There is a quote about Lou Reed attributed to Brian Eno. Not only is it's origin difficult to pin down; the quote has evolved over time: "The first Velvet Underground record may have only sold 1,000 copies, but every person who bought it started a band." In recent years, the number of records sold and bands started grew to 30,000. Whatever the numbers, the underlying message is the same.
Despite having sold only a moderate amount of records, Lou Reed had influence; and his influence assured his lasting success. From Bowie to REM and far beyond, Lou Reed showed the way for hundreds of bands who collectively sold millions of records.
Too many in the music industry are chasing numbers over quality - sales rather than influence.
Tip of the hat to Seth Godin.