The Importance Of Longevity & Artist Development In Music

Exploring the idea of Longevity and Artist Development in our current landscape of Music.

August 19, 2019 Elle Evans

A problem the music industry faces, especially with certain artists/musicians is the constant battle with longevity and having the correct artist development. Having or wanting a career within music isn’t something you can take for granted – the business and industry is constantly evolving and in some ways can be very temperamental. The way the digital age moves, you can be ‘popular’ – but in the blink of an eye you can be forgotten about. We have now reached a landscape within music where ‘one-hit wonders’ are becoming more and more popular but also demanded. With new artist’s entering the scene at any given point, it is now commonly found that longevity is something a lot of them lack and only last on the scene for a short period of time or as long as that specific sound lasts. 

The way the digital age moves, you can be ‘popular’ – but in the blink of an eye you can be forgotten about

In order to understand the fundamentals of longevity, we first need to state what this means within music. In simple terms – it is having a long sustainable career. So this means keeping and growing a fanbase that will continue to listen to your music, buy tickets to see you live and generally support the moves that you make. Having a large fanbase will somewhat guarantee to an extent that your career within music will stay afloat for a longer period of time. Which in time will honour you with longevity. There are no set rules to longevity, more of a mix of various objectives. Good music, an appealing image, strong branding, admirable writing and staying current amongst other factors.

I think this is a conversation that should be taking place more often. A lot of artists that are new to scene or are thrown into ‘fame’ from becoming viral don’t always have the best artist development behind them. Yes, you can make a good song but you can’t work a crowd. In fact, standing in the middle of the stage occasionally throwing your arm around in the air believe it or not isn’t always going to work. I have been to too many shows in which the artist has absolutely no clue how to work or hype an audience up and it’s so devastating. Why is this? Because they lack artist development. They aren’t shown or taught these very basics i.e. moving from one side of the stage to the other. Now of course, this does depend on the song. For example, Jorja Smith singing ‘Don’t Watch Me Cry’.. it wouldn’t be right for Jorja to be bouncing from either side of the stage for what’s a very touching and moving song. 

However, there are still many artists and MC’s that have remained current and are still getting booked i.e. Skepta, D Double E, Wiley, Giggs and more. Why? Because they are pioneers. And what do pioneers do? They create something new. There are many artists that bring a new sound to the table, they bring something more that will excel their career. Octavian for example, his sound isn’t ‘commercial’. As an artist he explores the art and stands out from the crowd. He isn’t afraid to test what’s considered the ‘norm’ or ‘mainstream’. M Huncho, the pioneer behind the trap wave sound, setting himself apart from the rest of the U.K scene. Which has not only excelled his career but also the genre itself. Dave’s lyrical ability, intelligence and wisdom from such a young age arguably made his career. A lot of aspiring artists look to Dave lyrically and righteously so with his recent No.1 album Psychodrama. All of these artists have a different element that makes them stand out from the rest of the U.K. scene. 

There are hundreds of rappers trying to make it in the scene but some of which tend to mimic the sound of artists that have already been made. It’s all well and good having that one hit with a good melody, catchy hook and a hard beat but when you get picked up by a label and are made to create a project and all of the songs sound the same… that’s when supporters start to question your musical ability and versatility. These artists tend to struggle with breaking away from the sound that made them and sooner or later have to realise that that particular sound isn’t going to fund their career forever. This is when the idea of longevity and artist development really come into play. 

All of these artists have a different element that makes them stand out from the rest of the U.K. scene

Unfortunately for most artists, being signed to a music label it’s commonly found that to them you are just a number on a sheet. So, as an aspiring artist it’s important to really analyse the basic fundamentals of longevity and artist development, especially if this is a career you want to last in.

Another factor in staying current and gaining longevity lyes within reinvention. The skill of being able to reinvent yourself and create something completely new can really work in your favour and at times can almost ‘re-birth’ your identity to a completely different level. For example, many artists turn down different career fields. Fashion plays hand-in-hand with Music because it’s a part of the culture, therefore you see artists opening up and designing a clothing brand. Skepta is a prime example of this with MAINS, he doesn’t limit himself to one particular field, he is constantly evolving and innovating something new. The same with Drake, he has a record label, a clothing brand, he created the OVO Festival and he’s now looking down the field of film and directing etc. So maybe comparing yourself to someone like Drake with his power is slightly biting the bullet. But, in terms of business, staying current and gaining longevity he has mastered the art. He’s proven himself musically with versatility, his discography covers the test of time and now he’s slowly reinventing himself by covering various other fields.

There are too many good artists going to waste far too soon. Is there something more that artists can do? Does it come back to Record Labels not paying enough attention to these artists? Or have we reached a place in music in particular with the digital age where musicians in general won’t last as long?