Friday, December 2, 2011

I won the lottery

People win the lottery all the time. In fact, I won the lottery...

As a working performer I get hit with a lot of things saying: "You should be listed in our web directory, all the big bookers book from our directory."

In my day job I'm a business software engineer, I write software that records people's voices, analyzes the spoken sounds into digital computer commands and uses those commands to operate complex financial back-end systems (it's actually a lot more complicated than it sounds), and I recognize the difference between an anecdotal analysis and real numbers.

Whenever I get a request to join a web directory I ask for real numbers:
"So, you want me to pay fifty dollars a year to be listed in your directory. On average, how many bookings a year do your clients receive, as a result of being listed in your directory?"
"I got my last three gigs through the directory."
"That's anecdotal. I'm making an investment, I need to know what my possible ROI is going to be before I can give you my money - fifty dollars is a lot of money to a performer."
"But, I got my last three gigs through the directory."
"Let me put this another way. Considering my time investment, advertising and supplies, I need to work three gigs to repay that fifty dollars. If you have X number of people using your directory then I need to know if three times X gigs a year are being booked through your directory."
"I got three gigs through the directory."
"Did the average performer listed on your directory get three gigs?"
"I don't know."

When the California State Lottery started the smallest prize a person could win was five dollars. I don't know what the smallest prize is today because I haven't played since I won. At the time, the chance of winning a prize, any prize, was one in fifty-six. I played for sixty-one weeks in a row and won five dollars.
When the subject of conversation invariably turns towards cloud-talk (you know: "what I would do if I won the lottery?"), I regularly tell people, "I won the lottery."
"You did, then why are you still working?"
You see, I did win the lottery, but it cost me sixty-one dollars to win five, not a very good ROI. Then at least I knew the facts: that the odds of winning the big prize were one in thirteen-million, and the odds of winning any prize were one in fifty-six, and I still came out behind the odds.

The fact that I won the lottery, and that many people win the liottery, is anecdotal, it's meaningless. What's meaningful is statistics.
You see, being listed in a directory may or may not be a good thing, but who knows? Maybe everyone is booking through your super-cool directory; but you don't know that, and that means I'm buying a pig in a poke and I don't even know what  a poke is.
My work as a performer is just that: work. I have to treat it like a business and that means being logical with my investments. I would shell out money left and right to be listed in directories if they could tell me what kind of results others are getting.

(---Warning, this is not an endorsement of any web service, It's simply a statement of fact ---)
I should mention that actually offers you a guarantee. They can't give you real numbers either, but they do say that if you honestly put your back into it, build and promote a proper profile, and you don't get a gig, then they'll give you your money back - that seems pretty fair considering a lack of statistics.

I did play the lottery one more time. I once got a fortune cookie that literally said I would win money in a lottery, so I ran down to the store and played the numbers on the back of the fortune - I lost.

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