At over 32 million units sold, Michael Jackson’s Thriller is by far the most successful recording in history. I just want that to sink in; after 35 years, no other record has sold more than this instant classic. It is the epitome of recorded music success, but at what point do we determine that it was a successful venture or not? We are talking about the critically acclaimed work, that millions of people around the world still listen to. This is the same record that catapulted Michael Jackson in to pop music royalty. When was this work a success?
Quincy Jones, the producer of Thriller, began his first meeting with his production team with 10 ground-shaking words, “Ok guys; we’re here to save the recorded music industry.” Not one note had been played or sang. No takes had been recorded. No track list, and Quincy has the audacity to suggest that their work is going to be the biggest, bestest (I know it’s not a word, but just go with it) musical work the world has ever seen. 8 weeks later, they had done what they had set out to do.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller is a bonafide classic. Every track is a chart topping hit single, that still gets major radio airplay, and even still gets the party started. My teenage children all have this record in their playlists … THAT’S how good it is. Not only are these great songs, but it’s masterful recording. The sonics of Thriller are so meticulous that from concert hall speakers down to a walkman, nothing is lost. So my argument is that this record was a success, as soon as they finished it.
In our capitalistic culture, we tend to measure success by the trappings of sales and acclaim. We put the measuring stick into the hands of public response, totally negating our work itself. Thriller is not the greatest album of all time, because it sold over 32 million copies. It had to be great even before anyone heard it. It had to meet the audacious expectation of a perfectionist producer, and the grandiose standard of a master musician. Their work had to withstand the pressures of the record company and the urgency of the fans, so it had to be a success, even before any discs were pressed.
Here’s my point: don’t wait for other people to determine whether or not you are a success. With whatever you do, it’s your work, so the final say is yours. YOU determine YOUR success. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious, don’t shy away from the hard work, don’t give up along the way, and your work will be a success. Show up every time with the intention of giving it your best, and let the work stand on it’s own. People will respond. I’m not promising critical acclaim, or overwhelming popularity, but if you set out to create your best work, and THAT’S what you produce, then you are already a success.
© 2017 Derek J. Murphy Enterprises, and I AM KINGDOM Publishing, All Rights Reserved.
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“Thriller” Produced by Quincy Jones and Micheal Jackson. Performed by Micheal Jackson (featuring one duet, with Paul McCartney). Released 1982.