4 September 2012

Go the whole hog

I've noticed a bit of a trend over the past couple of years, of bands playing a lot of shows, building a following, releasing an album (all normal so far, right), then disappearing from view - either splitting up or just reducing the momentum. It's something that I can't understand, and somehow it bugs me a bit - although I am easily bugged.

To me an album is like a business card, or an ad for a band. It sells the ideas of your band, promotes your sound, and hopefully encourages people to support the band. It should serve to get people buying more of the band's music, more people turning out to shows and so on.

But if a band puts out an album, then fails to promote it, and stops playing, they lose that opportunity to best utilise the album. It may get people interested in the band and the sound, but then what? Where do they go from there? Unless the band had a pretty strong/cult-like following to begin with, then people are bound to lose interest. They can't see the band live, they're not going to have an opportunity to support the band in the future, so they're likely to move on to a band thy can have that relationship with.

That's assuming people even get to hear the album in the first place. If there's no band anymore, then there is likely to be no promotion of the album, except to the hardcore fans who already support the band, and little chance of spreading the word.

So what's the point? Well, the album does serve as a memento of the band's time together. For some people that's good enough - they may have seen the band play a number of times, enjoyed the shows, and just want something to remember the band by. That doesn't necessarily translate to an album they'll keep listening to forever, but at least it'll get some plays.

For the band it's a chance to capture what they were doing, particularly if they've been playing together for a long time. Sure, it's an expensive way to do it, but for some bands it's going to be satisfying to see their work recorded and packaged up professionally. Most musicians can't play professionally on a full-time basis, so releasing one album may be the peak of their musical careers.

Personally, I'd like to see bands release albums and then spend some time supporting that album. Often I discover a band through getting sent a copy of their CD to review, I get excited about it, then find out the band is no longer playing together. As a music fan that's disappointing - it can be difficult to find new music to follow, and to find out that "new" band you've just got into will never release anything new, or you'll never get a chance to see them live, can be a let down.

What do you think? Should bands be looking at album releases as the end point, or using them earlier on to promote the band?

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