The music industry is constantly changing, and in an era where fan-artist relationships are closer than ever, you have to ask whether they are healthy for either party. Artists now have instant, and not necessarily positive, feedback on everything they tweet, and their locations are constantly monitored. It could drive anyone insane, seen, for instance, in Justin Bieber canceling his meet-and-greets and no longer taking photos with fans.
While this is an example of the most extreme consequences of technology on fan-artist relationships, it illustrates the constant demand put on artists by their fans. I have witnessed a mob of teenage girls run after a car carrying Harry Styles, and it is a disturbing sight. I do not know if I could handle the constant attention and scrutiny that accompanies being an artist in 2016.
While there are many layers to fan-artist relationships, those within the music industry are often magnified due to increasing prevalence of social media. Before the age of Twitter and digital releases, there was not as large a hype when a singer released an album. Fans had no way to know when an artist was in the studio and there was no Instagram to give us constant updates. Now, these changes have resulted in a greater demand for artists to produce more and more music.
Frank Ocean released his debut album ,“Channel Ocean,” in 2012, and after that nobody heard from him. In contrast to other artists, Ocean does not rely on Instagram and Twitter to give updates to his fans, but does remain active online through bizarre Tumblr posts. After almost four years of no word from Ocean about a forthcoming album or tour, many fans were upset. Ocean eventually released an album in late August and, while there was hype surrounding it, much of it was focused on funny tweets rather than the artistry itself.
Typically, a successful artist in the industry will release a new album every one to two years. One Direction, for instance, churned out a yearly album for five years to stay relevant and successful. However, other artists such as Ocean, Lorde and Sky Ferreira depart from the norm and focus more on the music rather than commercial success.
Lorde, who hasn’t released an album since her debut, “Pure Heroine,” three years ago, has been criticized for not keeping up with her fanbase’s demands. On an Instagram picture, someone commented, “Do you think we will ever get another album or should we give up on you as an artist?” Lorde replied, “Give up on me if you want to! I’m an artist, I write a record when I have enough special stories to tell, and it’s all me, every melody every lyric, not some team who just start the machine up every eighteen months like clockwork.”
Similarly, Sky Ferreira put out a statement detailing why she had not released her promised album. She said, “I refuse to put out something that isn’t honest. It’s not something that I can force out. If I was to do it any sooner I either would have been compromising myself [or] anyone listening. I would have had to put out music that wasn’t true or a message I would not want to put out into the universe. As personal as my music is…I get the rare opportunity to have people listen & connect to it. I personally think with that comes a responsibility of making something that’s still true to me but still can somehow make someone feel better or less lonely. I can’t do that lying through my teeth.”
You can tell that these artists truly care about the music they produce. They don’t just have a team of writers and producers that do everything for them but rather compile works that detail personal life events. Personally, I know that I would rather have music that means something rather than the typical Top 40 pop.
Like any other fan, I am always eager for my favorite artists to release new music. However, fans must understand that they are people too, and that they may need to take time for themselves. My favorite artist Marina and the Diamonds frequently departs from social media for months, and while I get concerned that she may never return, I have grown to understand that not everyone can survive in the industry, and sometimes people need a break. It is up to the fans to respect artists and the time they need to produce the music that we love.