Friday, 19 November 2010

The Return of Duffy

There’s nothing like opening your mouth to prove you’re a liar. As soon as I suggest that, let’s say, Duffy has vanished off the face of the earth, never to be seen again, then, blow me down, there she is, large as life on ‘Later with Jools Holland’, warbling a few new songs from her forthcoming album, ‘Endlessly’. In fact in the same show was The Ting Tings, also back after a period of nothingness, with their new single, ‘Hands’. You just can’t win.

But when you start thinking about it, this business of when and how to release product onto the market, is one steeped in difficulty. It seems to me that as an artist with a long term career, you are in constant danger of falling into one of two Deep Dark Wells.

Deep Dark Well One is labelled, ‘Not you again, can’t you just leave me alone? I’ve only just got used to your last album and can’t really find the cash just now’. Normally, I like to savour an album for a bit, especially if it is particularly good, and get to know every nuance and inflection. This generally takes a bit of time and the last thing you want is to find that yet another album is on the shelves begging for your attention. Record companies are particularly bad at pushing artists into seizing the moment and releasing a load of half-baked songs onto a public that are lapping up the current stuff. I know that the Beach Boys used to release about 4 LPs a year but frankly, I couldn’t cope with this.

Deep Dark Well Two is labelled, ‘Who? Where the hell have you been for the last 5/10/15 years? Sorry but I’ve moved on and have a huge roster of new artists to devote my limited time to’. This is always a bit sad, but go away and hide for long periods and you really can’t expect your public to be waiting around like a stood-up date for very long. Life’s too short and there is always another band to come along and fill your shoes. Unless you are a mega-star you really cannot get away with not producing anything for decades, can you Kate?

So what’s the solution? With the benefit of 40-odd years of buying and following bands, my considered opinion is that an album every eighteen months to two years is about the right balance and if an artist could see their way clear to releasing a new song, say as a download or EP in the middle of the fallow period just to say, ‘I’m still here’, that would be grand. This approach has several benefits. First, it allows the artist to write and refine some decent material rather than filling up with rejects from the previous effort and second, it gives the buyer a bit of a breather.

On this basis and assuming that new albums from Duffy and The Ting Tings will not be available until late 2010 or early 2011, they might just have left it a shade too long, methinks.


Zee said...

Wow, I never really thought about how difficult it must be to choose when to release your next album. It makes me think about how hard it must be for artists with a long term career. I think that those artists that have been in the music business for decades must be incredibly lucky. Think of Madonna, The Rolling Stones(they're releasing an album next year, can you believe it?!) and so on.

Duffy's got a beautiful voice however, so I hope her album does well.
Anyway, another great post :D

music obsessive said...

Thanks Zee. I suppose some really top bands have the luxury of setting their own agenda knowing we're all here champing at the bit. But you can never be too careful especially if you make everyone wait years and then release a load of c**p!

I hope Duffy does well too, but from what I've heard so far I'm a bit undecided. Oh well, time will tell.

Alan said...

"...the Beach Boys used to release about 4 LPs a year but frankly, I couldn’t cope with this."

Neither could the Beach Boys. A lot of those pre-Pet Sounds albums have some really dire filler on them in order to look like there were 12 'songs' on each LP.

I can't help but wonder what Brian Wilson could have achieved without the pressure from Capitol to keep producing more 'product'.

music obsessive said...

Alan - yes. It's a wonder that he had anything left in him after the early years. Shows real talent to come up with the sort of stuff that emerged in the mid to late 60s. All at a cost though.

YourZenMine said...

Hahahaha... As I was reading this post, I was thinking to myself "Kate, are you reading this?" and then you mention her as well. Great minds or what?

Anyway, I am of the same opinion as you. I really can't be bothered waiting around for my favourite artists to produce more work if they're going to take 5 or more years to do it. Do you hear me, Avalanches?

But at the same time, I do need breathing room between releases. I want to get to know the songs, remember my favourite lines etc. I think, these days, a good period is twelve to eighteen months between releases. It leaves enough of a gap between releases to tour, record and hopefully build up a level of excitement in punters interested in what a band does next.

Another good 'un, MO


music obsessive said...

YourZ - great minds indeed! I did have a few other examples but thought Ms Bush would be the most pertinent. Looking forward to her next offering in 2020.

Looks like the consensus is circa 18 months between albums. Seems reasonable to me.