It’s kind of like stereo.
Does a $50,000 stereo sound ten times better than a $5,000 stereo? No, it doesn’t even sound ten times better than the buds on your iPhone. You see the last 10% is elusive. It’s easy to get to 90%. Approach 100%? Almost impossible.
In the wake of writing about Shannon Labrie, I’ve been inundated with unsolicited music, some even on major labels. And all of it’s good. But none of it’s great. None of it contains that je ne sais quoi that makes us play a track over and over again, tell all of our friends about it.
You’ve got to stay at it long enough until the doors open. What’s worse, you can’t even see the doors until you’re that good. You think you’re in a closed room, and then suddenly, there’s a door and in the next room there’s four more. You get great, you practice, you write to get ready for the possibilities. You learn how to act on inspiration. You learn how to leave in mistakes. You learn how to act without delay, you learn how to eliminate filters, all the voices in your head. You take chances. And since you’ve put in so many hours, you never suck, your stuff is never terrible, but it’s only when you hang it out there that it’s great.
But, like I just said, newbies don’t know this. They think they can see the entire field. They believe music is like baseball, that there are rules, that it’s clearly defined. But even baseball’s more complicated than that. What happens when the ball hits a rock on the way to the shortstop? Your training will allow you to reflexively adjust to field it, but you may have never thrown off-balance in this particular way again, and that’s the magic. The same way Willie Mays caught Vic Wertz’s ball running backward, over his shoulder.
People think good gets noticed.
But only by your friends and relatives.
Great has a chance. And even great has to wait for its moment. Not every classic track was an instant hit. Sometimes you’re ahead of the game, the system isn’t ready for you. Luck is involved, but you’ve got to make your own luck, you’ve got to be involved.
It’s all about magic.
And everybody knows magic when they see it. Life is about experiencing magic. That’s what keeps you doing it. The knowledge that we’re open to the incredible. But can you hang in there long enough to get that good?