This is always a difficult question to answer and it varies from person to person. It stands to reason that if you do one thing and take it to the max, your chances of being superior to the person who does two or more things is enhanced. With a few exceptions most musicians who are at the absolute top of their field do essentially one thing really, really, really well. Miles Davis didn’t have to know anything about the C trumpet or playing the Petrouchka excerpt. Itzhak Perlman doesn’t have to know the chord progression of the Blues and Lang Lang doesn’t have to play ragtime (though his handlers might have him do that someday). Nevertheless, certain musicians have been able to excel in several diverse areas of music (read: Legos). Leonard Bernstein and Andre Previn immediately come to mind. Wynton Marsalis is arguably another in this elite group.
Breadth and depth are essential. Take one thing to as high a level as you can as you continue to expand your knowledge and expertise in related areas. But if you stray too far from the core of your brand, believability suffers. Going back to Lang Lang, it could well be that he could become a good ragtime pianist. The music is written out. He has the technique. He would have to capture the style. That is believable, but Lang Lang as a first-class improvising jazz pianist, playing with Joe Lovano isn’t. Jazz improvisation is simply too far afield from the Lang Lang brand.
So–this ends our mini-series on brands. The lessons learned here should be to maintain the core of your brand, and keep it at a high level. It is easy to become a “Jack of Nothing,” when you stretch too far to master it all. But that won’t happen if you always maintain quality, grow slowly, diversify, hire the best to teach you what you don’t know, be flexible and know your competition. We’ll talk about these in other blogs.