Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros

February 26, 2010

The Time Factor: Are You Giving Yourself Enough?

Are you giving yourself time to develop -- and the space to experiment, screw up, and grow?

I just finished reading Steve Martin's book, Born Standing Up, and it really opened my mind to this important factor.

I was at the perfect age to appreciate Martin when he burst onto the national scene as that "wild and crazy guy" in the late '70s. I ate up his absurd appearances on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show, recited his bits with my friends, and saw him perform live at an arena in St. Louis.

But, as is the case with all overnight success stories, it took him decades to get there. In the book, Martin details his early years doing magic at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, and struggling with his unusual act in front of empty rooms and apathetic patrons at folk music venues in California.

By his late 20s, he was on the road a lot and treating his performances like a science project -- recording his act, measuring audience responses, experimenting with timing, honing his physical gestures, while gaining (and losing) confidence along the way.

These sure but steady improvements earned him more opportunities, and when he finally made it into the greater public awareness, he was well oiled and ready to deliver.

Compare that to the early rounds of American Idol, where kids who have barely spent any time on a stage are expected to stand up and deliver star power quality to millions on live TV.

That's insane. No doubt, some have a better handle on delivering the sound, the look, and the swagger ... but to expect much more out of them without years of work is nonsense.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that on average it takes 10,000 hours to master any craft. And getting in that many hours of practice can take 10 or more years.

Which leads back to some variations on my opening question ...

Are you giving yourself time to develop?

Are you putting in the time? For songwriting? For performing live? For recording? For self-promotion?

Are you giving yourself the space and room to experiment, to screw up, to learn, and to grow?


Related links:

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Charlie Rose video interview with Steve Martin

NPR interview with Steve Martin

Arts Journal blog post on Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours
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posted by Bob Baker @ 11:49 AM   3 comments


At Feb 26, 2010, 11:58:00 PM, Blogger chartie said...

When I read Outliers, I had the same thought. 10,000 hours really stuck with me. Not only does that mean you have to give a lot of attention to your craft, but you have to prioritize and maybe give up some of the less important things to get the time you need to hone your music skills.

At Mar 3, 2010, 5:39:00 AM, Anonymous Ian - Make It in Music said...


Great article as ever.

Love Gladwell's books and have written about the 10,000 hours and his take on how it helped the development of the Beatles a fair bit on my blog.

Also, just posted something there in a post entitled ‘All you Need to know about the Music Business’ which fits with this theme. A senior exec detailing the qulaities he deems necessary for success - hard work and practice being one.


At Mar 5, 2010, 2:00:00 PM, Anonymous Tom Siegel said...

In my case... the answer to those questions are no... not always. I am hard on myself all the time. It turns out that I don't have to allow myself to fail for that to happen plenty often. I do however, work very hard to learn from every single experience - good or bad.

Thanks Bob,

Tom Siegel


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