Lessons From The Island:
A Tribal Counsel on Surviving in the Music Business

By Bob Baker

I admit it. I was hooked. By about the fifth week, my Wednesday nights were always planned around "Survivor." Even if you didn't watch it yourself, you've most likely heard of this TV blockbuster in which 16 people try to survive 39 days on a remote island in the South China Sea. Every three days, the castaways had to participate in various challenges and then vote each other off the island one at a time.

So what does all this have to do with the music biz? Plenty. Here are some lessons about human beings I gleaned from watching the show. Use these observations to increase your chances of surviving the wilds of the music business.

Nice People Don't Always Win

Most people will admit that the final four survivors were not necessarily the friendliest or most deserving of the bunch. How often have you known bands that had nice people and killer songs ... but they never made it anywhere? Many factors contribute to a winner's success. Don't count on your shimmering personality alone to get you through.

The Vast Majority of People Don't End Up on Top

Only one out of the original 16 castaways could win the million dollar first prize. The odds in the music biz are much worse: only about one in a thousand acts ever reach even a modest level of success. What are you doing to increase your odds?

Going Along for the Ride Might Be Fun, But It Doesn't Always Get You Where You Want

Many people where drawn to Gervase. He was personable and fun and repeatedly said he was on the island to have a good time. He wasn't interested in scheming or planning too far ahead. He made it pretty far, but when he got ejected, there were still about six people between him and the million dollars. Which brings me to the next point ...

- Keeping the End in Mind from the Beginning Increases Your Chances of Success

Winner Richard Hatch revealed his strategy all along. He took the game seriously and tried to figure out from Day One how to "outwit and outlast" the other castaways. Many people were turned off by his approach so early on. But look who ended up winning?

Getting Naked Draws Attention

Even if you never watched an episode, you've probably heard of the "naked guy" who won. (Rich spent his birthday on the island in the nude -- much to the chagrin of his tribe members.) Sad as it is to admit, exposing flesh gets attention. From Jane Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe to Burt Reynolds and Madonna. And what about the Red Hot Chili Peppers wearing only socks, or Dennis Franz showing his rear on "NYPD Blue," or Darva Conger appearing in "Playboy"? I'm not suggesting you should take it off just to get publicity; I'm just commenting on the effect that skin has on the public. Do with it what you will.

Random Events Can Derail You

It was Sean's silly alphabetical voting method that most likely got Jenna kicked off the island so early. She had no control over that circumstance. I made no plans to break my leg three years ago, but when I did, my life took an ugly turn that continued to affect me long after I was back on my feet. $#%! happens! So figure out how you'll deal with unforeseen obstacles.

Offering Something of Value to Others Strengthens Your Worth

Rich was the only one on the island who seemed to be able to catch fish. He provided a benefit to the others, which made him a valuable member of the tribe. How are you contributing to your tribe? Also, how expendable are you?

Forming an Alliance with the Right People Creates Power in Numbers

You can't operate in vacuum and expect to win. The alliance formed by Rich, Rudy, Sue and sometimes Kelly ensured they'd rise to the top. Observe the people in the musical circles you travel in. Form partnerships with like-minded musicians, bands, labels, web sites, 'zines, etc. Working together, you all move up the ladder.

Feel free to send your own survival tips and comments to bob@bob-baker.com