It’s an age old question that every artist seems to have a different answer to. Some bands release an album, then follow it up with radio silence for five years, whilst others seem to be releasing new music constantly. In a recent video, The Music Career Killer, I said that as a band or songwriter, writing one song per week is actually not all that much. This was not well received! A lot of people thought this claim was a little ridiculous. So, as a disclaimer, I am not saying that you should be releasing a fully written, recorded and produced song once a week – that is, although not impossible, pretty unrealistic. The point I was getting at, is that it’s completely possible to write 52 (or more!) songs per year, and to record and release many of those.
But how often should you be releasing this new music?
A figure that crops up a lot is 1 song per month. A lot of people will feel comfortable with that figure, because it equates to about one album a year. The question is, how many songs are you writing before you whittle it down to the final 12?
Let me tell you a story about a band called The Kooks, whom many of you will have heard of. Before they found success with Inside In/ Inside Out in the mid-2000s, they were students at BIMM, and the writing process for that album involved them locking themselves in a room day after day for an entire Summer. They didn’t record anything, just spent whole days writing. Which meant that by the time they did record, they had a huge number of songs from which to choose the final 14 that made it onto the album. So imagine the number of songs they wrote which will never see the light of day!
But does that model still work in this day and age? What does (or should) releasing music look like in 2019? We’re consuming more than ever, faster than ever – and releasing a song doesn’t necessarily mean it’s professionally recorded, produced and finished. If a recording of a song is available – no matter how low quality – it’s out there, whether you want it to be or not.
So, we’re now entering the murky waters of the quality vs. quantity debate. Should you be releasing everything you write, or waiting until you can choose just the very best songs? The honest answer is that it’s a judgement call – you have to weigh up what you want, and what your audience wants, to figure out how much of what you write should end up out in the world. Bear in mind, though, that we’re living in a different world from 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. Maybe Metallica can still live off the hits they made back in the day, but in order to build a fan base now, you need a different strategy. Rather than making something, releasing it, and then telling the story, why can’t you take people on the journey with you and tell the story as it happens?
So, there’s no clear cut answer – and at the end of the day you have to do what works for you as a band or artist – but I believe that we need to fundamentally rethink the idea of ‘releasing music’ and what it actually means in 2019, so you’re not hiding away music that your audience wants to hear in the interest of a release model that just isn’t relevant anymore.