I was listening to Maggie Rogers latest single this morning, inspired after seeing her headline a recent Saturday Night Live performance while content surfing Foxtel Now. It got me to thinking about the twenty-four year olds viral ascent, of being tapped by the gatekeepers following a fateful university class.
It all happened back in 2016 during a masterclass session at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts hosted by Pharrell Williams. The creative giant was there to pay it forward by listening and offering feedback to a select group of students. It was here that Williams became transfixed by Rogers’ demo of Alaska and in a matter of minutes, a career was forged.
I first came across her unique story while I was drowning in Berlin two years ago. Scrolling facebook one evening, I came across a friend’s post and lost myself in a YouTube video of the encounter. Re-watching it today was a revelation and left me feeling warm all over. To watch both musicians drinking in Rogers’ demo is the reason we all seek to create.
Rogers’ music brought Williams to tears, his sense of vulnerability so palpable. “I have zero, zero, zero notes for that. And I’ll tell you why… Because you’re doing your own thing. It’s singular… Your whole story I can hear it in the music.”
I heard this profound podcast (You’re It) on Seth Godin’s Akimbo last week on the science of getting picked. He talks about the historic importance of gatekeepers in society, of the almighty few having the power to catapult the voiceless onto centre stage.
With the social revolutions of the last half century however, access to the VIP room is not the be all and end all. In fact as Godin makes clear, their power continues to diminish as they struggle to drown out the proliferation of new voices. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have launched a multitude of new voices into the world without the help of these omnipotent powers.
Almost all of us are afflicted with the gatekeeper virus and contracted the sickness from an early age. We go about our daily lives, putting in the time and secretly hoping that our feverish efforts will one day be received by the powers that be. Yet if we’re being honest, such romantic aspirations keep us from exploring new terrain and hold us back from indulging in challenges that fill our dreams.
While Maggie Rogers is one of those rare examples of being tapped her on the shoulder and invited her to come work in the dream factory, she never stymied her dreams in the hopes of getting picked. As the video clearly shows, Rogers was set upon tunneling her own path and tapping into the answers within. Which leaves me to ponder the million-dollar question:
Are the biggest gatekeepers in our heads?