• Charlie Batten

Music’s Catch-22

As most fans of a musical artist will tell you, the best music they produce is often from the very first album and even EP’s before that. This music is often fresh, outspoken and unadulterated which grabs listeners by their ears and causes them to fall in love. No one ever says this about the second album do they?

The biggest problem that musicians face is replicating the success of the first album with their second. The production of a first album is often a more creatively fueled venture, with artists often using songs written from when they first picked up a guitar or played the piano to songs written maybe a month before the album’s release.

With the second album, the toughest challenge an artist faces is expectation. The expectation of fans who want to be as excited and as amazed as before, the expectation of publishers who now view the artist as a commodity that has to make them cash and if they won’t, they’ll simply cut them to get a more effective money making machine and the expectation of the artist himself who wants to outdo his previous work.

This leads to a decision to be made, a musical catch-22. An artist can either reproduce the same music, which they know is a success with both the fans and the record labels or, they can diversify. A band can simply change in order to make music that resonates with a new audience.

These different routes can be witnessed in a variety of bands with varying levels of success. Catfish and the Bottlemen have kept a signature style throughout their three albums, all receiving similar levels of critical reception and almost most importantly, keeping a consistent fan base pleased by giving them the music they want.

The problem this creates for many artists, however, is that it causes them to peak in popularity. After two albums musicians find it very difficult to find new listeners especially if their music stays the same. So what’s the alternative?

The most popular decision a band will take is to diversify. A prime example of this is The 1975 who have three different sounding albums which have all caused the band to grow to even greater levels of success. Each have been able to tap into new, bigger groups of music fans which have resulted in the band becoming one of, if not the biggest band in the world right now.

A huge problem with this is that it alienates early fans who have “been there from the beginning”. These are the fans who are viewed as the most important, as without them no band could be in the position they are now whether they’ve just signed a record deal or have just released volume 7 of their best hits. These fans can often feel betrayed if the artist they’ve supported changes so much that the music is almost unrecognisable.

This ultimately leads to a musician having to ask themselves what do they care about most, satisfying their fans by giving them the music they want by staying the same or do they change in order to reach new levels of success while attempting keep their original sound which can often be lost in the journey?

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