I know that I’ve written about Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ before, but, I can’t find the post with a search of our Dailies sites – apparently we’re nearing 700 daily tips over the last year!

If you haven’t read the book….you need to.

The basic premise is that ‘genius’ comes from hard work and application to perfecting your art and this generally takes about 10,000 hours.

Two stories that I saw over the weekend really brought this home to me.

First, on Hypebot, there’s the story of Portugal. The Man.

The piece is about how they had a five year plan and a DIY approach to building their own success. It’s also about how their fanbase saved them from a disaster, but that’s not the bit that’s inspiring!

We made a plan; we talked about a solid 5-year commitment.  That commitment had a structure.  We would release new music every 8-14 months.  We would tour virtually non-stop (more than 800 shows to date).  We would create and own as many masters as possible.  We would reinvest all of our money into the band.  The band would take care of everyone’s needs (living expenses, health care, equipment, etc).  We would document as much as possible on video and audio.  We would generate all of our own art.  We would cultivate our fanbase by developing a relationship with them by treating them like peers and always trying to give them more as often as possible. We held true to the concept of 10,000 hours, though Gladwell had not yet written his book.  We knew that it would take time to be a great live band, and the band knew they wanted to progress in their songwriting. They knew they needed to get a few more albums under their belt before they could make the right record.

Read the whole thing here. It’s a very, very fine plan and one that I would encourage any band to apply.

Then there’s this from one of the founders of Twisted Sister, Jay Jay French – which was in @Lefsetz’s email roundup.

I have a record of every night and the amount of performances Twisted sister has played since the first one on March 20th 1973 up to the present.

Here are some statistics regarding our years learning our craft in the bars and nightclubs all of which were within a 50 mile radius of Manhattan between March 1973 and December 1982 when we signed with Atlantic Records that I think your readers would find interesting. It speaks directly to the 10,000 theory.

We averaged 250 nights a year for this 10 year span. Also remember that as a “show band’ we did full costume changes for every performance.

We spent the first year 1973 playing 5 40 minute shows per night night

from1974-1976 we played 4 45 minute shows a night

From 1977-1980 we played 3 1 hour shows per night

From 1981 to the end of 1982 we played 2 75 minute shows per night

What this means is that we played an average of 3 hours per night x 250 nights per year x 10 years ( About 7,500 hours of live performance)

Add to that the 250 hours per year of rehearsals and studio time recording demos for record labels and you have 10,000 hours…………..


We are now headlining more festivals in more countries (33 and counting) and getting paid more money then ever.

What 10,000 hours does is make you an iceberg meaning that what you see on the surface is the astounding end product. beneath the surface lies 90% of ones experience.

That is our business model, It’s called hard work. not that the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame would ever recognize the blood, sweat and tears that we put in.

We really did embody all that is too patronizingly called the “American Work ethic”.

It’s just something that people should know.

Just let that sink in.

So, you have two artists from different eras that have both built long-term sustainable careers – meaning that they get to do this for life.


It doesn’t matter if you want to be resolutely DIY or whether ultimately you want to do whatever a record deal is today or might be in 5 years time, because these days you can develop in public with your fanbase growing slowly all the time. Take three or four albums to do it and get better all the time.

It’s the way I’d do it!