I must say I usually find articles about the music industry to be tedious. So enjoy me commenting on the music industry as a young fellow living in it.
The music business is a tough mistress as most will tell you. If you manage to get ahead and make a successful career for yourself, you’ve beaten the odds. All good things must come to an end however and what has been interesting for me to observe is how people manage the tail end of their careers.
Most of those familiar with Australian music, one of the most popular, iconic Australian bands called it quits in 2010, Powderfinger. It was quite well known frontman Bernard Fanning was the primary writer in the group, and prior to the band’s breakup in 2010 he had already released his first solo record, Tea and Sympathy in 2005 during Powderfinger’s hiatus between Vulture Street (2003) and Dream Days at the Hotel Existence (2007). For a while the signs were there that they were about to finish their career, as a group at least. So Golden Rule (2009) came and went, along with the subsequent tour and final show at the Brisbane River Stage on the 13th of November 2010. Where are they now you ask? Well Bernard Fanning is enjoying the fruits of a successful solo career, as expected. Guitarist and singer Darren Middleton has also been enjoying a solo career, guitarist Ian Haug went on to join the existing band, The Church, drummer Jon Coghill went on to become a journalist for ABC, and bass guitarist John Collins went on to found one of Brisbane’s finest music venues “The Triffid”, along with Scott Hutchinson of Hutchinson Builders. Many feel as though Powderfinger’s disbandment was premature and fans are aching for a reunion.
Next I’ll talk to you about one of the bands that has influenced me the most, Pink Floyd. When Pink Floyd became a “spent force”, the two frontmen Roger Waters and David Gilmour went on to pursue their own solo careers, but each in different ways. Gilmour continued with writing original music with On an Island (2006) and Rattle that Lock (2015). He is quite obviously not in a rush, though the time between records may have been a symptom of his sadness towards the late Richard Wright. On the other hand Roger Waters’ solo career has gone a different way, his 2005 opera Ça Ira was not well received, and not particularly well noticed (I actually didn’t know about this until I looked it up and I’m a die hard Pink Floyd fan) His 2017 record has yet to be released but my money is on it being one long political rant. Both musicians enjoy big turn outs at their live shows, however Roger’s seems to be more of a rehash of existing Pink Floyd material. He toured The Dark Side of the Moon in 2006 and The Wall (again) in 2011. Now I’m not complaining, I did actually see The Wall live in 2012 and it was good. You’ll be beginning to see a difference here however, Gilmour’s career is in writing and touring new original blues rock and jazz music with Pink Floyd classics mixed in. Waters on the other hands seems more content rehashing his older works. In essence Waters has become the Wall live.
Now why am I telling you this? Well I believe there’s two ways for a musician can manage the ‘tail end’ of their career, and at the same time continue to contribute to music. In Powderfinger we have two members enjoying solo careers, target demographic being fans of Powderinger. In Pink Floyd we have two solo careers, but one significantly different to the other. One has become more of a novelty act, and the other an original act that doesn’t try to appeal the younger crowd. I think it should be obvious by now that I favour Gilmour’s choice. He knows his main career is over and knows who his audience is, he is perfectly happy writing and playing music, probably until the day he dies. Or as I’ve come to say lately “The music for the sake of music, a musician’s musician”. One doesn’t have to look to far to see those who are trying desperately to stay relevant in the industry versus those who know their time in the sun is over. If I’m ever to see success in this industry I’d like to go out like Gilmour.
Food for thought.