“Once upon a time, there were some animals that wanted to start a school for animals. They decided the courses would include running, climbing, swimming, and flying. Then they decided that all of the animals should take all of the courses.

That’s where the problem started. The duck was better than his teacher at swimming, but he only made passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. So they made him drop swimming and stay after school to practice running. This caused his web feet to be badly worn, and his grade dropped to average in swimming. But everybody felt less threatened and more comfortable with that — except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of his class in running, but because of so much make-up work in swimming, he caught pneumonia and had to drop out of school. The squirrel showed outstanding ability in climbing, but he was extremely frustrated in flying class because the teacher insisted that he start from the ground up rather than the treetop down. He developed Charlie horses from over-extension, so he only got a “C” in climbing and a “D” in running. The eagle was the problem student and was disciplined for being a nonconformist. For instance, in climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but he insisted on using his own way to get there. Finally, because he refused to participate in swimming class, he was expelled.

The point is that God has designed specific animals to excel in specific areas, and he doesn’t expect them to do all the other things. When you expect everybody to fit in the same mold, all you’re going to get is frustration, discouragement, mediocrity, and failure.  A duck is made to be a duck and not something else.

And you were made to be you. God has given you unique abilities, and he wants you to use them for what he intended for you to use them.” – Rick Warren

This is a simple story but profound in its application. As a music consultant, I am constantly advising people to be true to their gift and not try to fit into someone else’s style, unless your goal is to become a cover band, which is okay, but you better be as good if not better than the artist you are imitating.

Treading through the music maze is no easy or simple task, the diversity of approaches makes today’s landscape a dynamic place for emerging artists. Signed or not, the platforms available at their fingertips have levelled the playing field for musicians and irrevocably changed the role of record companies. Yet while the industry is more democratized than ever, today’s artists also have more competition than ever, original artists or cover bands.

There’s so much music being created these days that most new artists regard getting exposure and maintaining attention as their biggest challenges. It’s still a long way to the top, but is it worth the effort? Ask REM – doing music their way.

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