The Measure of Success
I RECENTLY interviewed The National
at a Grammy event in San Francisco;
the evening focused on exploring
the songwriting process, but
eventually we got to talking about
defining success as artists.
The National are indie-rock
heroes, headlining major festivals
and opening for the likes of Paul
McCartney and the President. But
the band has paid their dues over
15 long years, releasing six albums,
building an intensely loyal fanbase,
and quietly earning acclaim while
watching peers like The Strokes and
Interpol shoot to stardom.
When I asked singer Matt
Berninger whether he viewed
the band’s success as critical or
commercial, the answer was
obvious: critical. But when asked
which was more important, he joked
that maybe commercial success
might have been the better option.
Which matters more to you,
praise or profits? Or do either matter? Your perspective likely
depends on where you are in your
We all aspire to make a living
doing what we love, and in an ideal
world, we would find fulfillment
in making art for ourselves first,
and that process would be the only
thing that matters. And some of us
are fortunate to be in that position.
Just remember that career
accomplishments and creative
accomplishments do not have
to be at odds with each other.