I’m currently reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers: The Story of Success. The book tries to explain how incredibly successful people came to be so successful. One of the key features of the book is that it tries to dispel some of the myths surrounding successful people.
Gladwell explains that very successful people don’t benefit as much from innate ability as much as they do from something which sociologists refer to as accumulative advantage. This is a kind of life-long build up of experience and practice which enables people to perform more efficiently than others at a certain task.
One of the examples used to illustrate this is the rock band The Beatles who are widely considered to be one of the greatest musical acts of all time. Gladwell discusses how in 1960 the band were offered to perform in Hamburg in current day Germany. The band played a ridiculous number of shows here, and not just any shows, very very long ones.
The band played in a very seedy area of Hamburg full of brothels and strip clubs which were open until all hours of the night. This meant they ended up playing 8 hour gigs instead of the 1 hour gigs like they did back home in Liverpool. During a year and a half period the band played over 270 gigs. Each member of the band has said that this really helped develop their skills.
What’s more is that they performed for years after this as well even further improving their skills. What’s funny about The Beatles is that this period of their career isn’t often noted when talking about their success in a chronological sense.
The Beatles released their first full album, Please Please Me, in 1963 and the start date of Beatlemania is generally considered to have taken place in 1964, the year they played on the Ed Sullivan show. During this period the band were kind of considered an overnight success because of the manic nature of their rise to fame. But the fact is that by the time the band were playing on the Ed Sullivan show, the supposed “start of their career”, they had already played more gigs than most other bands will ever play in their entire career.
The excessive amount of practice undertaken by the band in Hamburg helped contribute to what Gladwell refers to as the 10,000 hour rule. This is basically a rule which states that to get to a level of mastery at any subject you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice. If you are interested in keeping up with more analysis of the Irish music industry, please give Music Economics a like on Facebook.