Top 10 studio albums each year, omitting live CDs and
compilations, bonus disks, etc.
The scores are based on cumulative user votes on Progulus Radio. A look at the voting pool: Average unique voters in 2012: 62.5, Average votes per month: 2,036. Each song is voted on separately, and the average for each album is calculated. A baysian average is then used on the result. The results of 2012 may change slightly in the future as more and more votes accumulate. The result is based on a small pool of voters compared with the prog scene as a whole.
The number is the album's overall rank on the station.
127 Headspace- I Am Anonymous, UK
301 Threshold- March Of Progress, UK
542 Hemina- Synthetic, AU
605 Delain- We Are The Others, NL
768 Bad Salad- Uncivilized, BR
781 Circus Maximus- Nine, NO
787 Lord Of Mushrooms- Perspectives, FR
794 OSI- Fire Make Thunder, US
810 Mystery- The World Is A Game, CA
888 Kaipa- Vittjar, SE
100 Haken- Visions, UK
141 Opeth- Heritage, SE
160 Leprous- Bilateral, NO
195 Joseph Magazine- Night of the Red Sky, PL
232 Arch/Matheos- Sympathetic Resonance, US
286 Subsignal- Touchstones, DE
292 Redemption- This Mortal Coil, US
302 Karmakanic- In A Perfect World, SE
338 Dream Theater- A Dramatic Turn Of Events, US
348 Steven Wilson- Grace For Drowning - Deform to Form a Star, UK
54 Vanden Plas- The Seraphic Clockwork, DE
83 Haken- Aquarius, UK
105 Myrath- Desert Call, TN
143 Echoes- Nature | Existence, VE
151 Star One- Victims of the Modern Age, NL
215 Chimp Spanner- At The Dream's Edge, UK
264 Darkwater- Where Stories End, SE
273 Day Six- The Grand Design, NL
370 Kingcrow- Phlegethon, IT
402 Unitopia- Artificial, AU
12 Riverside- Anno Domini High Definition, PL
40 Redemption- Snowfall On Judgment Day, US
69 Guilt Machine- On This Perfect Day, NL
137 OSI- Blood, US
138 Animals As Leaders- Animals As Leaders, US
169 Subsignal- Beautiful & Monstrous, DE
176 IQ- Frequency, UK
194 Leprous- Tall Poppy Syndrome, NO
206 Porcupine Tree- The Incident, UK
221 Ozric Tentacles- The Yum Yum Tree, UK
23 Ayreon- 1011001, NL
28 Opeth- Watershed, SE
90 Seventh Wonder- Mercy Falls, SE
101 Frost*- Experiments in Mass Appeal, UK
115 Karmakanic -Who's The Boss In The Factory, SE
123 Amaseffer- Exodus - Slaves for Life, IL
186 Votum- Time Must Have A Stop, PL
188 Andromeda- The Immunity Zone, SE
191 Shadrane- Temporal, FR
229 Everon- North, DE
7 Symphony X- Paradise Lost, US
20 Porcupine Tree- Fear Of A Blank Planet, UK
26 Redemption- The Origins Of Ruin, US
30 Circus Maximus- Isolate, NO
44 Riverside- Rapid Eye Movement, PL
55 Myrath- Hope, TN
56 Spheric Universe Experience- Anima, FR
79 Dream Theater- Systematic Chaos, US
84 Dead Soul Tribe- A Lullaby For The Devil, US
87 Sieges Even- Paramount, DE
17 Vanden Plas- Christ.0, DE
31 Frost*- Milliontown, UK
82 Wolverine- Still, SE
109 Tool- 10,000 Days, US
118 Beyond Twilight- For The Love Of Art And The Making, DK
132 Seventh Wonder -Waiting In The Wings ,SE
162 Mind's Eye- Walking on H20, SE
183 Venturia- The New Kingdom, FR
214 Riverside- Voices In My Head, PL
228 Galahad- Empires Never Last, UK
4 Redemption- The Fullness Of Time, US
9 Circus Maximus- The 1st Chapter, NO
22 Riverside- Second Life Syndrome, PL
50 Indukti- S.U.S.A.R, PL
57 Porcupine Tree- Deadwing, UK
62 Sieges Even- The Art Of Navigating By The Stars, DE
71 John Petrucci- Suspended Animation, US
76 Opeth- Ghost Reveries, SE
80 Shadow Gallery- Room V, US
85 Kamelot- The Black Halo, US
25 Ayreon- The Human Equation, NL
32 Dreamscape- End Of Silence, DE
36 Riverside- Out Of Myself, PL
58 Threshold- Subsurface, UK
65 Pain of Salvation- BE, SE
95 Nightwish- Once, FI
98 Evergrey- The Inner Circle, SE
136 Pyramaze- Melancholy Beast, multi
146 Jordan Rudess- Rhythm of Time, US
159 Dead Soul Tribe- The January Tree, US
14 Opeth- Damnation, SE
18 Dream Theater- Train of Thought, US
86 Adagio- Underworld, FR
149 OSI- Office of Strategic Influence, US
170 Andromeda- II = I, SE
178 Atmosfear- Inside The Atmosphere, DE
181 A.C.T- Last Epic, SE
204 Dead Soul Tribe- A Murder Of Crows, US
216 Green Carnation- A Blessing In Disguise, NO
223 Sun Caged- Sun Caged, multi
3 Symphony X- The Odyssey, US
