Speculating on Success—Go New York Go!

With the New York Knicks heating up in the playoffs, I thought I'd share a story about doing things on spec.

Doing it on spec means creating something without a guarantee of payment in the hopes that the client will like it and hire you.

It's a risk-reward proposition that can open doors and launch careers, but it also comes with the possibility of investing time and resources without any compensation—zero!

Okay, let me set the scene.

It's the early 90s, and I'm trying to eke out a career as a jingle writer in New York City. I live in a 400-square-foot apartment under the 59th Street Bridge, paying $350 monthly to sleep in a crawl space.

Luckily for me, I'd secured the current month's rent and a few nights at the bar by a gig for In the Paint Clothing. The company was owned by Nancy Grunfeld, wife of then-Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld.

And in the conference room I played the jingle I did for them; it was all smiles. Nancy slid the $500 check across the conference room table, and then I pitched her on the idea of creating a song for the Knicks.

She seemed interested, well, at least interested enough to give it an honest listen. That was all I needed.

Without any assurance of a deal, I recorded a demo in my closet-turned-studio in my tiny apartment. I presented it to the Knicks via Nancy, who, after just one listen, decided to buy the song outright for $4,000. I then reworked the song into what became the iconic "Go, New York, Go" anthem.

The $4,000 was a lifeline for me, covering a year's worth of rent in my cramped apartment. However, the costs of producing the song ate into my profits. Every time the Knicks requested an edit, such as when a player was traded, it cost me $500. I was learning the ropes of the business on the fly.

Despite the challenges, my risk paid off in a big way. The Knicks played "Go, New York, Go" after the All-Star Game, shot a video for it, and the song took off. It received radio airplay and became a beloved anthem for Knicks fans. Remarkably, the song is still being played 32 years later.

Looking back, I’d have paid the Knicks for that opportunity. The exposure and credibility I gained from having my song associated with the team were invaluable for my career. Although I don't receive royalties today, the doors that opened as a result of it were life-changing.

A song recorded in a closet became a sports anthem that has stood the test of time. It led me to start a company called Alphabet City, which later sold for my first million-dollar exit and then landed me on a private jet, which became the genesis for starting Marquis Jet – all because I was willing to do it on spec.

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