The Entertainment Industry is a horrible gamble (Opinion)

The entertainment industry is one of the most brutal, cutthroat industries in the entire world. To make money, you’ll have to be at the top 0.1% of the population in that field. To be superstar status, you’ll have to be at the top 0.01% or less.

I grew up in a community that loved hip hop (I still live in one today), and if I were to ask 100 random people on the street who the best rapper was, they would undoubtedly say one of the following names 95% of the time.

–       Drake

–       Kendrick Lamar

–       J Cole

–       Jay Z

However, 99.9% of rappers will never make a single cent from their craft. This will apply to almost every form of art.

99.9% of actors make poverty level income working side jobs with Uber and waiting tables in LA. 0.01% land the superstar main role and become millionaires (alot of the actors who do make it end up doing so by trading sexual favors).

99.9% of artists will constantly post pictures to their DeviantArt accounts while maybe making a few bucks (<$100) every once in a while. 0.01% get their paintings valued at (>$1M) and displayed at premier museums.

99.9% of writers will have their magnum opus live in anonymity, never to be read by the masses, while 0.01% create the next great American novel.

99.9% of rappers post covers on Soundcloud and will never make a cent from an advance check, performance fees, or royalties. Of the 0.1% that make it, half will be one hit wonders (Trinidad James, Joe Budden, etc. to name a few) 0.01% become stars.

Don’t believe me? Just watch.

XXL List

The XXL list is an annual curated list of rappers and r&b artists who are “making waves” in the music industry. If we just go by first week album sales (a powerful metric in the industry) alone, let’s look at how many artists topped and how many artists flopped. Some years, such as 2015, have no superstar artists. Fetty Wap was the closest, but his popularity has died down into obscurity (as of SEP 2017), and Vic Mensa is at first week album sales of 13K. Compare that to Kendrick Lamar (2011 freshman) who sold 600k copies first week. A stark contrast.

Rappers who make the XXL list “made it”. They can monetize off of their music and if they’re not Troy Ave, make ATLEAST 250k a year (usually more). But take any year from that list and look at the earnings of every artist. You will find that most disappear into obscurity after having a hot song/album or two. The remaining artists are your Big Seans, Wiz Khalifas, Kendrick Lamars, etc.

The entertainment industry is BRUTAL. Ever since I was young, I had wanted to work in this industry. I took YEARS of theatre, made music on the weekends, and even did some film acting in college. But I have to be realistic – the numbers just aren’t in my favor. Let’s take another industry (sales) and look at a realistic depiction of the hierarchy there (from my observation)

Top 1% – Hits quota every quarter. Usually goes over. Builds pipelines to other potential sales. Giant list of contacts, many of his clients would hire him in a heartbeat. Go above and beyond. Bleeds for the company.

Top 10% – Hits quota every quarter, solid performers and the crown jewels of their company. Don’t go above and beyond, but perform at the highest level indicated by company KPIs (key performance indicators).

Next 25% – Seasoned veterans, capable of hitting quota most quarters. May struggle in a down economy or if the clients don’t have purchases in their budget. Able-bodied employees that bring more value than they cost.

Next 25% – Underperformers, who typically won’t last in sales. If they do, they don’t work in a role that’s directly client-facing. Many of these underperformers will be SDRs(Sales Dev Reps) – Doing work to look for clients. The best SDRs will look to prove themselves to get a client-facing role.

Next 15% – Trainees, entry-level employees, interns, etc. Most competitive sales jobs these days have training programs (maybe not Xerox level) to help employees learn to be better salesmen.

Bottom 25% – Fired unless they have connections.  My company cuts the bottom 15% (we’re nice), but at other companies I’ve heard even lower retention rates (Lowest I’ve heard is 40%). I’m just making a rough average of the retention rates I know from 4-5 companies in my field.

Honestly, from my college and high school experience, being in the top 60% of performers is CAKE. I was in the top 20% in high school and had a 3.5+ in college in a hard major BARELY WORKING AT ALL. There were those who got higher grades than me working even less. It’s astounding the leaps and bounds we can make with just a bit of effort.

But back to the subject. I would love to be in the entertainment industry, but it’s hard for me to justify chasing that dream when I know how stacked the odds are against me. Plus, I was never a great actor. Nobody ever complimented me on a performance. The only entertainment that people ever told me I was good at was music. But music is a horrible place to be, which is why I’ll do it as a hobby for now. If something manifests, great. But I REFUSE to go all-in on it, and live as a degenerate chasing a dream that likely doesn’t exist. It’s kind of sad to admit, but the older I get, the less I focus on following my passions and I think more of money. Can anybody else relate?
Maybe I’ll be good at writing? I’ll let the audience decide once I get one. I don’t write a lot, and this blog is the start.


Author: Wayne

Aspiring overachiever.

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