The Creator’s Advantage

Without looking it up, do you know what the best selling album is in music history? It might surprise you to learn that the Eagles hold the top spot, with Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 album as the top seller. They have bounced back and fourth with Thriller by Michael Jackson for the top spot over the past seven or eight years. 

Whether we admit it or not, most of us have daydreamed about being the best in the world in our line of work. And when you are the best, you get studied and scrutinized. People try to figure out the formula, the strategy and the magic behind how the success happened. Personally, I don’t get excited about studying success. But I am insanely curious about studying the years before success. 

Were these people prodigies? Were they freakish songwriters and performers that possessed an inhuman-like talent that is impossible to emulate or learn from? Did they have connections that opened doors for them that most of us couldn’t tap into? Did they game the system by pretending to be more successful than they are, much like the book publishing world and other vanity metrics?

To see where the Eagles came from, it truly makes the underdog- or the unknown- have hope that they too can become the best. 

Glen Frey and Don Henley- who would go on to be the biggest names in the band- started together as musicians in Linda Ronstadt’s band before going out on their own with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner to form the Eagles. 

But for Frey, songwriting didn’t come easy to him. And he knew that great songwriting would be essential if they were ever going to make it big. In the late 60’s, before the Eagles were even formed, Frey shared a home with fellow musician Jackson Browne. Browne already had a contract with Elektra Records, so he was naturally admired by Frey and the other musicians in the house. 

Frey, eager to learn, paid attention. Frey’s room was directly above the room that Jackson Browne stayed in. Frey wondered how Browne did what he did. Did Browne sit around and wait for inspiration to strike? 

“Through his ceiling and my floorboard, I learned exactly how he wrote songs,” Glenn Frey said. 

At 9am, Frey would hear the whistle of a teapot below as Browne prepared his morning beverage. And then he’d hear the piano. Immediately, he would hear the first verse and the first chorus of a song. Frey said that he would play it twenty times, until he had it just the way he wanted it. 

The floor would then go silent. And Frey would hear the teapot go off again. It would be followed by about twenty minutes of silence. 

And then he’d hear the piano again. 

Browne was then working on the second verse. And like the first, he would play it about twenty times until he had it just the way he wanted. Browne would then go to the top and play the first and the second verse twenty times until he was really comfortable. Within that time, he’d change a word, or a chord, and really tighten things up. 

“So that’s how it’s done,” Frey concluded. Time. Thought. Persistence. 

“Elbow grease,” Frey concluded. 

That is how the primary songwriter in the best selling band of all time learned how to write songs. 

Unless you live under a rock, you know that AI has burst upon the scene to save you time. To make you more efficient. To eliminate tasks that you don’t want to do. The problem is, it’s easy to allow it to eliminate the tasks that we actually do want to do. 

Simply put- creatives create. We gain value from it. Even if there is an easy button, creatives aren’t looking to speed up that process. Sure, if technology can do the task work we despise- or do admin-type work that doesn’t come from the heart- have at it. 

But creatives should never give up creating their art. Because creating something that matters- something that requires practicing it twenty times to get it right- is infinitely more valuable than finding a hack to make it done quicker. 

And here is the creator’s advantage. As everyone else that doesn’t love doing the work outsources their creativity, the true creators will grow by using their elbow grease. They will be more resilient because they put in the time. They will have more impactful thoughts because they challenged themselves. They will have confidence because they have persistence. 

And they will set themselves apart from everyone who used a short-term advantage because they learned the skills to become long-term successes. 

It’s the creator’s advantage.

Have an AMAZING week!


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