Derek Sivers

Well-rounded doesn’t cut


Imagine the world’s attention as a big squishy pile of apathy — so thick you could cut it with a knife. You want to cut through that muck, to call attention to your music.

Only problem is, if you’re well-rounded, you can’t cut through anything. You need to be sharp as a knife. Sharply defined.

Let’s look at a bad example first: Your name is Mary and you put out an album called “My Songs”, and the cover is a picture of your face. The music is good quality, and the songs about your life. When people ask what kind of music you do, you say “Oh, everything. All styles.” You put your music out into the world, and nothing much happens. Doors aren’t opening.

Imagine instead: You write nine songs about food. You put out an album called “Sushi, Souffle, and Seven Other Songs about Food”. You recorded your vocals in the kitchen. You quit cooking school to be a musician. Now you’ve got an angle for promotion. Now people can remember and recommend it. Yes it’s a silly example, you see how this would be much easier to promote.

You may be thinking, “But I have so much to offer the world, I can’t just limit myself like that!” So stretch-out your musicial offerings to the world over many years, and keep each phase focused clearly on one aspect of your music.

Look at the long careers of David Bowie, Miles Davis, Madonna, Prince, Joni Mitchell, or Paul Simon. Each went through sharply-defined phases, treating each album as a project with a narrow focus.

Be sharp as a knife, cut through the pile of apathy, and make a point.

Do this every year or two, and you can have a wide variety in the long run.