7/19/2010

An Open Question: Why So Long Between Albums?

A recurring topic that has once again has raised its pointy little head ‘round these parts is the length of time required for artists to release albums. Or more to the point, why it takes so long for them to do so these days.

It seems that, as the technology that makes it possible to record music and the methods of distribution become more widespread, the span between albums is quite pronounced, especially when compared to artists of the past.

Back in the day, because of how the business was run or whatever, artists released albums at a rapid pace. Just think: all of Jimi Hendrix's output was recorded between 1967-1970. Yup, three years. And in that same length of time—without touring, of course—The Beatles' discography, not counting Yellow Submarine, spans 5 studio albums from Sgt. Pepper's to Let it Be. (One of them a double album, even.) Hell, Cream released 4 studio albums in 15 months! (Yeah, there's some live tracks on there, but still...) In the three years it takes many contemporary artists to put together an album, artists of the past could build their legacies. What was going on? Pardon our ignorance, but we’re asking with all sincerity.

It wasn't just in the '60s and early-to mid '70s, though: The Police made 5 studio albums in the 5 years they were a recording act; Van Halen's "Diamond Dave era" consists of 6 albums in as many years. And while both of these acts toured their asses off, they were still able to release this much music anyway. How come?

Were they super prolific or are more current artists beholden to different circumstances? Is it a different mindset? Big money slowed them down? Has the music by major artists gone the focus group/production by committee route? Why does it take so long? Weezer released "The Green Album" and Maladroit within 364 days of each other and that was a bigger deal than the music itself.

Ideally, established artists need to continually put their work out there, as long as they believe in it. Let the chips fall where they may. If per chance it doesn't really pan out, you can always get back to work and resume where you left off. Artists need to be creating as steadily as possible. Simple as that. Perhaps marketing, or some variation thereof, has taken over a big chunk of the process. Or in certain instances, creatively speaking, the spark isn’t there. However, as much as we may not be thrilled to listen to another lukewarm release by anybody, we certainly don't advocate waiting for inspiration to strike and hoping it gives you your (next) masterpiece. That's just dangerous. What if that phenomenal work you waited to put out there turns out to be not that great AND is poorly received by the public? What does that do to an artist's confidence?

So, again, why does it take so long? Any ideas?

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