The performer Lil' Nas X has a big hit with his country hip-hop song "Old Town Road", enough so that Billboard put it in the Top 20 country songs. Then Billboard took it off. The long-standing music publication said it didn't "embrace enough elements of today's country music."
He seemed understandably disappointed, but hopefully he understands that he won already.
In fact, you should embrace when someone doesn't want you to play in their field. Here's why.
You are pushing the culture
"Old Town Road" is a strange two minutes: Imagine country crooning over modern-day, staccato rap drums. Social media conversations brought up Lil' Nas X was African-American and that, in itself, was why Billboard took his song off its white-dominated Country charts.
I think there is an easier, less insidious explanation: The song is not easily definable. The same Billboard issue happened to Jay-Z (twice!) when he released albums outside of the traditional music system. I hand sold my new book Bring Your Worth well before it was available on Amazon, and you can bet Jeff Bezos isn't celebrating my wins. It's happening to thousands of artists who are creating and building beyond what we have today.
Billboard Top 10, the New York Times best-seller lists and so on aren't tastemakers, but rather catagorizers. To paraphrase Seth Godin, their whole job is to put things into boxes.
If the intention is to change and push the culture, then Lil' Nas X is succeeding. Without conflict, there is no change.
You are potentially building a community
Lastly, Lil' Nas X has the ability to build momentum as he now represents a David against the music industry's Goliath. Rather than take it as defeat, he can actually pull in the very people who want something different than what Billboard qualifies as country music.
Their rejection becomes his validation.
We will see more of this, and I am excited. It represents the opportunity for nearly anyone to shake up the status quo, question long-standing structures and truly build their own movement, large or small, befitting of their own personal genius.
It represents an opportunity for everyone to bring their worth.