Why Aren’t Artists Releasing Studio Albums As Often Anymore?

Ever since I got into AC/DC, I’ve wondered what would’ve happened if the band released one more studio album with Malcolm Young, founding member and former rhythm guitarist, before he retired? Either between Stiff Upper Lip (2000) and Black Ice (2008), or Black Ice and Rock or Bust (2014)?

To be fair, AC/DC are a very busy band. From 2002 to 2008, they changed labels from Elektra Records to Sony Music, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, performed a few shows (including performances at Circus Krone in Munich and with the Rolling Stones at Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto), released a DVD titled Plug Me In (2007), and made their video game debut. Then, from 2008 to 2012, the band went on tour to promote Black Ice, released a soundtrack album for Iron Man 2 (2010), and released their third live album titled Live at River Plate (2012). 

I’ll cut them some slack. But unfortunately, the boys had no idea that the Black Ice tour would be Mal’s final tour. So, he never got to take his final bow and the fans never got to give him a proper goodbye. 

Not just AC/DC, though. Plenty of classic rock bands either haven’t been releasing new material or they’ve been releasing studio albums with huge gaps in-between: Kiss, Def Leppard, Metallica, Yes, Boston, Iron Maiden, and Journey. The latter’s last studio album was from 2011. I grew up with artists like One Direction, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber; they used to release studio albums every one to two years. That’s what I was familiar with. Now that I’m getting into these classic rock bands that have slowed down since their heyday, they’ve been testing my patience level. 

But, why have these artists been slowing down? Why is it taking these artists so long to release new studio albums? There are a few reasons that come to mind: it’s a lot of work making a studio album, personal conflicts between band members, perfectionism, album expenses, and lack of new ideas. But, there are two main reasons that stand out to me: artists are making more money going on tour and people aren’t buying physical albums anymore (due to streaming services). 

30 years ago, it was common for artists to make a record every year and go on tour to promote it. But unfortunately, times have shifted since then and album sales don’t pay the bills anymore. Pollstar, a live music publication, noted that the average concert ticket price among the top 100 touring acts in 2013 was $69.52 in North America, versus $40.74 in 2000, according to the Chicago Tribune. Everything is constantly changing, including the music industry, according to Sun Biz Weekly. For convenience, many listeners are downloading and streaming music, versus going out and purchasing albums, the article continues. Since artists don’t make much from streaming services, they have to rely on concert tickets and merchandise for income, Sun Biz Weekly goes on.

That explains why Walmart, Target, and Best Buy don’t sell any good CDs anymore; why buy a physical copy of the album, when you can listen to it on the go through your phone?

If artists were to go back into the studio, they would have to take time off from touring, their main source of income, and risk having a commercial flop. Meaning, there’s a chance that not many people will go out and buy the new studio album. Then, they have to go on tour and act like it never existed. For classic bands, it’s because listeners don’t want to give the new music a chance. More details are mentioned in this Sea of Tranquility video about legendary bands that still kick a**. 

Let’s not forget how messed up the touring life is: casual fans only want to hear the hits. So, that’s another reason why artists may be hesitant to release new material. Like, there’s no point in releasing new music if people only want to hear the same songs over and over again. Is that why Def Leppard has had the same setlist for the past 20 years?

Next up, we have streaming services. Sure, some people are buying physical album copies, thanks to the vinyl revival. But sadly, most of music’s revenue comes from streaming services, according to Reviews.com. To earn revenue, streaming services are either supported by advertisements or subscription-based, the article continues. Business Insider reported that Spotify pays between $0.003 to $0.005 per stream; the most popular artists will regularly surpass one million streams, the article continues. 

Roughly, a billion streams on subscription services brings in about $7 million for big labels; $1 million of that amount goes to the artists, the article continues. Not-so-popular acts, however, aren’t as lucky. Based on a survey conducted on 1,277 U.S. musicians, “the median musician made about $35,000 in 2017 (only $21,300 from music-related sources),” the article goes on. 61 percent of the musicians said that the music-related income didn’t support their living expenses, the article continues. Reviews.com also noted that in 2014, Taylor Swift pulled her entire discography from Spotify because she felt that streaming services were the reason for her declining album sales; she put her music back on streaming services in 2017. 

So, as you can see, releasing new studio albums is a lot more complicated nowadays. Before streaming services, classic rock bands only had to worry about album expenses and trying to find time to record in the studio. Sadly, instead of focusing on new material, artists are now tied up with how to get the best production, provide the most extravagant show and create the best concert experience for guests (meet-and-greets and VIP packages). Do you now see why artists were screwed up by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Look, I’m not saying that these are the absolute reasons why bands/artists aren’t releasing new material as often; everyone is different. This post was just to give my perspective on the situation. I didn’t even cover live and greatest hits albums, and box sets. I could go on and on about this discussion.

As fans, we can support these artists/bands by buying their merch, going to their concerts (when it’s safe to do so), and buying their albums. I’ve been buying old albums from my favorite bands for my CD collection. I’d also say convince our favorite artists to release new studio albums sooner, but let’s not be rude; they’ll release new material when they’re ready (hopefully).

