Level 1- The Band
The band plays the gig. Big dreams and dive bars, year after year.
Beer money. Rent money.
It’s all good till the beer drys up and the next month hits.
… And it’s on to the next gig.
Time goes on and nothing happens. No momentum, no forward motion.
The band brings it in. “Alright guys, it’s been great. But this ain’t working. I’m giving it up and getting a real job.”
The band dissolves. The hair is shortened and the guitar strings cut.
The garage is swapped for the cubicle. Playin for the crowd is a distant memory. You play to the boss now.
Level 2- The Brand
The band plays the gig. …And then the next gig.
“Something’s gotta give.”
Fingers bleed and voices crack. Blood. Sweat. Toil.
The drum kit is held together with duct tape. The crashing of the symbols is a metaphor. The whole thing could come crashing down at any moment.
Beer money becomes guitar string money.
It’s GRIT. It’s vision. “Something’s gotta give, dammit.”
And then it happens… Something does give.
You’ve got momentum.
One person tells another. That person tells ten others. And then, like a levy, the whole damn thing breaks. The dream is no longer a dream.
You’ve got a thousand true fans.
Level 3. The Bandwagon
You’ve got the home on wheels. Big shows and big checks.
But you’ve given something up.
You no longer own the art. It belongs to the men in suits now.
Your thousand true fans abandon you.
You hear the murmurs. “They sold out, man.”
And can you blame them?
You’ve played the same tune for too long. You can’t hear the music anymore.
Another radio hit. Another collaboration.
“The kids will love this shit,” you’re told.
Auto-tune replaces autographs.
Your movement dies.
Are you the Band, The Brand, Or the Bandwagon?
If you’re the band, you might play for fun. And you might have some level of success along the way, but, at some point, you’re better off giving it up. Your energy, talent, time and skills would be better allocated elsewhere. Knowing this early on saves you a huge amount of heartache.
If you’re the brand, you’re equal parts suffering and success. You’ve become successful but never forget what got you there. You live your roots. The pain, the toil–the story. That’s not a part of your success. It IS your success. And because you live it, it lives in the hearts and minds of your followers. Done right, the whole thing will outlive you.
And then there’s the bandwagon. It’s the quick fix. It’s corporate, lifeless and bland. It lacks romantic tension.
The bandwagon sounds like this:
“But we’ve always done it this way.”
“We’ve been around for __ (insert irrelevant metric) of years.
The bandwagon is stuck in the inertia of yesterday. It doesn’t believe in the weight of sunk costs. It’s immovable, clunky and neutered. It lacks challenge and can no longer grow.
As freelancers, entrepreneurs, lovers or whatever, it’s helpful to know where you stand.
So, where are you? Where’s your company? Are you the band, the brand, or the bandwagon?
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