Big breaks: Why it's better for today's stars to step away than burn out

Big breaks: Why it's better for today's stars to step away than burn out

There are many things to take away from the recent explosion in rock biopics, but one notable thing about Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody is the sheer amount of downtime artists used to have.

The old cycle of album-world-tour-another-album was its own kind of treadmill, of course. And much of that free time was, inevitably, used to get into the sort of mischief that makes those movies such a rollercoaster ride.

But it was also used to recharge creative batteries and live real lives, so that the next record could be as strong as the one before. With the audience’s constant demand for new music and the pressure to keep monthly listeners numbers up, today’s stars rarely get that chance. Especially as they’re expected to also maintain a constant presence on social media to keep the fans engaged (something that doesn't come as easily to everyone as it does to Lewis Capaldi).

In commercial terms, the always-on approach to being a musician undoubtedly brings results. But, while there's no harder-working star than Ed Sheeran, he went dark for an entire year before returning with ÷, one of the best-selling albums of all time. Sheeran's taken a different approach this time for a very different project, and sounds fresher than ever, but in creative terms, many classic albums came along when an artist had time to reset their parameters and come back with something truly groundbreaking.

Nowadays, of course, many artists are abandoning the full body of work in favour of a barrage of single tracks. That may seem like an easier option, but in fact the brutality of streaming means everyone is only as good as their last song.

With it taking so much hard work to break through, you can hardly blame artists and their teams for wanting to making hay when the sun finally shines on them. But generally artists are better off stepping away from that light after both commercial triumphs and creative missteps. Fans’ attention spans are shorter than ever and artists’ careers will be too if we're not careful. Sometimes it actually is better to fade away, for a bit at least, than to risk burnout.

Plus, movies about the class of 2019 won’t have any scenes of backstage debauchery to liven them up. If you want a vision of the biopics of the future, imagine a stressed-out pop star flipping open a laptop in the dressing room, checking their streaming stats and updating their socials – forever. Who wants to watch that?

* To read the exclusive inside story of Rocketman, click here. To read about its lessons for the music industry, click here. To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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