When is a band/artist past their sell-by date?

Anyone who has seen a performance by a band that’s been around for at least 10 years or so has witnessed the following – one of the members says something along the lines of “this next one is off our new album” and half the audience either sits down or heads for the beer lines. Once in awhile, the crowd will become openly hostile and start booing any new material (this happened to Genesis during their Duke tour).

So when does this transformation take place? At what point in a band’s career do fans stop being receptive to new stuff? Is there anything an artist can do to prevent this? I’ve seen Rush a ton of times over the last 17 years and they seem to do a pretty good job of it, mostly because they consistently feature new material in their set lists. But during the last show I saw, they played about half a dozen songs from Snakes & Arrows and all but a few of them sucked the energy right out of the place.

At a certain point, it seems that bands stop touring to support new albums, and instead release albums to promote upcoming tours. I’ve heard that the last Rolling Stones album wasn’t that bad, but what’s the purpose anymore? Are the Stones going to pick up new fans at this point? (I’m certainly not suggesting they should stop releasing new music)

Perhaps in rare cases a so-called legacy act can get away with performing more than one or two new songs (Neil Young can, but even he catches flak from fans), but that’s probably it. It’s really unfortunate too, because while a lot of longtime fans seem to not mind hearing the same songs over and over, I am sure there are just as many like me who love to hear new stuff – or at least old stuff that hasn’t been played to death.

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1 Comment

  1. Pearl Jam is one of the most interesting bands to look at for this. They’ve now been around for over a decade and half, and continue to put out new material every couple years or so. And a good portion of their fan base wants to hear the new stuff more than the old because they’ve heard all of that before.

    They definitely had a lull, I’d say around 2000, where it seemed like they were slowing down and people weren’t really interested in Binaural when it came out. But checking out the forums during the last tour, I realized that I was one of the older fans of the group. They’ve actually got a whole new fanbase that has formed on top of the older one.

    In general, I think the biggest indicator is time between albums. Or, at least, time between notable albums. If you go 6 or 7 years between even being noticed, most people are going to want to hear the old stuff. Even 80s bands that put out solid “reunion material” (like Duran Duran or Eurythmics) will be tolerated for only a couple new songs before people would get really antsy for the old stuff.

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