Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Success Is Relative

I've been thinking a lot about success lately. Mainly just the definition, and how it means different things to different people. I meet people everyday on tour who seems to think that Oh, Sleeper has "made it". I just laugh to myself, because I'm nearly 25 years old and sometimes I find it hard to do something as simple as pay for my cell phone. When I was learning how to play the guitar at 16, success in music meant "successfully writing a song" or "successfully playing a show where at least one person came to the show".  The longer that I do this and the older I get, I begin to realize that my concept of success has changed drastically.  Maybe that's a bad thing, or maybe that needs to happen in order to push myself to achieve future goals? I'm not really sure. 

At this point, I've realize that success has NOTHING to do with how talented you are, nor how hard you work. I play in a band with 4 of the most talented and hard working guys I've ever met in my entire life. They are my brothers. And my best friends. And I'm constantly seeing bands form and become "successful" literally over night. Not that these bands aren't talented or hard working, but it seems to be more of a fad than anything. I'm one of the most competitive people that I know, and I'm starting to realize that worrying over album sales and plays on MySpace only make me jaded and resentful towards music. I don't wanna become that guy, but with my personality it's nearly impossible. I'm a "numbers guy". I'm constantly trying to think of new ways to sell MORE merch, and to get MORE kids at our shows, and to sell MORE records, and to get MORE MySpace plays. But I'm afraid this is a battle that I can't win, because like I said before....none of those things are based on talent or work ethic. Which leaves me with the question, "WHAT and WHO determines those things?" 

I have so much respect for bands who can consistently draw large crowds of people all across the country. That is a very difficult thing for us to do. It seems to almost be effortless for some bands to sell out shows and to sell tons of CDs and merch. I don't believe that Oh, Sleeper is a trendy band, and we certainly aren't a MySpace hype band. We've literally had to work our ass off for every album sold and fan we've ever gotten, which rules. I think we also appreciate our fans more than most bands because of that. We have a very real and personal connection with our fans, and I wouldn't trade that for any amount of money in the world. It's just discouraging sometimes, because I've put my entire life on hold (family, friends, relationships, jobs, money, etc.) to play music for people, and sometimes we'll be driving in the van and look at each other and ask, "Are we forcing this?" 

A recent example....on 3 different occasions, we were booked a show in McAllen, Texas. The first two times, we weren't able to make it due to unforeseen circumstances that were out of our hands. We got tons of emails and messages asking us to PLEASE reschedule a McAllen show. So finally, this past week we make it to McAllen, Texas. It's a Saturday night, so we're all thinking it's going to be a great show. MAYBE 50 people paid that night, and we played for a hand full of awesome people in a room that holds 1,200 people. I'm not trying to sound ungrateful or downplay the people who DID come to the show, because I met a ton of great people that night who I will remember forever. But it blew my mind that we played a show on a Saturday night in the same state that we live in, and very few people even seemed to care. But it's not just McAllen. I'd say we get those same emails from places all across the country, and the same thing happens nearly everytime. I'm just confused, I guess. What are we doing wrong? What's the secret to drawing people to shows and selling records? That's obviously not all I care about, but it makes things tricky when you're nearly 25, living at your parents house, and simply trying to afford to live!

I apologize if it sounds like I'm complaining. This is why I made this blog, though. For the dudes in this band to spill their guts. And there mine are! All out in the open for everyone to see. I guess I said all of this to say, Success for me is being remembered for doing something great. If Oh, Sleeper is remembered in 10 years for changing someone's life, then please just disregard this entire post. And if you made it this far, thank you for reading my ramblings. :) You guys keep me afloat and I love you for that.

Lucas Starr


dustin said...

i definitely agree that if success was given to the bands that deserve it, oh, sleeper would be one of the most successful bands out there. i can appreciate that it must be hard to see bands get "big" when they obviously don't deserve it, and are in music for the completely wrong reasons in the first place.

i just hope that you don't ever let any of this discourage you from playing music because the music that you guys make is so important to me, and i'm glad you do it.

OH, SLEEPER said...

Thank you, Dustin. We will keep trucking as long as God allows us to. But if I'm ever a 30 year old dude in a metal band, just kindly tell me to give up the dream. :)
Lucas Starr

The Purging Apparatus said...

You guys are doing something that I see very few bands in the industry do, and that is create intentional personal relationships with everyone you come across at shows. You guys don't regard them as fans, but as friends. You are all down-to-earth, humble, hard working guys, and like it says in the Word, "You get what you put in". Success seems to be subjective in this case. Most bands take in account the numbers as how successful they are. You guys just take into account how many friendships you've established with the people who have come out to support your music, be it 50 or 1,000. For this, I am happy to support you guys in whatever you do. My hope and prayer is that I get a chance to personally kick it with you guys down here in Northern California sometime soon.


