What I asked Seth Godin


I asked a question that made it onto the Seth Godin Akimbo podcast for April 28th, 2021: “Hey Seth, this is William Chernoff from Vancouver, Canada...”

I’m a young jazz musician. And my question is about the lazy concept of having only one number to measure and focusing on how to make that one number go up.

“When I first heard you mention this concept, I thought about Spotify. If you’d find me on Spotify, you’d see one number beneath my name—’monthly listeners’. I think it’s nonsense that this number receives so much attention from both industry colleagues and everyday people.

“I can’t get Spotify to stop showing this number so prominently. So my question is:

What are some more qualitative metrics that I can look for... to have a more sensible outlook on my jazz music career? Thank you for everything you do.”

William Chernoff over to Seth Godin, transcribed and lightly edited:

The key question is this, which number are you measuring? And why does it matter to you what other people are measuring?

“To pick an absurd example, if Forbes Magazine is measuring the richest people in the world and you’re a billionaire why does it make you sad, angry, disappointed, or frustrated if you are mis-measured? And they report you having $5 billion when you actually have $10 billion?

“Why is it that people who have everything they could imagine when it comes to money get frustrated when the measurement that other people see doesn’t align with how they want to be measured? Well, clearly what matters to them is not how much money they have but where they rank in the hierarchy.

“Now, if you’re a jazz musician, you have plenty of things that you could be keeping score of. If you want your numbers to go up on a place like Spotify, well, stop making jazz! And start making pop. Because pop, by definition, is more popular.

“But no, that’s not really the goal. The goal is to make music that matters to someone. And to be able to do it in a sustainable way.

“So the number of streams you’re getting is completely and totally irrelevant. Don’t look at it!

“You don’t need to look at it, and anyone who is looking at it doesn’t have to matter to you. You don’t have to decide to play a game with rules that you don’t like.

“All too often people who are doing the hard work of creation—of building something—would also like to be recognized by the masses for what they’re doing. And almost every time, that’s not the case, which is one reason why so few people stick with it long enough to get to the other side.

“Patricia Barber, the great jazz musician, sells out the Green Mill every Monday. There’s only 100 seats. That’s enough.

“Decide what’s enough and then focus on making the numbers that matter to you go up.”

-Seth Godin

What are your thoughts?

Send me an email if you have some. Seth has long been one of the foundational people in my content diet.

Shout-out to my friend Matt Fripp for putting me up to this!