19 Dream Theater- Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, US
34 Pain of Salvation- Remedy Lane, SE
46 Porcupine Tree- In Absentia, UK
61 Pagan's Mind- Celestial Entrance, NO
64 Star One- Space Metal, NL
73 Threshold- Critical Mass, UK
107 Vanden Plas- Beyond Daylight, DE
166 Karmakanic- Entering The Spectra, SE
175 Nightwish- Century Child, FI
52 Threshold- Hypothetical, UK
122 Ambeon- Fate Of A Dreamer, NL
125 Ark- Burn The Sun, multi
126 Adagio- Sanctus Ignis, FR
150 Opeth- Blackwater Park, SE
155 Tool- Lateralus, US
179 Jordan Rudess- Feeding The Wheel, US
209 Evergrey- In Search Of Truth, SE
219 Transatlantic- Bridge Across Forever, multi
238 Stride- Music Machine, US
10 Symphony X- V: The New Mythology Suite, US
15 Ayreon- Universal Migrator Part II: Flight Of The Migrator, NL
33 Koyaanisqatsy- From The Yearning To Burst - The Perpetual Circle, DE
38 Pain of Salvation- The Perfect Element I, SE
74 Spock's Beard- V, US
81 Ayreon- Universal Migrator Part I: The Dream Sequencer, NL
131 Fates Warning- Disconnected, US
152 Porcupine Tree- Lightbulb Sun, UK
224 Maximum Indifference- The Transmutations of Supposed Angels or Beings that were once Girls, US
356 Planet X- Universe, multi
2 Dream Theater- Scenes From a Memory, US
6 Liquid Tension Experiment- Liquid Tension Experiment 2, US
184 Opeth- Still Life, SE
220 Kamelot- The Fourth Legacy, US
295 Spock's Beard- Day For Night, US
300 Balance Of Power- Ten More Tales Of Grand Illusion, UK
309 Porcupine Tree- Stupid Dream, UK
311 Ozric Tentacles- Waterfall Cities, UK
314 Dali's Dilemma- Manifesto For Futurism, US
429 Mastermind- Excelsior!, US
27 Symphony X- Twilight In Olympus, US
35 Liquid Tension Experiment- Liquid Tension Experiment 1, US
53 Ayreon- Into The Electric Castle, NL
189 Pain of Salvation- One Hour By The Concrete Lake, SE
201 Threshold- Clone, UK
282 Shadow Gallery- Tyranny, US
331 Platypus- When Pus Comes To Shove, US
387 Savatage- The Wake of Magellan, US
424 Eloy- Ocean 2 ~ The Answer, DE
496 Arena- The Visitor, UK
11 Symphony X- The Divine Wings Of Tragedy, US
13 Dream Theater- Falling Into Infinity, US
114 Pain of Salvation- Entropia, SE
120 Fates Warning- A Pleasant Shade Of Gray, US
180 IQ- Subterranea, UK
250 Spock's Beard- Beware Of Darkness, US
297 Spock's Beard- The Kindness Of Strangers, US
341 The Flower Kings- Stardust We Are, SE
365 Devin Townsend- Ocean Machine Biomech, CA
389 Crucible- Tall Tales, US
320 Rush- Test For Echo, CA
403 Eric Johnson- Venus Isle, US
409 Ritual- Ritual, SE
436 Tool- AEnima, US
448 Pendragon- The Masquerade Overture, UK
449 Lemur Voice- Insights, NL
598 Steve Vai- Fire Garden, US
620 Angra- Holy Land, BR
658 The Flower Kings- Retropolis, SE
749 Superior- Behind, DE
16 Dream Theater- A Change of Seasons, US
161 Symphony X- The Damnation Game, US
182 Savatage- Dead Winter Dead, US
308 Ayreon- The Final Experiment, NL
366 Kansas- Freaks Of Nature, US
488 The Gathering- Mandylion, NL
490 Shadow Gallery- Carved In Stone ,US
491 King Crimson- Thrak, UK
492 The Tea Party- The Edges Of Twilight, CA
521 Enchant- A Blueprint Of The World, US
29 Dream Theater- Awake, US
116 Pink Floyd- The Division Bell ,UK
323 Roine Stolt- The Flower King, SE
345 Marillion- Brave, UK
428 Savatage- Handful Of Rain, US
584 Queensryche- Promised Land, US
608 Fates Warning- Inside Out, US
627 Ozric Tentacles- Arborescence, UK
815 Symphony X- Symphony X, US
875 Michael Manring- Thonk, US
505 Savatage- Edge of Thorns, US
610 Rush- Counterparts, CA
612 Threshold- Wounded Land, UK
679 Tool- Undertow, US
680 Ozric Tentacles- Jurassic Shift, UK
703 Saga- The Security Of Illusion, CA
709 IQ- Ever, UK
720 Greg Howe- Introspection, US
782 Pendragon- The Window Of Life, UK
863 Porcupine Tree- Up The Downstair, UK
Playing on Progulus Internet Radio
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Top 10 studio albums each year, omitting live CDs and
compilations, bonus disks, etc.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Without further ado, here's a graph of z-scores by genre tag:
Notes on the graph:
Z-scores measure how many standard deviations each item is away from the mean.
