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Paul Simon and Specialization

Paul Simon and Specialization

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
1 min read

Last night I saw Paul Simon in concert. He put on a fantastic show with 15 players, and the concert was about 2 hours total including 4 encores.

The players in his band are some of the best in the world. Better than him.

During the set, he described the evolution of his songwriting. First, he played guitar and sang lyrics together. Then, once he started recording, he’d play and record his guitar parts, then record his vocals separately. Eventually he had other people to play all of his instrumentation because, why not? They’re better players than Simon, and it allowed him to focus on writing songs.

You could say that, over time, he became more and more specialized, and brought on players much better than him.

However, things wouldn’t go so well if Paul Simon wanted to land a spot as a player in another band. He has his name, and he’s a great songwriter, but you wouldn’t choose Paul Simon if you wanted the best guitar player in the world.

In this way, Paul Simon has specialized as a songwriter who sings Paul Simon songs. That would translate into writing songs for others, but not into being a session player.

His session players are the best at playing their instruments and contributing technical expertise to his songs.

In your business, you’re especially good at something you do. What is it, and are you emphasizing it over everything else?