Last week I came across a quote that really hasn't left my thoughts for about a week now, "If you think that anyone cares what your music means to you, they don’t – they only care what your music means to them..." It's an interesting quote related to this small write-up from musician, director and industry insider Robin Davey. It got me thinking about the transition of ownership from an artist to the consumer and how it translates to them, not necessarily the way it was intended to be when handed down. You can read my thoughts here. Have you ever given up on a band because you didn't like the last album they put out in their catalog? How much do you think a band owes you - especially in expectations you want them to live up to? Who really owns the meaning of an album when its done - the artists or their fans?
I would only want a band or artist to make the music they want to make. If I don't like it, that's my loss I guess, but I would rather they put out a wildly different album that I hate than a mediocre rehash of a sound they don't care to play anymore.
When I was a bit younger I would stop listening to bands who changed their sounds, but now I'm actually okay with it. I don't mind if bands change a little, like Funeral For A Friend between Hours and Tales, as long as the quality remains the same.
If you like it, then cool. If you don't, then don't. Nobody cares if you want the band to return their older sound, that's old news. This is them now and that's how they are going to sound until they next change, if they change anymore at all. Hell, why am I saying change? It's more like an evolution. The band is maturing their sound, and in most cases, it's all for the best and becomes more likeable in the long run.
The minute a band starts feeling like they owe their fans a certain type of music it almost always comes across in the music. Say what you want about The Used, but they have consistently said that they want to make music that THEY'D want to listen to. I think that should be the approach.
Have you ever given up on a band because you didn't like the last album they put out in their catalog?
Not completely. I haven't liked the last MCS, Say Anything and fun album as much as these bands previous efforts. Having said that, I just saw Fun the other night for like the 5th time. I'd say the only thing this affects is my expectations for upcoming releases. And, really, all this may boil down to is a change in tastes. Say Anything and MCS are bands I started listened to 8, 9 years ago. Things change and I don't know how much of that is ME or the BAND.
How much do you think a band owes you - especially in expectations you want them to live up to?
Who really owns the meaning of an album when its done - the artists or their fans?
The band 100%.
I think that it's part of the artist's job to figure out how to best translate their vision to the listener. However, just like other art forms (paintings, poems, etc.), the audience should be able to observe and examine it with as much honesty as they can. For instance, if a band releases and album that I didn't quite expect on first listen, all subsequent listens are spent trying to figure out what the artist wanted for this album. Just because it didn't click at first, that doesn't mean I can't come to a realization about it eventually. Is that not art?
When I was younger I definitely hated it when bands would change their sound. Crimson used to be my least favorite Alkaline Trio records, but now it's one of their best in my opinion. I thought the new Four Year Strong album was terrible when I heard the singles put out before it was released, but if that's the record they wanted to make then I really can't complain (ISWSOF has since grown on me). I think artists should make the music they want to make. Whether that means putting out a record that sounds the same as your other records every few years, like Teenage Bottlerocket does or growing and changing with every release like Brand New has is completely up to the artist. The only thing that a band should worry about is making the music that they want to make, not what their fans want to hear. If you don't like their new record, that's fine. There are other people that will.
What I love about music, and any other art form really, is that it is always open to interpretation. It's subjective. There will always be fans who don't like an album and some that do, so why should the band not do what they want just to please some of their audience? If they're not playing music that they love because they want to please fans, it becomes fake and mass-produced.
As for ownership, I may be going off a different definition but I think that there is a mutual ownership between the artist and listener. The band makes music that has personal meaning and individual stories but once the listener connects to the song, it takes on a whole other context. A band or artist 's job is to share their experiences and opinions with their fans that they can relate to, learn from, or connect meaning with. They both have (almost) equal parts and own the song/album in equal ways.
Does it really matter? Of course, every one is going to have a different connection to a song or an album. Music, when analyzed lyrically, is a very relative experience. Sometimes, I enjoy hearing the motivations or experiences behind a song or album, but I like to keep my own interpretations in mind to make a much more personal connection with my musical choices.
On the other end, I don't ever think an artist owes anything to fans in terms of creating the music. If they are shaping their music to please the fans, it's not really art. Yes, the commercial aspect of music weighs heavy on artists from the label, fans, and even the artist themselves sometimes. However, an album shouldn't be written purely based on what will sell. I never truly set expectations for an artist's next album though. Obviously, I can make generalizations about it staying in line with their previous work, but it's not the end of the world if I don't end up liking it. It doesn't take away or ruin their previous work that I came to love. When it comes down to it, I'd rather have them continue put out new music that they want to make, rather than growing tired and fizzling out due to the external pressure from the fans, label, etc.