220 years ago the best paid singer on the planet was probably Mrs Elizabeth Billington, allegedly the greatest English Soprano who ever lived.
At the time, the managers of London's top two opera houses competed fiercely to have her perform.
She signed for both & earned more than £10,000 in the 1801 season ( about $1m today)
By contrast, the richest solo singer today is Rihanna, worth $1.7bn
The difference is explained less by the internet or side hustles & more by the phonograph
Before the phonograph listening to music involved being in the same place and time as the singer, so she worked her chords off singing to packed opera houses to adorning audiences who paid a fortune to hear her sing.
For those who couldn't go to London or pay much they had only 3 options, not listen to her ever, learn to sing yourself or listen to someone nearly as good
Alot of people chose the latter.
The result was music and dance halls across the planet & a vast number of live singers who made careers out of singing
The distribution of quality and earning was a long tail. Even quite average singers did well
In 1877, Thomas Edison unveiled his phonograph. The industry changed forever (slowly)
Why listen to a 129th rate musician when you can hear the best & thus professional musicians declined in numbers radically.
We learn that technology creates abundance, but that it’s ALMOST ALWAYS more unequal distributed.
There is by some measure more money in music than ever before, but it favors the superstars
TV rights and sponsorship deals make Sports a bigger industry than ever, but it’s the stars who get almost all the money.
Things become a fame game. From writing books to getting your bits out on Onlyfans to Chefs to Architects and more.
THE POINT OF ALL THIS.
We should probably remember this with AI and GPT chat & democratized access to talent.
If you’re working in an Ad agency & you’re doing average thinking, your average thinking is likely to end up worthless. Do you want to join a pitch and see every agency present the same “insights”
If you’re a lawyer whose deeply competent but not able to build relationships or tell stories.
If you’re a Doctor that thinks patients are annoying. Or a Scientist going with the flow.
If you’re a designer phoning it in.
it’s time to be remarkable, it’s time to take risks, to be weird, It’s time to think and be more ambitious.
It’s quite a scary time for many, but fairly or unfairly, it’s a brilliant time to be different
It won’t happen that fast, and generally life will be better for many, and generally abundance means more money to spread around, and technology means we rise up to jobs less likely to hurt your back and more likely to make you think.
And generally technology unleashes us from the tyranny of boring repetitive work, and frees us up to be more human and to do things far more fun.
So it’s an empowering exciting time, but also the best time there has been to be remarkable, in some shape or from.