Anonymous said...

But do those large bands who consistently sell out shows change lives with their lyrics and music?

Because you do.

Your lyrics are a constant source of inspiration for me, and help give me a drive to fight and strive for what is good and right. Yours is an impact that is not in numbers and sales, but in souls and inspiration.

From this alone, you are more successful than those bands that can consistently pack the house. Also, this earns you fans that are loyal and devoted - the ones who WILL drive for hours to see a show, who wouldn't do it for other bands.

Anders said...

First of all i completely agree with what dustin said, if succes was given to bands that deserved it, you guys would be one of the most successful bands ever.
i cant say i totally understand and know how you feel cus i havent been there. i just want to let you know that you guys, your music and your lyrics are a such an inspiration here to a couple of guys in Denmark, europe. i love you guys and i hope that you wont be discouraged but keep doing what you guys do, cus you are successful! i love you! :)

Anonymous said...

You guys have really gotten me through some things and doubts that no other band did. I kept a hold of your lyrics close to me, and they helped guide me to where I am today.

It's interesting to see things on the OTHER side of life, because I'm just a fan. But I can understand why you question if you are forcing this and/or if it really means something.

And it means a lot to me that you guys keep going. You keep touring. You change lives. You encourage others. You keep hold of what you believe, and that's the coolest thing I have ever seen in such a long time.

Often times, bands get 'big' just because they know somebody. Not because of how hard they work, or how talented they are. And it frustrates me to no end to see bands blow off everything like it's nothing ... while other bands have to work extra hard to even come close to as far as they have gone.

If success was given to the band who deserved it (copying off of dustin, i know) then you guys would have so much of it hands down.

I don't understand the music industry today... But please continue to do what you're doing. Your music has inspired, encouraged and lifted me. And I thank you so much for that.

I'll see you guys in Atlanta.

Chaseums said...

Guys, you are going to be majorly successful in the way that people are moved by what you've done. The things you say, the way you've expressed your feelings on things, even the way that you have the stomach to openly discuss things like this with the people who love the music that you've created.

Just because the media hype bands get "successful" doesn't mean that they're amounting to anything.

What good is meaningless music? That's all most of it is, anyway.

I see bands like... Hinder, and Buckcherry (Just to name a couple of my most hated and most played on the radio bands here in Kentucky) make new music all the time, and all they ever talk about is getting drunk, or banging chicks, or stuff that like that means absolutely nothing to anyone. They're beating a dead horse. Even cavemen had sex. We don't need music about it xD

Oh, I have a question as well. You've changed the venue in Kentucky to Club Oasis, which is a dance club xD Would you happen to know what time and what the ticket pricing is? ^_^

Imma get muh dance on.

Lisa said...

I also agree with Dustin... you guys work hard enough to have more fans, but don't forget, all things work together for the good of those who love God ( Romans 8:28 ).

You guys are a huge source of spiritual inspiration to me. Your music is just as much worship as anything by Chris Tomlin or Hillsong ( not to knock them.). It inspires me to go deeper and seek God, to keep fighting the good fight against sin. I thank you guys for that - you rock.

I can't wait to see you guys at the Rams Head on November 11th - I'd love to get in the front and go crazy like I did at the last show you guys had in Maryland, but it being a Norma Jean show, I doubt I will... I'd like to keep all my bones intact. Haha.

But I will bring as many friends as I can, and I'll spread the word as best I can.

Love you guys, and praying for you!,


Jennifer said...

well, lucas, i think it's pretty evident that y'all have already changed peoples' lives. and because you caused that change, you guys will be remembered by those people. it's a chain reaction. so you should consider yourself successful. and as far as the fad bands go, yeah, they might be making money and getting popular for a couple of weeks but they're not meaningful to people, like you guys are. no one will remember them for their great music or their passion a few years down the road and they'll end up right where they started from. but you guys, like you said, have been working your asses off since you started and you've only been gaining momentum and i think that makes you more successful than you think. you guys are some of the most talented, incredible, genuinely nice people i've ever met. i appreciate what you guys do and the music you guys make more than y'all will probably ever realize, and i know for a fact that i'm not the only person that feels that way.

Jan Welmer said...

