Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How frequently should musicians release albums?

For musical artists that began their careers in the 1960s or 1970s or early 1980s, the usual routine was to release one or two albums a year for several years. This required a ton of work, which meant that either the albums consisted of a bunch of fluff, or the artists ended up getting burned out. For example, after several years of this treadmill routine, Elton John suffered a drug overdose, and subsequently cut his schedule down to a single album a year.

And it wasn't just Elton John that cut back. In many cases, what would eventually happen is that the artists would reach a level of success that allowed them to take more time off between albums. Thus you have bands like the Rolling Stones or Depeche Mode that only release albums every few years, assuming that the Rolling Stones even release albums any more.

So the grueling album release schedule isn't seen much any more. But, as the Guardian notes, there are still some artists who don't spend several years between albums:

In June, the Mars Volta are to release a new album, Octahedron. If you include 2005's live album Scabdates, this will be their sixth LP in as many years – pretty productive compared with most bands. But it's nothing compared with band member Omar Rodiguez-Lopez's side projects. In the last 12 months he appears to have released a whopping seven solo or collaborative albums. I say "appears" because at this rate it's hard to keep count....

And I don't even know where to begin with Sun Ra, a man whose output is so dauntingly prestigious (90+ albums, plus hundreds of singles) that I've been pretty much scared off. Any recommendations as to where to start are welcome. And I might give Slim Whitman's 50 albums of yodelling a miss too, if you don't mind.

And that's just a few of the artists from present and past that were named. Go here to see the rest.

Now I don't know most of the artists named, but I have a good feel for Slim Whitman and Elvis Presley, and both of them continued to put out good music throughout their careers. Perhaps there's a difference in style between "Mystery Train" and "Burning Love," but both songs are good in their own way.

But there are other variables present. Even if an artist wants to release massive amounts of material, the record company might not fund it. Or perhaps the indie artist is too busy doing things like working at a job to put everything down for posterity.

But the mega-releasers are interesting, as long as they don't drive themselves crazy with all the output.
blog comments powered by Disqus