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35 thoughts on “Why Aren’t Artists Releasing Studio Albums As Often Anymore?

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  1. You make excellent arguments on all points here, nicely done Lana. However, there is also a more basic reason as to why artists aren’t releasing new material as much any more. It is done to the fact, like me, they are getting old and it is possible the motivation to make new music just isn’t there as much.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is true! But I wanted this post to be relatable for younger artists as well. Not just older bands. But yes, old age is another reason why classic rock bands aren’t making studio albums as often anymore. Thanks for reading Mike!


  2. I agree with all these points. Kiss has said they aren’t doing it because no one is buying and it makes t hem no money. Def Leppard I believe is the same way, but the pandemic has actually gotten them to start writing new music and we will probably get more money from them. A lot of the older more established acts are finding there is more money in these Anniversary Box Sets. People are sucking those things up so that is why Kiss is constantly re-issuing albums, Lep has been doing the box sets same with Whitesnake. When I was really young in the 70’s, bands like Kiss were doing 2 albums a year!! Those were the days!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s sad that Kiss hasn’t released any new material since 2012. I remember reading your Kiss reviews and lowkey getting annoyed with how many greatest hits albums and box sets they have. That explains why a lot of these older bands have been releasing more anniversary sets (The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake). It’s pretty sad. I hope Def Leppard releases a new studio album soon. I wasn’t crazy about their 2015 album, but I’m curious to see what other new material they have. I don’t want to just rely on the old stuff. Yeah, I remember I thought it was nuts that Queen released ‘Queen II’ and ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ in the same year. Thanks for reading John!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh ok, I read an article saying that Joe Elliott hinted at a new studio album released before or alongside the Volume 4 box set. If that’s true, then hallelujah! Oh yeah, since the Volume 3 box set was released this past summer, that means Volume 4 will be released in 2022? Like you said?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. All great points and, like 80sMM says, the age factor is a big deal too. A lot of metal bands that came around in the late 80s or 90s still seem to crank them out: like Paradise Lost, Cradle Of Filth… you can expect albums every 2 or 3 years at least. But a lot of these bands like Whitesnake, KISS, AC/DC… they’re basically old age pensioners! I guess they don’t feel like they’ve got anything to prove artistically any more. It’s all about the gigs and the merch and the brand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, old age definitely plays a role in this topic. But, I wanted this post to relate to younger artists as well. Especially since the younger artists are really affected by the streaming age. Older bands like AC/DC and Def Leppard started out and made a name for themselves before technology went bananas! I was thinking about the old age thing for The Rolling Stones. They have like 30 studio albums (one of them being a covers album) and they are much older now. So, I can see them feeling like they’ve done their duty. Thanks for reading Heavy Metal Overload!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post, Lana. It is just a changing of the times. The music industry has never been kind to the artists, historically, unless you were Led Zeppelin and had a manager bullying people into giving the band the lion’s share. So bands made their money on tours, selling tickets and t-shirts, that hasn’t changed. With shorter attention spans and streaming becoming primary, everyone just has to shift the mindset. Labels are just trying to figure out how they can soak the artist in this new milieu, is all. It may (read: will likely) completely change how music is made. But so long as it keeps getting made, we’ll be alright, out here in the trenches. As the classic rock bands age, they slow down. That’s natural, we all do it. Well, maybe not me, I still run around and work out like I was 18, but I’m a little nuts… most people naturally slow down. All the old male rockers’ testosterone levels changed lol.

    I feel the same way about the Stones as you do AC/DC… they could have put out SO many more records if they’d just gotten over themselves (and their egos), stopped fighting, and just stayed at what they did/do best (making records) far, far more often. When they started, there were points with two records in a year, then it slipped to one (as tours took longer), then huge gaps of years in between. Frustrating. They could have just farted out a blues cover album every two years and we would have lapped it up. Anyway. And now, like Malcolm, Charlie is gone and it won’t ever be the same and the original members are all old farts now lol. Ach, it is what it is. We’re lucky we have what we do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s interesting you brought up the merch thing because I did a presentation for my fashion industry class about the band tee trend and I talked about how bands would sell merch at their gigs. As technology continues to advance, artists will have to get creative on how to make a living in this crazy industry.

      Didn’t the Stones put out like 30 studio albums though? I can see egos playing a role in the Stones, but not AC/DC. The boys were really busy as mentioned in my post. But I still feel like the band should’ve pushed for one more studio album after ‘Black Ice,’ especially since they had no idea how much longer Mal would be around. Like, when Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with AIDs, Queen just kept releasing new material until Freddie couldn’t do it anymore. I wish AC/DC had that mindset as well, versus putting out another live album. They should’ve done one for the ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ tour instead, since the setlist was better.


      1. The main problem with the merch thing was that, since bands were trying to recoup money from making a record, it became normal to charge $45-$50 (sometimes more) for a t-shirt at the larger shows. I’d like to say, as a fan who already paid too much to get into the show, um, hello, how about no. The costs finally reached the tipping point and outweighed the sense of occasion. E.g. I paid $120 for my Iron Maiden ticket on Book Of Souls. The most I ever paid to attend any show, by far. But it was Maiden, and an album I loved, so I went. We had the other costs of being in Toronto (parking, meals, etc always high priced) so a $50 t-shirt just was not happening. And so on.

