It is tempting to ask; why do New Age music artists release so many albums? Isn’t it a bit much to release an album every 1-3 month, year in and year out, building massive discographies? Here I’m going to look at this phenomenon and try to answer that question – though it is not an easy task.
First I must say that there’s nothing unusual with an artist having an especially creative period. From art history there’s many examples of unbelievably creative artists who wrote a book in a weekend or painted 10 paintings in a week. The reason I’m writing this is because I believe that there’s something other than true, unrestricted artistic creativity involved in our case.
How music is being used
New Age music is bit different than most other genres because of the health and healing aspect. It is, as you know, a much used soundtrack to yoga, meditation, healing and other practices. This can actually be seen in seen in the title of the very first New Age music album; “Music for Zen meditation and other joys” by Tony Scott. It is not, like most other music, purely for pleasure.
When recording many artists use a tried and tested theme;
For an up and coming artist it is important to cover as much ground as possible. To build a career you need to have at least one title in every above category. It is simple business logic. This was true in the CD age, and it is still true in the streaming economy – although the competition is much higher when literally 1000s of albums with the same theme battle for the listener’s attention on Spotify.
Like a portal
I know for a fact that many New Age music artists feel forced to release themed albums. It is a way (though far from the only way) to become successful. It is also what makes this into a profession; you have a lot of music to make, not just a handfull of albums. An artist told me that she owed her whole career to a certain “tranquil atmosphere” album, which for many years has been like a portal for listeners to her non-themed, more artistic albums.
It is tempting to ask; Are we New Age music fans so dumb that we need easy, uncomplicated themes when checking out new artists? Or is this a result of the fact that this music is mainly used for meditation, sleep and relaxation and that more complex themes will ruin the atmosphere? I think this may be true. After all, it would be a challenge to meditate to an album with a World War 2 theme…
Quantity or quality?
I don’t believe that themed albums are generally bad. Some of the best albums by artists such as Steven Halpern, Medwyn Goodall and Llewellyn are themed albums. But I’m pretty sure that such albums gave this genre a bad name in the early 1990s.
The conclusion is that themed albums are a great marketing strategy for artists. That’s why they publish so much music. But since these albums have a generic topic, the artist will need a big discography to make money. In other words; if the yoga albums fail, perhaps the “romantic atmosphere” or the “rainforest meditation” albums will do better. There is a real demand for this kind of music.
That said, you probably don’t need many themed albums in your record collection. How many Indian head massage albums do you really need? The artist will answer; at least one. Mine. It’s amazing.
Above picture by JCMarcu. Used under license.