Týr might never become as popular as Metallica or Slayer. Not even Amon Amarth – arguably the most popular band among any of the ‘underground metal scenes’ – is likely to sell generic merchandise at your local supermarket. Should that be their (and our) measure of success? Týr is the biggest band from the Faroese Islands. That’s something! What if you’re similarly successful in your career? That’s also something! Let’s not compare our careers to The Beatles.
It would be crazy for Týr to compare themselves to The Beatles.
Yet we compare ourselves to the most successful people in our careers all the time! Maybe those career successes are more attainable? When I was in college, the CCIE network certification was all the rage. After achieving nearly the impossible, certifying would also come with the promise that companies would hunt for you! No more pesky job hunting, life-challenging interviews, and a life of security! That time, 15 years ago, came and went. Now, qualified individuals with CCIE certifications are saturating the market. While receiving that certification will certainly help you get work today, it’s no longer special.
Just like how The Beatles are having their records shattered.
The Beatles maintained a record “for 54 years” of having 6 songs appear simultaneously in the Billboard Top 20. Post Malone recently shattered that record with 18 songs! There is certainly the allure within our careers to kill our idols and take their trophies. If we operate with some respect, shouldn’t we try to become as successful as we can? If we didn’t, where would we be? We wouldn’t be treading any ground! We’d fear treading on someone’s toes! Let’s take it back to Týr. If they’re currently the biggest band from the Faroese Islands, what band or musician held that title before them?
As much as we don’t like to admit it, or take it for granted, businesses like Tutl are springboards for our careers. Without every company I’ve worked for, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Just like without Tutl, Týr wouldn’t be where they are today. I saw Týr open for Children of Bodom in 2014. They probably received that opportunity through a combination of internal factors – their own hard work, self-confidence, and belief in their work – and external factors – signing to Tutl and later signing to Metal Blade Records – and touring enough for a larger band to give them a chance as an opener.
Years later, they could headline their own tour.
They did draw a large audience of dedicated fans. We knew the songs and lyrics. Is that a proper measurement of success? If not, how large of a venue must they sell out before they’re considered successful? Would success mean being able to buy their merchandise at the local supermarket along with your groceries? If so, that honor could only be reserved for maybe 30 bands worldwide, along with a rotating cast of some 200 musicians that might appear on the Billboard Top 100, along with the hottest Top 10 albums of this week.
That measurement of success wouldn’t work for us!
Why, then, do we apply that to other careers? Maybe it’s because we don’t know the intricacies of other careers? Within my industry, I know on average how much each job title earns per year, along with their level of responsibilities, so I can gauge the success of individuals on realistic and attainable factors. If I study this, pass this certification, send out enough applications, and bend reality to my will during interviews, I, too, can achieve a certain level of success. That’s probably the same for your industry as well. The rules of our careers are firmly established and readily available online.
There isn’t a Glassdoor for bands and performance venues.
We just see the most successful performers and then everyone else. Between anecdotal and measurable information, we can infer the success of certain bands. If a band constantly sells out larger local venues, they might be more successful than bands that perhaps break even in sketchy venues on the edge of town. Even that is but one measurement for success: financial. What if larger bands need more money to break even? Their take home earnings would probably be smaller than bands that can do a majority of their management, setups, teardowns, advertising, and marketing by themselves.
We can make some broad assumptions.
I hadn’t heard of any of Týr’s opening bands before the show. Orphaned Land and Ghost Ship Octavius were the most well-received by the audience. Aeternam most fit the traditional metal band template, hitting all the clichés you’d expect from any metal band, to decent effect. Blood & Thunder were better than the last time I saw them, if only because their guitarist focused on stylish effects different than the norm. With four years of practice, any of these bands could be poised to headline their own tour. For a brief review: their current merit wouldn’t encourage me to invest time to see just any of them live.
That said, all four opening bands received an opportunity from Týr.
Each band’s relative success could be equivalent to The Beatles.
If the Faroese Islands have a reasonable economy, members of Týr might not need to earn as much money to live comfortably there compared to say Singapore. If the other bands, similarly, wouldn’t require as much to live comfortably or even luxuriously, wouldn’t that be successful? That’s where we must define our own levels of success within our own careers. If your success is measured by selling merchandise in a local supermarket, you would advertise yourself to wider markets, and would angle your works differently, than just touring every few years to perform in front of dedicated fanbases.
Is your success measured by your bank account, personal autonomy, or myriad other factors? Define your specific career focus.
Once defined, you can move with the confidence to succeed!
|Quotes:  “Post Malone Breaks Record For Most Simultaneous Top 20 Hot 100 Hits, Besting The Beatles & J. Cole,” Billboard.
Sources: My professional and personal experiences.
Inspirations: Honestly, writing concert reviews take too much time for their overall impact. I find it more useful overall to apply a factset of a band’s career to our own careers, even if it’s untraditional, weird, and probably awkward.
Related: Other Career/Confidence essays.