The whole nature of music has changed drastically in the last decade. One of the most frustrating aspects of change for avid music listeners has been how musicians have become so unproductive.
It is becoming increasingly common that your favourite artist releases an album and then you are forced to wait three years for them to release another. The New York indie-rock quartet Grizzly Bear have been active for twelve years yet they have only made four LPs. The Shins have only managed two albums since 2003. If we skip back to the sixties, look we see that the Beatles put out four records in the space of three years, here one of which was a double album. In the seventies, shop one could look forward to an annual release from David Bowie. You would have to dig very deep to find artists with such prolificacy today.
The average length of time between releases is widening all the time to the point where it feels like bands are on hiatuses. It’s not like the demand isn’t there; musicians will only have to scroll down from Youtube videos or type their band name into Twitter to see numerous fans pining for new material..
This lack of output has to be linked with the decline of album sales. In the US, only 3.97 million albums were sold in the final week of August, marking the lowest weekly total since they began tracking data. It is a reality that most musicians don’t make enough money through album sales and the incentive is no longer there to produce records at a fast rate.
Their main source of income now comes from touring. However, tours are generally concurrent with album releases so therefore they can be just as scarce.
A possible reason for the infrequent releases is the other ventures musicians take nowadays that are completely unrelated to making music. A glowing example of this is Jay Z who is a renowned businessman. The legendary rapper co-founded the clothing label Rocawear in 1995 and partly owns the NBA team, the New Jersey Jets amongst having partnerships with several companies. It appears that popular artists can remain in the limelight without making a great deal of music.
So what are the overarching effects of this trend on music? It means that in the future we will look back at the most popular acts of our time and find they have relatively thin discographies. The bigger their discography, the better the chance they will have leaving a great legacy for future generations.
Musicians seem to typically reach their creative peak when they are in their twenties yet they are hardly embracing this period if they are only putting out three or four albums. There is a vast degree of talent being wasted.
By Adam Bielenberg