Is being in a band obsolete? Solo artists dominate the charts
Only three songs by a band made it into Biillboard’s U.S. Top 100 of 2022. Every song other than one each from Glass Animals, Imagine Dragons, and One Republic was by a solo artist or a one-time collaboration of two or more solo artists.
In the UK, only four new songs by bands made the Top 100 singles last year, which was dominated by solo acts and a handful of rebooted classics by acts like Fleetwood Mac and Arctic Monkeys.
From the Beatles to The Byrds and Public Enemy to Wu-Tang Clan, the collaborative creative strength of being in a group used to matter. Not anymore.
In 2002, “when the first Maroon 5 album came out there were still other bands,” frontman Adam Levine told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe back in 2021. “I feel like there aren’t any bands any more… I feel like they’re a dying breed.”
Social media is a major culprit.
In many ways, by nature, social media is a solo pursuit. As Chris Price, head of music for the UK’s Radio 1 and 1Xtra, told the Guardian, “It’s easier as a solo artist to convey who you are and the kind of artist you are on TikTok or Instagram than for four guys to do the same thing.”
Solo musicians on social media also have a knock-on effect. With A&R teams spending much of their time scouting talent online, what they see and then sign is going to be. solo artists.
Then there’s new technology.
When you create a full band sound on your laptop, why bother with the time, energy, and cost of putting together a group of musicians?
If the solo musician needs a little help or inspiration, it’s just a collaboration with one or more other solo artists away, as the dozens of collabs on the IS and UK charts attest.
Cost is a also major factor.
“Starting a band is hugely expensive,” says Joff Oddie, the guitarist for Wolf Alice. “You need an immense amount of equipment and a lot of space. I spent most of my student loan on rehearsal space. Traveling is expensive.”
Wildy successful groups like BTS, BLACKPINK, One Direction, and Fifth Harmony could be held up as exceptions, but each had the backing of a major music company long before a single note was played.
“Anything that can be done to make being in a band tenable for young artists is good,” concludes Oddie, “because the fear is that we’ll lose that tradition. I think it would be a disaster if it’s only open to middle-class kids.”
Bruce Houghton is the Founder and Editor of Hypebot and MusicThinkTank, a Senior Advisor at Bandsintown, President of the Skyline Artists Agency, and a professor for the Berklee College Of Music.
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