That’s how long it takes to become world class.
That doesn’t mean you’ll be rich or famous.
You might be a world class kiteboarder. Or a world class mountain climber. Or a world class shepherd. You might be respected by your peers.
But everyone else might not even shrug their shoulders at your accomplishments, they might not even care.
In other words, if you play jazz music, don’t expect to be on "The Voice", don’t expect to be on Top Forty radio, don’t expect to sell out arenas coast to coast.
And if you’re a jam band, focusing on improvisation, ditto. You might be able to sell out some sheds, but has the jam band era passed?
I must reiterate that this is a key point in "Outliers", Malcolm Gladwell’s book that popularized the theory of 10,000 hours to excellence. You could be ahead of your time. Or past it.
Folk music burgeoned in the early sixties, there was even a folk music TV program, "Hootenanny". It’s been a backwater ever since. I’m thinking it could come back, as an alternative to the polished studio b.s. now dominating. I could delineate a number of great folk artists, but hopefully they’re not delusional enough to think they’re gonna become world famous this week.
Think of it like tech. Once upon a time, everybody needed a dot matrix printer. Then they shifted to lasers. Then inkjets. And now printing itself is in decline, just check HP’s numbers. Did HP suddenly lose expertise in the field? No, times changed.
I disconnected my fax machine years ago. If you produce a state of the art fax machine today, what’s it worth, what’s the demand? It’s a fading market, like typewriters.
You may be the king of designing Flash websites for computers. But we’re shifting to HTML5 on mobile handsets.
1. We live in an MP3 era. If you make twenty minute opuses, it’s gonna be hard to e-mail them, virality will be decreased. This was not an issue in the vinyl era. Then again, AM radio wouldn’t play long songs then FM would then FM wouldn’t. We could still schlep our copy of "Thick As A Brick" to friends’ houses, but in order to play the game, Jethro Tull made an edit. Still, we’re moving to streaming, so ultimately length is not going to be that important.
2. We live in a lo-fi era. You can focus on sound quality, but most people can’t hear it. There’s a chance hi-fi is coming back, but do you really have to spend so much money recording what people can’t hear?
3. There’s a vinyl resurgence. But that’s fashion, no different from the return of Hush Puppies at the end of the last century. Sure, vinyl sounds better than MP3s, but Hush Puppies were damn comfortable. Vinyl’s a niche. Pandering to those who want souvenirs. You can exist in this market, but it’s never going to dominate, despite all the hoopla in the press.
4. Power ballads had their day, as did the melisma-makers… If you’re a hair band in spandex singing power ballads now, good luck! And if you imitate Mariah Carey I’ve got to tell you something, the nineties are over, even Christina Aguilera has a hard time making the charts, never mind Mariah herself. As for imitators like Jessica Simpson…she’s more famous for her clothing line and having a baby than her music.
5. Record companies used to support clubs. Now they don’t. If your career depends on touring small venues for a long time, building your identity, cred and audience, you’re gonna have to fund it yourself. Even worse, there’s nowhere to play.
6. Virality amongst youth is more intense than it is amongst adults. Kids will find the latest and greatest and spread it almost instantly. It could take years amongst adults, if ever. So if you make adult music, know that your career is going to grow very slowly…not because your music is bad, but because it takes that long for old people to get the message.
7. A TV appearance used to yield great dividends. Now it means almost nothing. Because of the plethora of cable channels and the unending additions to YouTube.
Note, none of the above have anything to do with the quality of music. Success depends on the situation.
Furthermore, never forget it’s 10,000 hours of hard practice. If you’re not frustrated, sweating, about to put your fist through the wall, angry that you can’t go out and hang with your friends, go to the movies, date, then you’re doing it wrong.