The talk about income inequality continues heating up. While it's easy to get emotional about the statistics, it's important to realize what's driving the widening gap. We operate in a new reality, fueled by technology, where a very high percentage of profits and returns in any single industry go to the top one percent of the creatives.
A clear example of this new reality is the music industry. Just a decade ago, the top twenty percent of musicians earned fifty percent of the revenue and profit in the recorded music industry. Now, the top one percent of artists earn fifty percent of the profits. This tremendous concentration of rewards is occurring across many industries, a trend that is well document in last year's best-seller "The Second Machine Age", which I highly recommend.
The change? It used to be that music marketing and distribution success depended on an artist getting 'discovered' and represented by the right label. Now, artists are taking back ownership of their brands and distribution of their products. And with the internet, that distribution is now inexpensive and accessible. Any artist can instantaneously and independently distribute music on a global scale using iTunes, YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify.
As this concentration of rewards begins to occur in your industry, you'll want position yourself, through the use of technology, to be in the top 1% of your profession. How can you increase your chance to earn the profits the other 99% are fighting for?
Take some tips from Adele, Rihanna and Taylor...aka Music's "One Percent:
1. Understand Your Audience
Adele's 25 album broke all previous sales records in 2015 with 7.44 million album copies sold. Her marketing success is even more remarkable, given her choices to NOT offer her music via streaming media and release the album in the last six weeks of the year. She accomplished this outsized return by using the right technology to reach her specific her audience; 35 year old moms who consume their content on demand (after the kids go to bed). Skipping ephemeral social feeds; she recorded a concert for NBC, then hit The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Today, and SNL. It's no coincidence, all are accessible on demand to working mothers wherever and whenever.
Like Adele, your ability to drive outsized income partly depends on how well you understand what your "audience" of potential employers is really looking for, and how clearly you present yourself as the "whole package". Recent research by Burning Glass reveals that employers across a majority of industries are looking for candidates offering more than just the basic skills traditionally expected for the role. Employers are increasingly adding requirements in writing skills, math, communication and customer service skills, for roles that wouldn't have needed them in the past. Who knew a sales person could stand out by emphasizing great writing chops?
Start with LinkedIn or Glassdoor to identify the job titles in highest demand, then use O*net to get a deeper look at the most requested skills in those roles. Then, train yourself using resources on the web. Many learning management systems have the content accessible with a quick google search. Next, make sure your social profile, resume and/or job applications clearly show your skill level in every one of those areas.
2. Tempt Them with Singles
Rihanna created a PR storm around her eighth album Anti, teasing fans with her singles, "FourFive Seconds" and "B***h Better Have My Money" while building suspense around the album's drop date. In doing so, she secured constant attention in 2015, and gave herself time to work on the rest of the album.
How does this tactic apply to you? Let's imagine you're interested in a sales position requiring negotiation skills, creative writing skills, and a CRM software skills. Don't wait to earn credits or certificates in all three areas before updating your "audience". As soon as you complete that Negotiation 101 or Creative Writing for Salespeople course on Coursera, or earn that Salesforce Admin Certification courtesy of Salesforce humblebrag about each of those 'singles' on your online profiles and resume.
3. Become a Beloved Brand
Taylor Swift is the master of personal branding, connecting with her hyper-social, surprisingly diverse audience daily on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram. With every interaction, she delivers what her fans specifically love about her: humor, intelligence, accessibility and gratitude.
It pays to be known for something unique. Be that engineer with incredible presentation skills, or the writer who has some basic IT training. Once you've identified your personal brand, promote it. A good first step is creating some personal brand real estate that recruiters can find like a blog, a website and social profiles; a LinkedIn page is an easy place to start. Then commit to regular publishing regular posts demonstrating your interests and unique perspectives. For a small investment, you can give yourself an added edge with LinkedIn's Premium Insights, visualizing how you compare to other profiles and using Preferred Applicant Status to stand out quickly. Finally, promote your brand by joining LinkedIn Groups and participating in Meet Ups.
In this age of inexpensive, real-time, global broadcast technology, it's important to leverage technology to better develop and communicate your personal brand and career. By doing so, you can put yourself in the same spotlight as the One Percent by understanding what your target market wants and making sure everyone knows you're at the top of the charts in those areas. Used skillfully, it's an incredible power move. Just ask the internet, where Taylor Swift rules. Twenty-four hours after Taylor's gently-worded complaint letter, "To Apple With Love", Apple reversed an earlier decision and increased the royalties they pay to artists on Apple Music. In a world where a good portion of 50% of Apple Music royalties will likely end up in Taylor's bank account, she found a really effective way to ask for a raise.