The Catch 22 Of Changing Your Sound

Bands are faced with a decision and both paths lead to positive and negative reviews.

Ultimate Guitar

"I hate their new sound, I wish they would make more stuff like their old album."

"These guys never change their sound! What a bunch of stale skunks!"

If you have talked to people who are very much into music, or if you have read comments on music websites, you probably have heard versions of these comments. These comments represent the catch 22 that artists face when they need to decide to change their sound or keep their current sound.

Take a band like Nickleback, for example. One of the most common criticisms they receive is that all of their songs sound the same. Most of them are composed of gritty drop-d guitar riffs and lyrics about partying or sex. For the band, this works out well. All of their current fans will enjoy their 'new stuff' because it sounds like what they are used to, but like I said, other listeners will say "this sounds a lot like their hit a few years ago" and brush them off as boring.

Let's look at the other end of the spectrum, with the band Muse. Their recent single is very dubstep based, which is a one-eighty from some of their old songs, like "New Born" or "Sunburn". How is this received by fans? The older fans who have grown to love their sound might not like the new sound as much, because it's different from what they are used to. However, the change in sound opens the band up to gaining fans who like dubstep and music of that sort.

So what do you think? Do you prefer that bands stick to playing the same music, or is it okay for them to betray their old sound?

22 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Music is very closely related with creativity. And without betraying the "old sound", there is no creativity in music. (And yeah, **** you, dubstep haters.)
    link no1
    I don't particularly care if a band changes their sound abit from album to album, infact I like bands who try to mix it up. That being said, the moment a band even touches dubstep I will do my best to pretend they never released that 'dubstep album' (Yea, **** you, dubstep lovers)
    Muse spent years making awesome songs, none of which sounded like another of their songs. Once they'd used an idea, they wrote it off and never used it again. They were creative enough to pull that off. The problem isn't that they've changed direction. The problem is that they've gone completely to shit.
    There's a big difference between changing your sound and dumbing down to sell records. You can change your sound in the name of creativity and exploration. I have all the respect in the world for artists like that... you have to write what you are feeling at that moment. Whether I like the change or not is irrelevant. But there are way too many examples of bands that purposely dumb down their music to get more radio play/casual fans and then say that 'they are growing as a band'. That is lame. You are betraying your musical roots and fans to go down that road. That is waaaayyy different from trying a new vibe or sound. If you are even an amateur musician, you can always tell the difference.
    i dont care about changing sound or staying the same...well staying the same maybe that might bore me as long as i like their output having said that bands should do whatever the hell the want
    I think a band changing their sound is fine as long as they know what they're doing and it doesn't sound bad.
    Le Fantome
    I saw the name of this article and thought to myself, 'I bet this guy was thinking of Muse'. In my personal opinion, even if I don't like a genre, they are creative enough to breath some life into it. -cough-pop-cough-dubstep-cough-
    It's good to change, but as long as they keep some of their original elements along the way as a band.
    I personally see nothing wrong with either. If you're enjoying the music you're making, then all the better for you. You should be making music for yourself, not for others. Obviously with certain record contracts that changes somewhat, but your first priority should be making music that you want to hear.
    Look at bands like QOTSA. They reinvent themselves every record, but they all somehow sound very much like QOTSA songs. That's how bands should be.
    JD Close
    I honestly think that a band is more creative for being able to pump out album after album that sound the same. AC/DC are one of my least favorite bands because every god damned song is the exact same. I've always joked that the Young brothers only know 6 chords between them. But to be able to use those chords to make that many records is amazing. My challenge to you as a reader is to write a reggae song, right now. It'd be easy. Now write a blues song, now a rock song. Never mind if they're any good, it's easy to write out of your territory. Now try to write a consistent album, it's hard. Having all your songs sound the same is awful, but you really can't betray your audience that much. Remember when Dylan went electric? They threatened to cut the power, literally cut the power with an axe. Don't change directions, progress. I like progressive music and hate just about every mainstream band I've heard on the radio (especially Shinedown), because the songs are linear. Honestly, I write my songs like I would write a book or a movie. Building up to a climax. Have you ever heard death metal? You probably turned about immediately because (I'm guessing) the song you heard started with blastbeats and chainsaw riffing. If the song would have built up into that, you would have enjoyed it, most likely. The audience is a fickle mistress. But, when you write, don't worry about that. Play for yourself. If you write your music with ANY intent whatsoever to make a dollar. I hope the only money you ever make is when you sell your ****ing guitar and give up. Real musicians play for their hearts, they're the ones that deserve money