The music industry is a fickle one. With the constant progression of technology (as well as bandwidth available at any and every place) physical media is all but dead. It’s expensive to make, expensive to buy, and it takes up tons of real-world space, especially if you’re a collector. It’s hard enough to get someone to buy a whole album these days, when the .99 single is king.
So why change your style?
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re… I don’t know, Linkin Park. You release an album called Hybrid Theory, and it makes you a lot of money. Many radio singles are produced from this album, and in general, it’s a massive success. Next step? You release an album called Meteora, which is essentially the same album that you’ve already released. People love it; they buy it and support it. There are more singles that get radio play. Ignoring that weird-ass self-indulgent remix album that you’re allowed at this point, what’s your next move? Make part three, right? Nope. You release some God-awful thing called Minutes to Midnight, completely ditching the sound that got you where you are. Surely by this point you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh crap, self… we really need to go back to what we know. We were good at it and people enjoyed it!”. Right? Nope again. Instead, you release A Thousand Suns, which is, unbelievably, even worse than its predecessor. So now, for your next release, you tout a “return to your roots” type of affair, Living Things, which is what people wanted in the first place… and you manage to turn out a mediocre record at best.
At this point, it’s too late. The ship has sailed. While you were lost in the search for “artistic growth”, the one thing that made you you was lost… and so was your audience.
On the other side of things, you’ve got bands like Bad Religion and Pennywise (both punk bands) that’ve been putting out the same record for years now (and in the case of Bad Religion, decades). You know what to expect from these bands, and that isn’t boring. It’s comforting. One of the things that people hate the most is change. One of the things that people get the most enjoyment from is music. If you’re making music that people love, why mess that up? Another good example is The Birthday Massacre. I love them, and I’ve bought every record they’ve put out. They have a very distinct sound… if you’ve heard them before, you can listen to 10 seconds of a song and pretty much know it’s them. They have a new record releasing in October, and I’m confident that I know what it’s going to sound like. Likewise, I’m confident that they’ll be receiving my money for their efforts.
As a consumer and a lover of music, the only thing that makes me feel worse than thinking about the current state of music is when a band that I love puts out a record I don’t recognize. It’s like you’ve bumped into a dear friend from a few years back, but they’ve changed into something completely different and… bad. Suddenly, you don’t want to be friends with them anymore, and honestly, you’re just a tad embarrassed that you were ever their friend to begin with.
I would ask this of all bands: don’t make us ashamed to have been your friends. We love you for who you are. To quote everyone’s yearbook, “Don’t ever change!”
- Linkin Park – Living Things (thenewreview.net)
- Bad Religion Head Back Into The Studio (preprod.cbslocal.com)