are unique to you, and will change constantly. But the real point will never change.

Reader Comments (7)

I just find this post funny, just after discussing about unheard great hits and algorithms able to find out which song could be one...

October 19 | Unregistered CommenterLaurent

...But I think that is the point Laurent. I could be wrong but I would consider it possible that a post discussing things like algorithms determining what makes a song great may have actually inspired this post.

All this talk of technology, marketing, innovation / prediction, etc. etc. is helpful but could be preventing many good musicians and artists from tapping their creative strengths full potential. By spending too much head-space on trying to figure out the "next" thing, when they could be thinking more about the "Fundamentals that never fluctuate" mentioned in this post.

And as for great songs going unheard I think: A great song may go "unpaid" but no great song has gone unheard.

October 19 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

It's good to be reminded to think about the basics sometimes. Thanks.

There was a documentary on BBC4 last week called High Anxieties: the Mathematics of Chaos that talks about the world's denial, even in the face of hard evidence, that life is unpredictable. There's a human need to control a chaotic world. This article makes a lot of sense, but it's never going to be a popular view. You'll always get, "Yeah, but if you had to predict it..."

October 20 | Unregistered CommenterBen Walker

One of the things I’ve wanted to do since we moved into this house is redo the floors. I hate this orange carpeting; I want hardwood floors. We have the savings, I’ve gotten the bids. But as I told Darin this week, I can’t pull the trigger.

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ages

Internet Marketing

October 21 | Unregistered Commenterages

"You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply, as time goes by."

--Herman Hupfeld

No one can predict the future, but you can make predictions based on what you seeing going on around you. I don't think there will be one definite solution for the music industry, but several options which will cater to different people. Some will really strike a chord with the masses, others will appeal to a very small group of people.

Again, I don't know for sure, but if you take a look around....

Thanks for reminding all of us that the foundation is in the songs. Everything is built around the songs.

Cheers

Hoover

NewRockstarPhilosophy.com

October 22 | Unregistered CommenterHoover

Seriously, though, this has been a bit of an education for me, even minus the actual storm. It’s interesting that, given all the experts and all of the technology that is at their disposal, still — nobody really knew what was going to happen. At the end of the day, it’s all best guesses and even those were pretty much wrong. But, we got lucky this time. I hope that people don’t take this as a sign that they can discount the warnings in the future, though — because it can go the other way just as easily.
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johnyymathew
Social advertiser

October 31 | Unregistered Commenterjohnyymathew

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