Hmm, a highly public career in which talent is often secondary to your good looks or general likability, in which wealth, status, early opportunities, and other factors beyond your control either elevate or sink your fate.
Yup, I’m talking about the lives of opera singers.
In addition to the enormous waste generated by the presidential campaign, I’ve been pondering what lessons musicians might be able to take away from the contest.
1) Lessons from Losers
As performers – singers especially – we’re all contestants on America’s Next Top Model. Most of us are destined for some degree of obscurity, and very few achieve stardom. But the aspiring singer, anything less than Renee Fleming’s career feels like failure.
Singers-in-arms, embrace “failure.” Not achieving the goal you envisioned can open the doors to satisfying paths you hadn’t thought of. Politicians lose all the time, and some of them make the most of it. As the New York Times glittering Gail Collins describes Hillary Clinton:
Controversial first lady to betrayed first lady to beloved first lady. Clumsy carpetbagging Senate candidate to New York treasure. Failed presidential candidate to international icon.
Although this year’s runner-up offers more of a lesson in sore-losership. C’mon Mitt, obscurity ain’t all that bad.
2) Don’t spend your own money
Surely one of the reasons Linda McMahon failed twice in her bid for a Connecticut senate seat was that for the most part, she was her only supporter. While it must be nice to be able to drop close to $100 million to pursue your dreams, you won’t win many friends (or donors or voters) just for that reason.
Singers can easily spend $8,000 for one summer program, and feel that they have to in order to buy the performing experiences to build their careers. Sure, you might gain the experience, but you won’t build an audience for yourself if you just shell out the cash on your own. Instead of indebting themselves to Amex, singers should build a circle of supporters – financial and otherwise – at every stage of their careers.
3) At your next event, pull an Obama
The Obama campaign collected names and email addresses at each of their campaign events. This was no doubt a crucial step in building their huge grassroots network of small donors and volunteers, which clinched both of his elections. If you’re in the business of putting on concerts or even just a performer, try to make sure you have someone at the door signing people up to your mailing list.
Every night, we’re waging a ground war to woo undecided patrons to our particular event. The operation with the best mailing list wins.