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Why Do Most Bands Seem to Get Worse Over Time?

A few years ago, I was borderline obsessed with the Avett Brothers band. I loved their music, listened to to constantly, posted on their chat boards, and even went to a live show two days before a pretty big surgical event. This went on for a couple of years, but as the band produced new albums, my affinity for their music began to wane. Now, I hardly listen to the band at all; including earlier songs that I used to have on near repeat.

What Happened? Why Did My Favorite Band Become a Personal Afterthought?

When we fall in love with a band or an artist, we hope that they will continue to produce music that we love indefinitely. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and most bands do tend to get worse over time. This phenomenon can be frustrating and disappointing, but it is a natural part of the creative process.

Creative Momentum Fades

One reason why most bands get worse over time is that they struggle to maintain their creative momentum. When a band first starts out, they often have a clear vision for what they want to achieve and the sound they want to create. Often a band’s first album is often the culmination of 5 years or more of songwriting, performing the material live, and tweaking them. The first album then becomes a Greatest Hits of each band’s formative years on the road as they try to get that first record contract.

The first album is basically the Doors live,”

Ray Manzarek

However, as bands release more albums and go through the process of writing, recording, and touring, it can be difficult to sustain that level of inspiration and creativity. This can lead to a sense of creative exhaustion, where the band starts to rely on formulaic songwriting and falls back on familiar patterns.

Commercial Pressures

As bands become more successful and start to generate significant revenue, they may feel pressure to create music that is more accessible and mainstream. This can lead to a compromise in their artistic integrity and a watering down of their sound. In some cases, bands may even be encouraged by their record label or management to work with certain producers or songwriters in an effort to replicate their previous success.

For the Avett Brothers, the arrival of Rick Rubin was the end for me. I realize that their record sales surged after this, but for me, the special nature of the band was lost.

Artists are People and People are Not Static

In addition to these external factors, there are also internal dynamics within the band that can contribute to a decline in their creative output. As band members grow older, they may start to have different priorities and interests outside of music. They may also develop personal conflicts or creative differences that can make it difficult to work together effectively. This can result in a sense of creative stagnation, where the band is unable to evolve and develop its sound in new and interesting ways.

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

Frank Zappa

Think about your own experiences and how your perspectives have evolved over the decades. You are not the same person you were twenty years ago. For an artist, these evolution’s are manifested in the music. For the fan, perhaps what you loved as a teen now sounds unbearable.

Of course, it is important to remember that not all bands get worse over time. There are many examples of bands that have been able to maintain their creative energy and produce amazing music over the course of their careers. However, for the majority of bands, it is natural to experience a decline in the quality of their music as they navigate the challenges of creative sustainability, commercial pressures, and internal dynamics.

The reasons why most bands get worse over time are complex and multifaceted. While it can be disappointing for fans to see their favorite bands decline in quality, it is important to remember that this is a natural part of the creative process. As bands continue to evolve and develop their sound, they will inevitably experience ups and downs in terms of their music.

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