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American Idol, Playing the Lottery, and Good Investments

Lottery WinnersAmerican Idol starts again this week. Then in a few weeks, The Voice will begin its new season. The Sing Off, The X Factor, America’s Got Talent… all these shows continue season after season.

And why not?! It’s exciting for the audience and the singers & bands. Who wouldn’t want the chance to have someone “just hear me, so they’ll love me and I’ll be a star”? To achieve fame and recognition because of a hit song, a viral video, or a TV show, sounds like an easy way to make a career happen. It’s like winning the lottery.

Until recently, I hadn’t heard anyone suggest the lottery was a good investment. But not long ago, Forbes magazine published an article, “Why Playing The Lottery Is A Good Investment.” In the article, a respected financial advisor says, “As soon as you plunk down your $1, you can’t help but start to think about what your life would look like if you won…”

He goes on to say, “The daydreaming stage is where most people stop, however… there’s a better approach… The real question is not how winning the lottery would change your life. The better question is how would winning the lottery improve your life?” Here’s where he suggests it becomes a good investment: “Daydream how the win would make your life better, and then figure out how you can create this change in your life even if you don’t win.”

This financial expert went on to say that this is a good exercise: write down what you’d do if you won the lottery. Then, instead of waiting for the mostly impossible lottery win, do what you can to achieve your goals through persistent hard work and focusing on the important stuff.

I totally agree! You see, there are two problems with the typical lottery approach to a music career: 1) when singers and musicians put all their focus on attempting to break into the industry and being a success through the lottery they will probably be very disappointed (what are the chances, after all?); and 2) if you do end up winning the lottery you may not be ready to make a long lasting success of it, because you’ve probably failed to work on other necessary priorities (like working on your live show, developing your songwriting skills, discovering & refining your style, building a fan base, etc.).

Don’t get me wrong… I have nothing against auditioning for American Idol or any of these other contests. Really, what do you have to lose? In fact, I’ve worked with and taught artists for numerous audition type shows. Jordan Sparks (2007 American Idol) was nice enough to say, “Thanks to Tom for helping me on the road to American Idol!” Charity Vance (Idol finalist) and Rachel Potter (X Factor finalist) both attended Tom Jackson Bootcamps. Even one of my DVDs (The Reins Live Music Makeover) shows my work with The Voice finalist Angie Johnson.

But, let’s be realistic … how many times can you audition in an artificial situation for less than a minute, and expect someone to assess your talent properly? If this is your only strategy to build a music career (auditioning for every talent contest), I wouldn’t expect a lot to happen.

I might play the lottery, hope to win millions, and have it change my life. But I wouldn’t run into every place that sells lottery tickets, and I certainly wouldn’t use my last dollar to play. It wouldn’t be my main focus! If I expect to make a living or build a career by playing the lottery, I’m going to be sorely disappointed (and will probably end up living under a bridge).

So do what that financial advisor tells his clients: “Have fun, day dream what it would be like if you won, and then do everything you can to create that life even if you don’t win.”


If you’re interested, you can read the entire Forbes article by Robert Pagliarini here… 

Photo courtesy Matthew Anderson on Flickr

Tom Jackson

Tom is uniquely talented and skilled at transforming an artist's live show into a magical experience for the audience; helping artists at every level create a live show that is engaging and memorable, teaching them to exceed their audiences' expectations and to create fans for life. Tom has taught indie and major artists of every genre. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Le Crae, Home Free, The Tenors, Shawn Mendes, The Band Perry, Francesca Battistelli, Jars of Clay, & many more. Tom also teaches at colleges, conferences and events worldwide.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. Judith Pinto Coy says:

    That’s great advice for anything in life – not just the music business! Thanks for this!

  2. Great point Tom! I think giving ourselves the permission to really dream big, can help us if we ask questions along the way. Like what would that lead to? And what would we do with what that leads to? How would we feel? Why would we feel that way? Is that really what we want? Is that how we want to feel? When we do this, we can begin to see what is at the core of our dream. What we’re really looking for when we step on stage. What does that moment represent to us. Is it connecting? <—Then connecting would be the core dream. Is it the money and what we can attain? <—If that's the case, the what we can attain, is the core dream. Is it a strong desire to put our words, our observations, our hopes out into the world, with the idea of making a change? <—Then that's really the core dream and it's what we should focus on. I'm sure there are as many core dreams as there are people and then the rest of our dreams are just bells and whistles or maybe even smoke and mirrors… I've found that when I work towards my core dream, I'm happier with what I get and core dreams are always attainable through me and my efforts. It's also great if you can have others supporting you in that or become part of a group that shares your core dream.

    I auditioned once for "The Voice". I recommend it! It was a great experience and the people working for the voice were kind, compassionate and respectful of those coming to audition. I was fulfilling a childhood dream of auditioning for something big and at the same time secretly hoping that I would make it, so I could learn from one of the coaches, what makes a great performance. I never expected to win or even make it but if I did, I felt it would be a great adventure, filled with lessons that would help me as I continued down my own path and maybe too, I would have more people coming to see me perform. Before I went, I became more disciplined in doing my vocal exercises (at least 5 x's a week). The anticipation of going also greatly improved my mood and energy. The experience lead me to really wanting to get to a Tom Jackson Bootcamp and work at becoming a better performer. "The Voice" audition was a great step to take, to start me on this journey.

  3. Excellent, Tom! Thank you – sharing!

  4. Thanks for the notes on the “lottery” approach to a music career. Sadly, many of the folks who win the lottery actually have more money problems in five years than they did before, because they don’t have any idea what to do with it if they win. By the same token, a lot of “overnight stars” self-destruct because they never established the habits and discipline to maintain their career (much less a life worth living) over the long haul. On the other hand, the folks who work for years at their craft and learning personal discipline before they finally get their “big break” know how to survive before, during, and after their time in the spotlight.

    Keep up the good work!


  1. a few blogs, and even though I haven’t put up the funds to subscribe to Tom Jackson’s OnStageSuccess.com blog (there are free articles and subscription articles), I’m pretty damn close. Every time I

  2. a few blogs, and even though I haven’t put up the funds to subscribe to Tom Jackson’s OnStageSuccess.com blog (there are free articles and subscription articles), I’m pretty damn close. Every time I

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