May 7th, 2013
Saddle Creek recently received notice from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) that the Bright Eyes album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning has been certified Gold, meaning it has sold more than 500,000 copies. It’s a first for the band, a first for Saddle Creek, and a measurable milestone of sorts.
With this news we are now eligible to purchase expensive trophies (I believe they call them “Plaques”) that we can hang up around our homes and offices as a sign of our “success.”
But more importantly, it signifies something bigger. It reminds us that music can make a huge impact on people, on communities, on cities, and on the world at large. Conor Oberst, and the Bright Eyes moniker, was always something special to me. I grew up in Omaha and watched Conor play his first show at Kilgore’s (R.I.P.) coffee house at the age of 13. Those moments, those friendships, and those experiences ultimately drove us to create Saddle Creek and devote the next twenty years of our lives to the idea that this music mattered. It was important to us and we thought it might be important to other people as well.
For the label, the success of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning created new opportunities. We got to release more records from more of our friends and we got to create new relationships with amazing artists from places outside of Omaha. At the same time, it allowed us to give back to the community of Omaha in ways I would never have expected. Perhaps most significantly through opening the music venue Slowdown as part of a larger re-development project in North Downtown Omaha.
I’m happy to know that so many others around the world found something in this album that spoke to them in the same way that it spoke to us. For some reason this album rose up and caught people’s attention and continues to do so every week when more and more people discover Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning for the first time.
The number of “units” sold is of very little interest to me… but what I do find fascinating is how, when, and why certain records connect with people and why others don’t. There are some great records out there that will never find a sizable audience and, quite frankly, there are some insignificant pieces of music that will find far larger audiences than this album ever will.
Measuring the value of art based on sales figures is a ridiculous idea; and clearly there is no direct correlation between album sales and quality. But every once in a while we get reminded of why we do what we do; that our efforts aren’t completely futile; and that music, as cliché as it may sound, can change the world. This feels like that type of moment.
Thanks for sharing it with us.