In many creative fields there are one or two people who are so successful that they look as if they’re playing an entirely different game to everyone else.
For example, in the world of movies James Cameron is the only person who has produced (and written/directed) a film that has grossed over two billion dollars. But he’s done it twice. Over the recent history of film so many very smart people have spent so much money trying to create blockbuster movies that you’d almost expect someone else to have joined him on this list. How come the combined creativity and marketing muscle of Disney/Marvel/Joss Whedon couldn’t get Avengers up there? What about the Lord Of The Rings movies? Or Jurassic World? (by the way, I’m not talking about subjective measures of quality here; just the objective measures of popularity). No one comes close to Cameron, yet so many try.
In the world of pop music Taylor Swift somehow manages to be the only person who produces over a million sales in the first week of her albums’ releases. No one else does it at all – not Beyonce, Drake or Ed Sheeran – and yet she does it over and over again. There are lots of popular artists, why is her success so much greater, so consistently, than all those other smart, talented people?
In the world of books we have J.K. Rowling and E.L. James miles out in front of everyone else.
In U.S. radio, there’s Howard Stern and some other people I’ve never heard of.
In the tech world, there’s Apple, a very large gap, then everyone else.
So how do these people (and Apple) go so far beyond the top of their field?
Is James Cameron such a great reader of the zeitgeist, or human emotions, that he can tap into parts of us the rest cannot? Are Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Grey such amazing stories that they clearly go beyond all the other books in the marketplace? What about Taylor Swift? Is her music so much better than everyone else’s?
I’d argue that this has something to do with perceived quality: Swift’s music is really catchy pop; the technological craft behind Titanic and Avatar was (for its time) incredible; Howard Stern’s interviews are consistently more incisive, perceptive and entertaining than anyone else’s; Apple’s products work better and more reliably than those of its competitors.
But why so far ahead?
Sorry. I think you might be expecting me to answer that question.
I have no idea.
If you do, don’t be shy; that’s what the comments section is for.