There is something I don't understand. Why does an artist start to experience decline? Decline can be identified a few different ways. Album sales used to be an indicator of this, but now it's more a marker of a different trend. Often it is radio play. The band releases a new song, but radio doesn't pick it up, or it's not requested much. The problem might show up with the tour schedule. They're not selling out anymore, or booking smaller venues. Sometimes it comes down to buzz, which can't be quantified, but the overall hype or conversation surrounding some new work just isn't there.
In my experience, decline and demise don't always correlate to effort, influence, or artistic integrity. Let's say an artist gains my attention or admiration. That doesn't usually happen for me upon their first achieving popularity. I'm usually late to the table, reluctant to jump on any bandwagon. I start to follow them later, and maybe start to buy their music. And by that point they aren't charting much, maybe not at all. I'm trying to figure this out, and it makes me mad. Sometimes that fifth or sixth album displays some of their finest work to date - in my humble opinion, of course - and yet only the loyal fans are paying attention.
So here are my top ten theories:
- Conspiração. Of course. Someone somewhere is pulling the strings and derailing a career that should be thriving. All that fake news!
- evolução. They were good, but someone better comes along, to be followed by someone even better after that. Survival of the fittest, baby.
- Fame favors youth. Longevity in the music scene has a direct relationship with age. Maybe modelling and music share this same fate.
- The artist gets lazy, loses inspiration, falls for formula. Hey, stamina isn't easy. The enthusiasm slips away, and the fanfare along with it.
- Creativity is a zero-sum game. Each artist has a limited pool of creativity. Each new song, each new album, uses it up. Depending on the original size of the pie, all the pieces might be gone.
- They are dismissed by the critics. The somewhat subjective review by the music critics eats away at an otherwise substantive new release, and the lemmings follow suit.
- Self-destruction. Even if it isn't a crash'n'burn, something else relationally, economically, or chemically is going on and sucking the life out of follow-up material.
- Market saturation. There are a lot of great musicians out there, but only so many consumers to eat it up, only so many available radio-play minutes. It will go to some, and not others.
- Music consumers like novelty. Listeners come with varying degrees of musical appreciation, not to mention attention spans. "What?!! This new album still sounds like the same band!"
- The music isn't cross-generational. The genesis of musical ideas comes from a particular cultural context. The canvas has its greatest power speaking to those from a similar context. Fifteen years later, the new listeners are not struck the same way.
What do you think? Does any of this explain why 25 years into a career a band can't have their best-selling album? Why the aging crowd wants to hear the "classics?" Do you have theory of your own? Please share it with us all.