It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said that he who has a why can endure any how. It is also a central philosophy of Viktor Frankl, who found meaning in a Nazi concentration camp and managed to survive as a result. And I know that this is a key theme of many of my blog postings. Perhaps the reason why I keep returning to it is because I want to know what it is that separates an ‘ongoingly’ successful artist from one who has one hit and then fades. Of course persistence and longevity are key factors, but where do they come from?
I think I have been asking my brain the question for long enough, and it has finally come up with an answer: hunger. People who stay remain hungry; people who fade have had their fill. Maybe that’s a bit unfair, but it also rings true.
Have you ever noticed how usually the very first hit an artist has, is the one that is the most memorable, and usually the best? Their post-debut stuff always seems a little lacking, and it’s not just because the novelty has worn off. Look at an artist like Seal, for example. Kiss from a Rose was a beautiful song, in my opinion, and nothing that he has done since has come even close, in my opinion. Ditto a talented group like Maroon 5. Their first mainstreams songs like This Love, Sunday Morning and She Will be Loved are far more substantial than a song such as Moves Like Jagger. Of course this is just my opinion. Many would disagree. But once an artist has made it, the hunger (literally) of not knowing where the next meal is coming from, which is a strong motivating force, disappears.
Some artists manage to reach deep inside and find that ongoing hunger, and that seems to separate them from the rest. It’s what John Demartini calls the void that keeps driving the value.
It also speaks to what Steve Jobs said to graduates at Stanford a number of years ago now, that still rings true: stay hungry, stay foolish. Good advice.