Did you have a successful year?

I’ve been seeing a lot of mentions of success lately, and I always find it interesting. After all, how does anyone measure success? Is my definition anywhere near your definition? As a performer, was my year successful, how about as a songwriter? A recording artist? A parent, spouse, employee or anything else?

If you gauge success by money, I’m better off than last year, which isn’t saying much. It’s improvement, but I’ve got a long way to go before I’m comfortable, or free to do what I want, so was it a success?

As a songwriter, nobody famous has recorded and released my music, and I’m not raking in royalties, but at the same time, I’ve written far more songs this year, and the quality of my lyrics has improved each year. Was that a success?

As a recording artist, I’m not going to even pretend success, as I rarely have the time to do more than demo scratch tracks, but even in that, you could judge it as successful, as I recorded a ton of acoustic one-take demos, and received a lot of feedback on the bulk of them.

As a performer, I’ve shared the stage with new artists, played a lot of solo shows, a lot of two-man shows. I’ve played new venues, been welcomed back to some old favorites, and stepped out of my comfort zone, trying to get into some music festivals. Was I successful?

It all depends, and it’s all relative. I didn’t set records with ticket sales, cd sales, or put on spectacles like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Keith Urban, or any number of other artists, but I’ve been bouncing between the top 2 places for local Americana artists for months, and steadily gaining ground on a national level. When I play out, I usually receive a lot of positive feedback, and spend time talking with new fans on breaks and after shows. I hear about how my lyrics have impacted peoples lives, and how they enjoyed my music.

I’m slowly widening my net, searching out new venues, farther afield, and working on a cd for physical and digital release. There’s still a market for my music, and my family not only supports my love of music, but often joins me on stage. I have enough to keep the lights on, even if the bills are piled high, and I’ve been able to spend time with my kids and my wife, and be involved with their school life.

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If I was “fortunate enough” to have the success of a top 40 international artist, then I’d have given up a lot of the other benefits that I do enjoy. If I was “fortunate enough” to have success of more hours at a day job, with more money, then I’d have more stability, but no time for music or family.

Hearing the name, “Stuart Benbow”, almost anyone you meet is going to say “who?”, and that’s fine with me. I’m fine improving my writing, improving my peforming, and making new fans at my own pace. I don’t envy the artists that have “made it”. Hiding in their homes to avoid the spotlight, never able to take their kids to the park, never able to do anything fun without planning it months in advance doesn’t sound like success to me. It sounds more like a prison sentence.

To each their own, so don’t worry about how others view success, just keep on doing what you do best, and focus on what brings you pleasure. Life isn’t a contest, it’s an experience, so live it.

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