Is The Test Of A Truly Great Band Their Second Album? 
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Friday, 18 October 2002

Music industry executives have a saying that you have your entire life to write your first album and 9 months to write your second one. Talk about pressure for a young new act. Over night you are a star. All of a sudden people are taking your band seriously at your label. More and more people are starting to show up at your live shows. Radio starts to play your hit songs. Endorsements, agents, groupies… Life gets complicated quickly for newly popular band.

Having a hit on your first record is tantamount to winning the lottery but as they say on those lottery commercials – people do win. Perhaps the true test of a great artist or band is how they do on their second record? Listen to the musical development from Led Zeppelin 1 to Led Zeppelin 2. They were released less that one year apart. So much for them being a flop as the critics predicted. Jimi Hendrix pulled off the same feat at the same time in history. Seeing double and talking jive thanks to multiple hits of acid, he was able to write and record Axis Bold As Love to follow up the ground breaking Are You Experienced? In the 1970’s Van Halen I, written by a bunch of high school students from Pasadena, sent every guitarist and drummer in America to the local music store for more lessons. Van Halen II, an album released about a year later was also loaded with hits that still live in heavy rotation in classic formats around the country.

The issue today is that a consolidated music industry run more by bankers and MBAs than entrepreneurs and creatives, the lure of quickly creating "the next Britney or ‘N Sync" is too compelling to resist. The concept of artist development is seemingly a lost art form at many of the major labels. In the old days, bands with potential or doing something new musically, were cut more slack. Big name label execs were more involved in the development of artists and careers even if they were on the fast track. And the record labels were rewarded dearly for their loyalties. It was ultimately the pressure to produce more hit bands to keep stock prices high that robbed the industry of the so much of the compelling content that we enjoyed in decades past.

Look at second albums from acts like Hootie and the Blowfish, Alanis Morrisette and The Spice Girls and you start to see what is wrong with music today. More attention needs to be paid to developing artists and bands who can ultimately be creatively important and musically stand up to the test of time.

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