What Happens When We're All Musicians?
A liberating realization for some is a reminder of uncertainty for others.
If we are all musicians now, that makes me one, too. And in the case of this particular book, we’re getting towards the end of the show.
We’ve talked about everything from the value of intellectual property to the creation of superfans over the past year or so. We dug into how just about anybody in any industry should be able to benefit from studying the blueprints of musicians, whether they’re Silicon Valley magicians or Olympic skeleton racers or clowns.
But as Editor Nick asked in his guest post awhile back, what about the downside?
It’s great that someone like Bobby Wagner—one of the most talented linebackers in football history—can study the path of Jay-Z and apply investment lessons to his own career. Still, he’s something of a unicorn: very few people can read NFL offensive schemes like they’re Goodnight Moon and run a forty-yard dash in less than four and a half seconds.
The same holds true for the musicians like Amanda Palmer or Hanson. They’re simultaneously tremendous artists and visionary business minds, capable of corralling hordes of superfans into loyal communities.
That has translated to a safety net of sorts, keeping these acts prospering even amid the throes of a pandemic that devastated touring—the primary revenue stream for most musicians in recent years.
But the average gig worker doesn’t have a fan club, let alone a path toward unbounded fame and all its associated perks. The vast majority of laborers have neither the capital to pour into hot startups nor the connections to get such deals done in the first place. What’s the lesson in We Are All Musicians for them?
While considering that question, it’s also important to think about just how enormous the gig economy is. According to a study published by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, 16% of U.S. adults have done some form of work in the sphere, from driving for Uber to delivering for DoorDash. That number balloons to 30% for individuals aged 18-29.
Though many of these folks use the gig economy to stretch their existing salaried income, that’s not the case all around. A quarter of low-income Americans of all ages have worked in the gig economy; in many cases, it’s more about necessity than flexibility.
This is where things get tricky—and it’s where writing this book has sharpened some of my thoughts on public policy. We’ll dig into some of these issues next time as I bring We Are All Musicians toward its close.