        The Stones did release “30 studio albums, 33 live albums, 29 compilation albums, three extended play singles, 121 singles, 32 box sets, 48 video albums and 77 music videos.” (Wiki) But they’ve been going almost 60 years. While that might average out to an album every two years, to some eyes, there were often large gaps of several years between albums, in every decade since the 60s, where they could at least have got together to do something. But no. They fought and were doofuses. They could have been doubled the albums, no lie.

        I wonder what happened with Brian and AC/DC there, too. I always got the sense they screwed him over, but I didn’t look that closely at it.

        I liked what Queen did, of course, I liked just about everything Queen did.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, those prices are bogus! Especially since t-shirts don’t last forever and like you said, the tickets are more expensive now. When I saw Bruno Mars in 2018, my shirt was about $20, so not bad. But there is no way in heck that I’m spending more than $25 – $30 on a shirt.

        Haha, you called The Rolling Stones doofuses! There wasn’t that big gaps for their studio work until they got to ‘Dirty Work’ (1983), which was three years after ‘Undercover.’ Then their next biggest gap between albums was five years (‘Steel Wheels’ and ‘Voodoo Lounge’). I know Mick and Keith had some problems in the 90s, so I kind of see your point of the band not getting their act together. But I’m not a Stones fan, so I can’t say much. Though, I’m a bit disappointed that they didn’t release a new album during the pandemic (since “Living in a Ghost Town” was really good).

        I wouldn’t say they screwed Brian. Let’s not go that far. But I find it unfair that they never bothered to play Brian songs post-Back in Black when they went on tour. Also, Brian did screw his voice with all of those cigarettes.

        Yeah, I love that Freddie wanted to stay busy and continue putting out new music. Proves there are no excuses whatsoever.


      3. I can’t even remember the last tour t-shirt I bought. No idea.

        You’ll have to excuse me, I tend to think the Stones could have been putting out albums more regularly even when they were. Im just greedy. And yeah, they can be doofuses!

        Cigarettes are stupid.

        No excuses at all, nailed it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. So, where do you buy your band shirts then?

        No worries! I’m sure you’re not the only Stones fan who wishes they released more stuff.

        Heck yeah! Cigarettes are awful and that’s my only criticism for rock musicians. Don’t they know that cigarettes make people age faster?!?! Look at Leonardo DiCaprio!


      5. My band shirts (I have only a few) either come from Walmart or smaller (still similar) stores, or I’ve found some at thrift shoppes too, notably the Stones and Tool tours I attended (very cool).

        The Stones are one of the biggest What If/If Only bands in the world. 60 years will do that to a group.

        I try not to look at Leonardo DiCaprio lol. I’d like to amend my statement: While I believe smoking cigarettes is just death on the installment plan, that it’s good money literally being lit on fire and going up in smoke, many people smoke by choice and enjoy it, so fair play to them. That addiction just ain’t for me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Ah those stores. Most of my band tees (so far) are from Hot Topic.

        Yeah and now that Charlie Watts is gone. It’s like, “what if the band did one more album before he died?”

        Yeah, I don’t want to be judgemental of people that do smoke, but it’s just like, why do it?


      7. We don’t have a Hot Topic. Not even a Tepid Topic.

        Yeah, Charlie’s passing hit hard. He was my favourite drummer for the last 35 years. One more album? How about ten?

        Well, we all make choices. Some folks just make bad ones.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. There actually is such thing as Tepid Topics. It’s a podcast lol!

        Yeah, Charlie seemed like a cool dude. It’s a shame they didn’t do much in the later days. Studio-wise.


  5. There are some vintage artists like Van Morrison and Neil Young, who have kept cranking out an album a year. And modern psychedelic band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have released 19 albums since 2012.

    I think record company thinking has changed for big artists, and they’ve moved them into two or three year album cycles with big tours in between, to maximise revenue and avoid over saturation . But other more niche artists have choices I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your perspective Aphoristical! I’m glad there are some artists that still pop out albums here and there. Again, every artist is different and has a different mindset! Thanks for reading!


    1. I agree! Not that I’ve been to a lot of concerts, but it must be annoying playing the same songs over and over again. Especially since there’s so much more to these bands’ catalog than the hits.


  6. Great write up.

    It’s a divisive topic that’s for sure.

    Streaming does pay and it keeps on paying forever and a day. But I get what artists are saying as well, that the money they get after everyone gets their cut isn’t enough to provide especially when they sell their rights to the label who keep the larger portion.

    But if streaming didn’t pay, the labels would have been the first ones to complain. And their not complaining at all.

    The A level acts do have large gaps between albums. The reasons vary, but as you say, they are a big business and touring is big business. So they’ll be doing more of that and less recording. Plus the need to create isn’t there like it was once before.

    But after the A level acts, the other acts do an album every two years.

    Bands like Trivium, Evergrey, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch, Ghost BC, Architects, Coheed and Cambria, Machine Head just to name a few releases frequently and do good business on the live arena. Plus they have certifications to show for it.


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