Hey guys,

I'm a fan who is interested in your music for 1.5 years by now, I also perform live, and with various succes over the past 2 years.
I've learned that beeing in the right time and place can make or break your night, no matter how hard you try.
I've seen you guys grow bigger and bigger and after reading ryan's post on how he performs for just 50 people where more promised to come I can only imagine how disappointed he, maybe the whole crew must have been.
But quit, is that a good option? As ryan said his life excists on playing live, and making music, I guess the whole band feels the same, it might just be a fase, you are growing bigger but it doens't comes in 2 or 3 years so it seems...
Oh, sleeper makes great music, technically but also for the ear and it makes a heart beat faster, loosing this drummer would be disaterous... I can only say please stay!
With kind regards John, from the Netherlands

Jon Davies said...

dear Lucas

don't worry your "success" will come in due time.

you guys are amazing and extremely talented at what you do.

you blew me away first time i seen you guys, because i had never heard any of your music and not much about you.

but at the underoath U.K show in Cardiff..... you totally showed me that you guys have what it takes to last.

it was your first time over here and you drew the crowd in straight away.

straight after you set i went and bought the C.D and T-shirt from your merch stall, which was rad because you were there and signed my record and had a real friendly chat with me.

how many of those "successful
" bands do know that take the time to speak to their fans? .....

you guys show real promise and are loyal to yourselves and your fans/friends, and that is a success in my eyes.

keep up the good work.


OH, SLEEPER said...

All of you guys rule. Thank you so much for your encouragement. :)

Josh said...

Unfortunately for me it seems that the scene that we play for (or used to play for) feels like it's slowly dying, or perhaps it was just a long-term trend and now the trend is finally changing. Back in the good ole Letter Twelve/Embodyment/Travail/Evelynn/etc etc days, shows were so much fun (not to say that the artists nowadays aren't amazing at all.. Oh, Sleeper puts on an incredible show and I'll always make an effort to come out!) And whether it was the whole 'Christianity united' at these shows, or the fact that we were much younger back then and that was all we knew, to me those were the good times. Today I look at the DFW scene and I get this strange, almost depressing feeling as though there were a void where the 'good times' used to be. Maybe it's the fact that I'm almost 23 years old and I feel obligated to get a 40 hour job, get married, start a family, retire, and die -- the whole growing up thing. I'm not entirely sure.

I look at my band Sinclaire and I think of the hours and hours I've spent writing each individual note, each individual phrase/melody/transition/solo and then finally putting it together to try to create a style of music I feel nobody has ever created, and I ask myself.. what was the point? Don't get me wrong, I love writing music and I will do it until I'm physically unable to write anymore, but I feel that my efforts in creating something entirely artistic were futile, because who am I actually inspiring and who actually gives a damn what I or the band play? We've had some great turn outs and some not-so-great turn outs for shows, but when I'm up on stage and ready to just explode with excitement because I’m about to show these people what Sinclaire is all about, I just look at the crowd of people I always ALWAYS ask myself.. who is actually here to see us? It’s almost disheartening to pour your heart and soul into something you feel is beautiful and reap absolutely nothing from it. I've come to the realization that I won't ever play ridiculously huge shows, and towards the last months of my dying hopes of ever attaining something great with this band I started to realize I can only play this music for the band and for myself. Maybe it's an act of selfishness on my part, I guess that's entirely debatable. Whether I continue my role in Sinclaire, or whether I drop the whole playing shows altogether, I will always continue to challenge myself with the complexity that is music. The more and more my life progresses, the more and more I realize that I’m a growing man and music can never be my full-time job.

Keep living the dream though. Oh, Sleeper, in my eyes is very successful. To me, the band’s successes are a group of guys able to see firsthand parts of this beautiful planet that many of us only dream of seeing, while being able to deliver a message of inspiration and hope to thousands of kids and adults on this planet. And whether or not yours and my definition of success is the same, 40 or so years from now you can look back on this very moment and think that all the years of hardships, life lessons, and ultimately music you guys did create did actually make a difference.

- Josh

PS: for anyone who wants to discuss.

Amanda said...

I agree with everyone else in saying that you guys are an amazing band and that your "success" is coming. You guys have made some powerful music that I know has challenged me spiritually, and for that I thank you. I feel like the church body needs to shake its apathy, and your music has helped do that for me. You guys and your music really are a blessing.

Unfortunately it seems that live shows are kind of lacking as far as draw is concerned. And I'll argue that where I live (Nashville, TN) is probably one of the worst cities to play. Bands that I think are insanely good will draw like 15 kids who stand in the back with their arms crossed the whole show. I wish I understood the mystery of what makes kids come to shows. I've talked to so many bands that say "We love Nashville, but it sucks playing there." And I don't blame them for feeling that way. I wish there was some way that I could change that situation.

Derek said...

i guess that success could be measured in records sold or hoodies at the merch booth.. but i guess it could also be measured as lives changed or a new perspective. i think its awesome that your band loves what you do, i know alot of bands, that used to love it.. fell into liking it, and now do it because its all they know. i think that if something happened that meant you guys couldn't play anymore, you would be happy it happened. live life with no regrets or second thought. no matter how cliche that sounds.

