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Updated: Jul 17, 2023

By Grant Collinsworth -07-July-2023


What is the Holy Trifecta?

We all have a pretty good idea of what the music entertainment industry's 'Holy Trifecta' should look like.

The Lure of the Carrot

At first glance...we see a carrot. It's the lure of commercial success. And we call it Wealth, Fame, and Glory. The holy trifecta used to be relegated almost exclusively to epic-shake-the-world, level 10/10 brilliant Songwriters.

"Everybody wants ta get inta da the act..."- Jimmy Durante -1924

Nowadays, the industry gives zero shits about holding to a Level 10 brilliance. And it seems that everybody’s' aunts; uncles; cousins; sons; daughters and all other manner of people (including myself) are taking a stab at the industry glamor. Most of us think success rests on the songwriting ...We have never been more mistaken.

As of late, the industry has become a shameless fling of spaghetti-noodle props and gimmicks; thrown against a wall to see if anything sticks. Underlying this chaos is the contrived and meticulously engineered plan to churn out fast money.

In a natural, unadulterated market; a big seller of an artist's truly delicious song would be quite the achievement. But how often does a delicious song emerge? In a contrived and artificially generated market; a less than delicious song can still produce a delicious paycheck. And so...labels produce 140+ BPM, 3-chord; deep-fried; flipped; baked; turned and served (face up) ... musical glops for your listening pleasure.

'Contrived' speaks to the relentless gatekeeping caused by market manipulation. It speaks of the creation of artificial 'barriers of entry' against artists, who seek grand exposure, but who, don’t fit the formula for fast money. The reality is that the music industry has become a 'good old boys' club, which monopolizes (Hence gate-keeps) the stratosphere, where the music traffic must first pass through, in order to reach the holy trifecta orbit.

Perpetual Dream for Sale

Gold Rush Prospectors

The Gold Rush of 1848 generated just over $1Billion dollars of wealth within a 3-year span. But collectively; the actual winners weren’t the prospectors. Instead; the actual winners were the vendors, who sold all the food, pans, drills, shovels, pickaxes, and associated services to the prospectors. They did so at exorbitant prices. Prospectors had been sold (and fell for) the dream of finding the 'mother lode' of gold. Possessing that gold would make them wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Far be it from the vendors to have ever interfered with that dream by disclosing the low probability of actual success in finding the mother lode.

Music Prospectors

In the 1950s; the new Gold Rush... was, for all intents and purposes; the Music industry.

The grind repeats. Once a again, the actual winners are the vendors, who are selling prospectors amps, speakers, instruments, accessories; recording and distribution services. They do so at exorbitant prices. The industry's prospectors are being sold the dream of reaching the holy trifecta orbit. Far be it from the vendors to ever interfere with that dream by disclosing the low probability of actual success in reaching the holy trifecta orbit.

When Will the Dream End?

The dream ends; when we stop falling for it and buying into it. We can only speculate that when Hell freezes over or when the FM/AM Itinerary can no longer draw another stitch of audience attention; and when the money completely stops coming in; only then will the industry switch gears and lay out a newly defined priesthood of music production.

We prospectors have been placed in limbo; Stuck with the current DIY digital platform services, along with continued corporate fleecing from distributors like CD-Baby Spotify and Distro-Kid (just to name a few).

Let me be clear... DIgital Platform hosts care as much about 'your' music efforts as the major labels (who keep rejecting your submissions) do. The difference is that a digital platform allows you to exist; solely as a brick in their wall of download-catalogs (which are presented to attract advertising exposure).

While you wait for trifecta orbit; your body of work is becoming tooled and used by modern digital vendors for their own interests and not for yours. In the off-chance that you submit a real gold-nugget of a song; they will happily feature attract more advertising exposure. They will milk that expose to the last drop and then feed you attractive but useless freebies to start another revenue-stream taproot.

To put this another way; you might fare better odds at finding true love in a Greyhound Bus station, than reaching trifecta orbit from a digital platform. To date; I know of no meaningful, world-changing, superstar artists born from a digital platform.

Marketer Scaffolding

Looking back; I suppose we could thank banal audiences, who for decades, were told what music they were allowed to like and dislike. Delicious and not so delicious songs were presented under the auspices of "art and trend'. Upon further examination, we can see the underlying scaffold of corporate song-smithing.

Since the 1950s, onward; audiences had blindly accepted and settled for corporate formulated song-gems. Apparently, the marketers got the targeting right. Seventy + years after the fact, those commercially packaged gems are STILL being broadcast; and still boasting a collection of subsequent Ad-revenue. Those artists are still collecting royalties. The rest of us have been owned for that long.

The older audiences have since spawned children, whose minds explode at the idea of paying for music. No longer does the marketing model invest its eggs into carefully crafted song singles and albums, per se. They have upped the game.

Enter the new corporate formula: Entice the kids to pay minimum subscription fees for whole music catalogs (comprised of many albums worth of music.) Now, a digital platform owner can sit back and collect 'ridonkulous' amounts of revenue streams; paid by advertisers, who are guaranteed exposure to millions of platform subscribers.

Each of Us Are Narcissists

Some of us hide it better than others. The big questions are: What angle does marketing hold over us...and did we bring this perverse industry scam onto ourselves?

