I haven’t written a band advice piece here for a minute – so here goes nothing. One thing that I’ve noticed a lot of bands have trouble with lately is the sophomore slump. The sophomore slump in music though is a little different than a sophomore slump in sports. Where in sports it happens in y’know, your sophomore year, in music the sophomore slump happens after your bands first big album. It’s easy to see why this happens. You’ve grinded it out for months, years even and you’ve put out a great album – you’ve made it. You don’t need to worry about the next album right? You have everything in the can, life worked itself out and you got your much deserved reward for spending a ridiculous chunk of your life working on the band that your parents said would never work out. Unfortunately – it might actually be the sophomore album that requires the most work.
See – laying down a groundwork isn’t worth anything if you don’t capitalize on it. It’s great to have a bunch of contacts at blogs and stuff – but don’t expect them to write about your next album just because it’s you. The brutal truth is that bloggers in particular are overwhelmed and in such high demand that it’s frankly unrealistic for them to just know about your new stuff coming out. You need to take advantage of your groundwork and then push even further. You can’t just assume it will do the work for you. Your job is easier in some ways, however that doesn’t mean that there is less work. You’ve accomplished the hardest step, you’ve made people care once, getting them to care again is far easier. Now you need them to act on the fact that they care – this can be the tricky part. Otherwise you just find yourself back at square one – in fact one might argue that it could be even worse. The old axiom about the higher they rise the further they fall is just as true in the music industry.
The issue is now that people care they are expecting you to act on it. They are expecting you to take things to a whole new level and become lords of this world. If you fail to really deliver with the album after the one which makes people care then suddenly you are, in a word, screwed. You become a band who was a flash in the pan and who don’t have the potential to push beyond all that you could have done. It becomes hard for people to want to care about you because you failed to live up to the initial promise. You set up an expectation, and then you dropped the ball. People are weird, and they expect to see a constant upwards trajectory from any band, not a series of rises and dips which would mark a much more realistic view of the music industry. If you fade out for an album it becomes even harder to come back since you’ve already let people down, and considering the length of the album cycle and the perpetual turmoil in music it’s easy to lose track of your contacts and by the time you are ready to return, many of them might no longer be in the industry.
So how do you make sure that your sophomore album is the next logical step in your career and that you don’t disappear from view? It’s tricky to be sure – but it can be done, countless bands do it – that’s why you know and care about them. The first thing to remember is that it needs to be just like with the album that got big – you need to make sure that your album is everywhere – but to be truly successful you need it to be even more present than the first record. You’re probably going to need to shell out more money – but that’s okay because odds are you will be making more. You’re probably going to need to spend even more hours hunched at the computer taking care of stuff – but that’s okay because you’re probably going to get more tours out of this. It’s going to be more work – but it’s a question of capitalizing on everything that you have done up until this point and everything that can potentially revolutionize your career in the long run.
I know that sounds like a harsh reality, but realize that it will be a lot easier this time around. Though you do have to hit up more people and spend more money you’ve already created interest and you are already able to create something greater. You know that people care so getting them to respond shouldn’t be quite as bad. Obviously you will still be largely ignored and forgotten – that’s just how this goes after all. People need to realize that the music world is extremely competitive even for those who have figured out all the essential steps to start making a little bit of money. The music industry isn’t going to be an easy time – no matter what level you’re at. The basic strategy is just level up on everything you did on the previous record and realize that even then, maybe it truly was just a flash in the pan meant for that one moment in time.
I don’t mean to sound like a nihilist. I do genuinely believe that you can make a ton of money on this music thing and I do genuinely believe that with a little work you can start to move towards a better future for you and your band. The second album is the moment where you get a chance to prove yourself – just as the third is the one where you demonstrate your longevity. Obviously musically it needs to hold up – but the whole campaign around it is what’s going to make sure that people remember it and help you to build a tomorrow that not only you can love but that which will remind us why we got emotionally and financially involved in your band in the first place.