The Foreigner said...

I have to say: I love you guys. Such good music. I'm trying to spread the word here in Rochester, NY and i'll be going to the show in Syracuse, NY. I'm 20 and in a band "trying to make it" too. I see your talent and it makes me want to give up music - cause you guys are darn good. But, at the same time, it makes me want to be a better musician because you inspire me. I remember when some of you were in Terminal (at least I understand that some of you were) and I still admire that music. Thanks for playing and continuing to be a positive influence on my generation. I was reminded the other day that alot of bands are negatively affecting kids. They purport drugs, drinking, immorality, etc. while I see that you guys want to become a positive influence. I am stoked for your show this friday and would love to meet any of you there.

The Foreigner said...

hey oh sleeper dudes, commenting again! I saw you a few nights ago and you certainly impressed me. I just wanted to thank Lucas for hanging out at the merch table and having a good chat with me! (Lucas, if you read this - my name is alex) Solid set guys! and good job! I look forward to hearing more stuff from you guys and hopefully seeing you again soon. Oh and thanks to Lucas for giving me your original demo- yeah, it does sound a little more punk rock.

Nishant said...

The epitaph of Rumi,

"When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men."

Think of the number of people living away from their parents, and how they long to be with them. Living in your parents' house is nothing but a false condemnation from the invisible and blind hand of society. There is nothing wrong.

Music lives for a long time.

Look at all these people who have commented.

Their lives would not be the same without you. I think that you are successful.

Successful beyond measure.

May God Bless you.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Ditto what everyone said.

Just wanna add that, unless I'll have amnesia or any memory disorder, I'm pretty certain I will remember you not just in 10 years, but for the rest of my life. It maybe awkward to say this to one of the best (IMHO) metal bands, but the intense God-driven passion I see in your music is so evident and heartfelt it has brought me to tears. Yes, tears...amidst even the screams and brutal guitars. Sorry, haha, just being honest, you sure have made a mark and a legacy to leave behind in the future, at least for me, and for others I know. I think that alone makes you SUCCESSFUL.

I say these with all sincerity. Know you are all in my prayers.

Choco said...

All I can say is you all are blessed to this this, I believe Oh, Sleeper definetly has a true meaning and touches they're listeners from the heart. From a personal spot that we've been there b4. I honestly wish I could finally get a band together and I'm 25 and still trying lol.
My dad's in the military so growing up I was never able to find that group of people to make the music that boils in my bones. And whenever I met those people I had to move again.
Now I'm a photographer(the other thing I love doing) professional as I can be, Went to school and all and I feel the same way you described sometimes, I think times are just hard.
I think it's probably a test from God as well so that we may rely on him for everything and not do things thru our own strength. Life's a battle it'll never stop till it's over. My faith, the word and music like yours keeps me going.

awakethesleepers said...

reading the blog made me sad, it hurts to see my favorite band to feel this way. I mean you guys have changed my life with your lyrics, how you are as christians, how you are with your fans, ect. remember God wouldnt put you in a position you couldnt handle. Keep praying and dont give up. I honestly believe that if you keep doing what God has called you to do, you will be blessed. if not now definatly in the future. Might be in your next albulm, which i will pee my pants once you give the notice. hahaha

God Bless,

Cristiner???? said...

I've recently become a fan, my friend introduced me to your music just this past October and I've got to say, I was blown away (and it's pretty hard to impress me). Your music has such depth that it truly surprises me that the name 'Oh, Sleeper' isn't everywhere.

Success is relative, as you said. It's seen everywhere: the music industry, the corporate world, everywhere. But the passion you guys deliver is on a whole other level, and it is so evident in the music that you create. I say, don't worry about the numbers. There are those loyal fans who would follow you guys to the end of the world and back. :)

craig said...

I realize that this post is somewhat old, but I have been looking everywhere for a reason for the SLC show being canceled.

This post kinda brings me down because your whole CD is amazing beginning to end, I've been telling everyone to look you guys up cuz there's no way in hell anyone with good taste could not like you guys.

Due to the tone in the post, I wont beg for you guys to come to SLC because what if there are only 50 people, then I'll feel like a douche.

Don't give up, keep writing and coming up with new shit and you'll get your break.

xchristian777x said...

dont worry lucas, i thing there are succees in tactics, we need to be more know, Oh sleeper have the talent, is like some good product but people dont know still, Oh sleeper have fucking riff, breakdown and good quality sound, is like a apocaliptic metalcore.

oh sleeper need be more public, thats is all, is like you lucas have the key but you need the doors. some tactics of publicy can held, emo bands are popular by that, oh sleeper can be popular if a emo band do!!!!.

anyway i will speak bout you guys to others.

God Bless