One Hit Wonders
I just told you that success can be learned and that success has nothing to do with luck, but there are exceptions to every rule of course. There are artists who write one single great song that’s released just at the right moment for example. Those are the so-called “one hit wonders”.
There have been one hit wonders since the early days of popular music, and probably even before. Some very few artists even managed to write an evergreen, which allowed them to make enough money for the rest of their lives, with just one single song. But that’s the rare exception of course. Most of those poor artists still perform their one single hit even decades later, hoping to make just enough money to be able to survive. If they’re lucky, then it’s a song that still gets played on the radio, which may allow them to earn some minor royalties.
So yes, you can win the lottery, but becoming a one hit wonder is not a good plan because of two important reasons:
- Chances are very low that you’ll be the one artist who will make it by chance. You can publish your stuff on YouTube and hope that one of your songs might go viral, but today this is even harder than ever before, as thousands of amateur music videos are being uploaded every day.
- Becoming a one hit wonder will neither make you rich nor happy. People will ask you to play that one single song for the rest of your life, nobody will ever be interested in any other of your other work, and you’ll probably die as a poor guy or girl.
A good recent example of a really big one hit wonder is US producer Baauer (whose real name is Harry Bauer Rodrigues). His single Harlem Shake went viral in 2013, it created a viral video craze online, inspiring fans to upload their own videos for the hit from February 2013 onwards (Wikipedia citation). It was number one in the US and in Australia, and it made it to number 3 in the UK.
None of his following singles made it into any Top 40, and his latest single (GoGo!, 2015) even didn’t make it into any Top 100. This guy is probably done, in terms that he will never be able to repeat something that will even come close to this one single hit. In the end it doesn’t matter, as nobody will ever care – Harlem Shake is just crap, it will soon be forgotten, and it will never become an evergreen. Maybe some people will still remember this song in 10 or 20 years, but they’ll be laughing about it then, as it will just be an embarrassing memory.
Maybe I should mention that Rick Rubin brought Baauer back on that horrible Star Wars dance music album, which received mixed reviews and only sold 3,000 in its first week in the US. As said before, don’t forget that crap usually doesn’t sell well, and this one clearly demonstrates that you can’t sell any bullshit in this business anymore, even if you put a Star Wars sticker on it.
You also shouldn't forget that many one hit wonders are not one hit wonders at all. If you take a closer look at their song credits, then you’ll see that many of those stars are nothing but puppets, with a multi-hit mega producer pulling the strings behind the scenes. In this case the producer is in fact the artist, and then it all doesn’t have to do with luck again, it’s just that puppets are so easily expendable.