Fifty years ago singer Bob Dylan was heckled as a ‘Judas’ at a concert in Manchester for changing his style from acoustic folk to a band led by electric guitars.
Some Dylan purists have never forgiven, but the singer has carried on performing to jeers and cheers, depending if the crowd are fans of his folk or electric blues.
Die-hard fans may not have liked his change of direction, but Dylan realised he needed to reinvent his act if he was to survive in the music business.
And that’s what it really is – a business. The business is selling records and tickets.
The sad fact is however good a musician may prove as a writer and performer, if they fail to adapt to changing trends, they become part of the great unknown band who never knew success.
Queen of pop
Look back over the decades and the survivors, the greats, the legends are chameleon performers who changed their style, looks and music with the times.
As Dylan prophesised, the times they are a changin’.
The Byrds had a hit with Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man before his first hit, Like A Rolling Stone hit the charts.
Many of the best paid and most well-known performers are masters at changing horses in midstream.
David Bowie experimented with pop, rock and R&B. He went missing for a decade before he turned back to pop with the album Let’s Dance.
Madonna is the queen of pop, rock and dance.
Tough to make money
Coldplay have moved from piano-led ballads to the electric beat of the dancehalls. Their album sales have fallen since they first burst on to the scene, but doggedly remain above their rivals.
And many have quit music or disappeared into self-imposed oblivion because they failed to adapt – acts like Keane, Travis and Dido who all had impact with a great first album but failed with the difficult second.
Doubt the trend? Coldplay played the Superbowl, one of the biggest TV events in the world. Their rivals probably couldn’t buy a ticket to the show.
Other big sellers like U2 and American songstress Taylor Swift have album sales in the millions because they embraced and accepted change and professional development. Platinum album sales followed.
It’s tough to make money as a musician, and like all other businesses, success comes down to the survival of the fittest.