Genre tags are not usually exclusive genres, but tags used to try and describe the music. One artist may have several genre tags. For example:
Arena: Neo-Prog, Progressive Rock, Symphonic
Cosmosquad: Heavy Prog-Fusion, Guitar Oriented Rock, Technical, Instrumental
Epica: Progressive Metal, Symphonic, Goth Doom, Female Fronted
John Petrucci: Guitar Oriented Metal, Shred, Instrumental, LTE/Planet X and Influenced, Technical DTI
There are a few catch-all tags that apply to most bands on progulus: Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Symphonic, and Instrumental. For instance most Neo-Prog bands are also tagged as Progressive Rock. These super-genres shouldn't be compared with other genre tags due to their breadth, but could be compared against eachother.
Technical DTI is an abbreviation for "Dream Theater Influenced", and also includes Dream Theater and its side-projects. Some other examples include Andromeda, Dreamscape, Spheric Universe Experience.
Fore the tag "LTE/Planet X and Influenced," LTE is an abbreviation of Liquid Tension Experiment.
There are many more genre tags than are highlighted here, but I picked out the ones with the largest pool of data.
"Mean" is obviously not a genre tag, but a placeholder for the average rating.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
I've been taking a close look at various aspects of the user ratings data on Progulus recently. Here's the first of a few posts about my findings. What I was interested in finding out was what the best years for prog were. Was there a "golden age" of the 2000's modern prog like there was with the golden era of prog in the 70's?
First, a digression into the method that I use to rate albums on the station. What I did first was to take the raw average album scores based on user ratings for each song and obtain the bayesian average. Why baysian averaging? Well using this method allows you to weight ratings based on the number of accumulated votes. For example, an album with only two "5" votes is really not a "5" rated album when compared to another album that has accumulated 100 "5" votes. Only after an album gets sufficient votes will the album's true rating become apparent. The bayesian formula takes this into account and adjusts the rating of albums with fewer votes closer to the mean.
After I adjusted the user ratings for each album, what I did next was to rank them all from highest to lowest in sequence from 1 to 4,500+, up to the total number of rated albums. In case you're wondering, the #1 ranked album on the station is Dream Theater - Images and Words. No big surprise there. Next, I took the albums from each year and looked at the top 50 albums of that year individually. One could tally an average rating for each year from those 50 CDs and then plot them on a graph, but what I did was to simply sum up the overall rankings of those 50 albums for each year. I inverted the result so that a higher score is better, as it's what we are used to seeing on graphs. Here's the result:
A couple of things to note on the result. First, as you go back in years to the early 90's, there are fewer and fewer representative albums. Before 1994 there were fewer than 50 albums for each year so they couldn't be included in the poll. Compare this to the late 2000's where there were upwards of 200 - 250 albums each year. I believe there is a direct correlation between the number of albums in the pool and the number of highly rated albums. Granted, Progulus does not have every possible album for a given year available, but I'd like to think that we have all of the most important albums. So by this reasoning, there are simply more albums available due to the popularity of the genre, and as a result we have a certain percentage of highly rated albums out of that pool to draw from.
Second, the graph drops sharply as we get to the present time. Fortunately for us I don't believe that this is wholly the result of a tail off in music quality over the last 3 years. Part of the reason goes back to the bayesian averaging. Newer albums have fewer votes, so it may just take a few years to accumulate enough votes to adjust the rating up away from the mean. I don't think this is the whole picture though. I have a hypothesis that people tend to rate music lower that they are less familiar with. To test this theory I would have to look at the raw user ratings going back a few years. That may be the subject of a future article.
The real finding here is that we started to hit our "peak" or golden age somewhere around 2004. This result wasn't surprising to me since I always personally considered 2004 as a banner year for prog, and a year that really opened the flood gates and inspired many new bands who would follow. Where the surprise was for me was that this peak continued well into 2008 - 2009, with 2007 marking the high point in the annual ranking. Lets take a look at the top 10 rated albums for 2007 as an example:
7, Symphony X- Paradise Lost, US
20, Porcupine Tree- Fear Of A Blank Planet, UK
26, Redemption- The Origins Of Ruin, US
30, Circus Maximus- Isolate, NO
44, Riverside- Rapid Eye Movement, PL
55, Myrath- Hope, TN
56, Spheric Universe Experience- Anima, FR
79, Dream Theater- Systematic Chaos, US
84, Dead Soul Tribe- A Lullaby For The Devil, US
87, Sieges Even- