This past January I got to go see my musical hero Billy Joel in concert in Tampa. I didn’t paint my chest or anything, but I was about as excited as a 13 year-old-girl at a 1999 Backstreet Boys concert. He played for about two hours and most of the songs were the bigger hits that you could find on tons of playlists. He also did a few lesser-known songs.
One of my favorite songs he’s ever written is, “Sleeping with the Television On” off of the Glass Houses album. I think it’s so catchy and well written, but for some reason, no one really knows it. Until recently, I’d never been able to find a video of him playing it live or anyone even covering it on YouTube.
Well, he must have known I was there that night because he decided to play it. He said, “We’re going to do an obscure song that you may have never heard. They can’t all be hits.” Well the opening riff started, and I literally screamed in my seat and had the entire section near me turn around and look at me. I apologized, but not really. I love that song.
“They can’t all be hits.” I don’t know if Billy realized how true his off the cuff comment actually was.
I think whenever we create something it’s hard not to take it personal. If it’s something we’ve produced, we likely believe in it and have put a piece (or many pieces) of ourselves into it. It takes a lot of guts to put it out there for the world to see, and it can be difficult when our hard work doesn’t get the fanfare, or even just mere acknowledgement, we believe it deserves.
They can’t all be hits.
I’d be willing to bet 99.9% of the people reading this post right now can sing along to at least a few Billy Joel songs, but you probably haven’t heard of “Sleeping with the Television On” until now. Does that mean he’s failed as an artist? Does that mean his millions of record sales and tons of awards don’t mean anything?
Of course not. It just means that not everything he produced went straight to the top of the charts. And that’s ok. Not everything you produce will get 20,000 likes on Facebook or endless retweets. Heck, the way it seems to work out a lot of times is that the creation you least expect to do anything will become your most popular.
Don’t let other people’s praise be what drives you to create. If it is, you will never create something out of your own convictions. You will be a people-pleaser, and you will probably suck at it, too.
Everything we produce/write/sing/develop may not be well received by the masses, but you never know how much some guy up in the 82nd row could be loving it.