In speaking with various connections close and far I perceive that there is a somewhat estranged view of the music industry. Many outside of the industry seem to have the viewpoint of it being a winner-takes-all business, in which those internationally successful are extraordinarily rich and popular, while those that fall just short of 1st place waddle around in poverty and live a bohemian lifestyle.
First off, yes, it is a cut-throat business, in which one can be randomly set by the wayside by a particular ensemble which has been a steady source of income. It necessitates constant entrepreneurship, vigilance and attention to one’s image, techniek, and prowess. However, the doomsday thinking of winner-takes-all is unrealistic. In fact, if one observes the absolute greats in any music genre, the higher the stakes, the more the artist gains to lose. It might even be fair to say, the more attention an artist gets, the harder he/she must fight to maintain this position in an industry fixated on youth. Pop music must be the absolute worst (perhaps, next to musicals) of the music genres when it comes to internal competition. Worldwide succes gives absolutely no guarantee for a lifetime of recognition and fame. Especially those groups or soloists that gained fame based largely on youthful energy, stamina, and beauty, are prone to derision or simply to be forgotten once the next star hits the stage. Think of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, even Billy Eilish. Ten years of fame, maybe even twenty, and then the real difficulty ensues in attempting to maintain their platform. Many branch out in necessity. Gaga started acting and absolutely nailed the roles she took on, Pharrell went in to clothing design (although I’m unsure about that). Those that can be entrepreneurs on various levels are the ones that maintain their status in any way, but so many just fail and fall by the wayside, some in just utterly embarrassing ways. Madonna’s horribly out of tune fail at the Eurovision Song Contest was the biggest example in decades. And, some literally die out or break down mentally from a lifetime of pressure from extreme fame and the demands of perfection that is upon someone at that level. There are so many unfortunate examples: Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Prince. Freddie Mercury. Brittany Spears.
Anyways, my point is that it is no picknick up at the very top. The pressure is immense, the longevity of success falls painfully short of a normal “career,” and emotional instability is likely.
My more important point is that the music industry has a pyramid structure. Those at the very tippy top are only placed there and maintained by a gigantic bottom structure that is absolutely vital for their success. This bottom structure provides not only copious amounts of work, but also brings joy, intellectual stimulation, community, and social benefit to all involved. If you are working at any level of this pyramid structure, be aware that the applause, accolades, and fame that those at the top receive is also YOUR applause. You are part of the great machine of music of which every cog and bolt enhances the final products of that very machine.
And which brings me to my last point. Without music education, the top will fall. The pyramid will crumble.