Narcisuss into his own reflection

It’s a safe bet to say that most, if not all artists have been tempted by the carrot of the holy trifecta. In particular, because of the egos and vanities within us. We seem to crave adulation and we indulge ourselves in the fantasy of opulence.

What musicians don’t want a socio-economic leg-up on the people; who yak through a set and leave crappy tips? Are we suppressing a sense of anger or vengance (while we endure the pain of impoverishment as struggling artists)? Do we seek relief from the malnourished efficacy within ourselves? Are we convinced that the pain can be relieved with a boost of world acclaim toward our 'works'?

If the answers are yes ...Then we have allowed ourselves to become a guaranteed perpetuity of revenue-streams for the marketing vendors.

A New Priesthood Did Emerge

The new baby 'good old boy' club

Around the 1990s; a new music promotion strategy emerged and became vastly adopted by independent musicians. They knew and accepted early on, that they were not likely to reach holy trifecta orbit under conventional competition. So, instead, they redirected their focus toward narrower, marketable music niches.

It's no longer just Rock 'n Roll or Country or Jazz & Blues anymore. Songwriting has evolved into hybridization of cultural expression through sub-genres. These smaller niches have yielded profound results for specialty (or solopreneur) artists. (For example; Here is an exhaustive list of current Rock-Music niches)

Baby Clubs - Because Tolerance Might Be a Myth

The music-niche market strategy seems to be the perfect work- around against Major-Label competition. However, it has squarely tossed us into a new pit of multiple baby (good-old-boys clubs). This effectively counters any notion of world class singularity in the music industry.

The baby good-old-boy clubs are inherently subjecting artists to more sophisticated forms of discrimmination in the music industry; Indie labels don't have to gate-keep the stratosphere or concern themselves with trifecta orbit. They just have to guard their own sub-genre clubs. I am a firm believer that artists, who can write delicious songs anytime, anywhere can’t be constrained and locked down like that. (And after all, isn’t music supposed to be a unifier?)

My Anecdote about Sophisticated Discrimmination

I recently experienced a Baby Good-old -boy Club moment through a local videography team when I inquired about a video service for a song, which I was recording and producing. They told me they would review my link(s) and if I was a "good fit", they'd contact me.

I must say, in my entire professional music journey, I had never been placed under a 'good fit' microscope. I mean...I had a qualified song and was willing to pay for their video services. But it turns out I was not a good fit (I'm guessing it was age, and genre of my music). I never did hear back from them... Quite a shame, because that song: ("This House of Glass") went on to win 'Best Americana Song' in the 2022 New Mexico Music Awards. No telling how far the video could have taken that song (or the credit they would receive) if I had been a good fit...

Here are more salient and truthful examples of sophisticated discrimination from the Baby clubs; suggesting that tolerance might be a myth.

-"Hip-Hop is my jam, yo!" Said no 70-year-old white-banjo picker, ever.

- Try getting an R&B song reviewed by a Dream-Pop Blogger.

- Never show up at a Punk-Folk venue a MAGA red hat.

- "If I were a carpenter..." sang no Heavy Metalist, ever.

- Flying V guitar in a church band? Never!

- Lounge artist balladeers won’t share the stage with leather jacket rockers.

A Benefit of Niche Marketing (For Artists)

Niche Marketing attracts 'more' investors. (In Old school industry, investors came in limited supply). The trick is to find one who believes in your work and its impact on listeners. (Beware of the ones who only wish to 'diversify' their portfolios; being in it strictly for financial impression.

A seasoned investor, who understands and cares about your jam...will connect you with multiple networks of like-minded aficionados, who possess your musical tastes and who can offer support. To that end; You may find yourself subscribing to the Digital Platforms; despite the counter-intuitiveness it presents. You'd be signing up with the hope of catching the interest of investors, who are in fact, scouting the platforms.

A word of caution; Your exposure to them is usually contingent on whether you’ve paid enough premium subscription for each of the platforms you use. . (I tell you... those marketers excel at pinching crotch-hair)

A Final Thought

None of what this article has expressed; has even touched on what it would take if an artist decided to go for the holy trifecta orbit. In my next Blog article; I intend to raise those questions and offer a speculative glimpse of the industry demands on music artists, who wish to pursue the holy trifecta. - Grant Collinsworth; Curator for the BluePoetSouls Gallery.

Check out these local artists in the gallery's Album Stack



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Grant Collinsworth
Grant Collinsworth
Jul 29, 2023

Which platform pays artists the most? (Top # Highest Paying Platforms Overall)

  • Spotify – $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream.

  • Apple Music – $0.0063 to $0.0084 per stream.

  • Tidal – $0.0084 per stream.

  • Amazon Music Unlimited – $0.0084 per stream.

  • YouTube Music – $0.0084 per stream.

Nov 28, 2022


Austin Jimmy Murphy
Austin Jimmy Murphy
Jul 10, 2023

Nice article. When you think of all of the incredible talented artists in the world compared to those that get to experience the fame and the fortune, you are right, the odds are miniscule. How do we get one of our songs published? I really takes a lot of work. Much more than we have put into it. We record and record and record but we do not pursue the golden ring. We expect it to come to us. It don't (and I mean don't) work that way, louie.

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