Can a Band Overcome Bad Early Albums?
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
I'm prepping for the release of my an album, and I'm looking to get the word out about it. This is my third album and I'm extremely proud of the writing and production value. It's a nice progression from my second album (which I'm also very proud, but sounds very "recorded in my bedroom.") My first album, however, sounds very much like the "first try" that it was. I still perform a handful songs off it at shows, and it definitely has its moments, but the tracks feel very incomplete and my vocal takes leave much to be desired. If I were evaluating an unknown artist and the first song I heard was one off that album, I'd probably dismiss myself as someone who's got a long way to go before he was worth my attention. I'm concerned that as I promote my new album and seek to book bigger gigs, the amateurish nature of that first album will be held against me if they find it first on Spotify or Soundcloud (obviously I'm trying to steer them towards my latest and greatest, but I don't want to lose out if they don't cooperate.) I still plan on selling the CD at shows, but should I pull it from the web when I kick off my new album release? Or am I being too paranoid?
It's not so much that you are paranoid as you are overthinking it. At present, you have 1000 fans on your official Facebook page--congrats--of which about 15 are regularly active, liking all of the awfully earnest selfies, portraits, pictures of your promo mailing and the video of you playing Christmas songs or your John Mayer-esque outdoor rendition of "Pale Blue Eyes" in tribute to Lou Reed (R.I.P)--which is to say you are lost up your own ass, son.
It's very self-involved and myopic and unless someone is as into your music as you are it's not terribly engaging. You are obviously putting a lot of hard work into what you are doing. Hopefully the promo you are putting out into the world will reciprocate some attention your way, bring in the masses. It might not. It sounds like you are preparing for this release to really make it happen. And in the process, getting ahead of yourself about what's the right first impression, what keeps people digging into an artists catalog. While I think it's best to just stand behind your work, as uneven as it may be, if you have an album so shitty that you think it will turn people off completely, then nix it. The people who are are already your fans probably know it's shitty. But then again, maybe what you think is shitty is what other people love because it's charming. Let them decide.
Put your best foot forward, but, really, enough of this hand wringing. Don't be sentimental--no one's feelings will be hurt just because time has rolled on and they did not get famous from playing banjo on what is essentially your bedroom demo.
Good luck with your album,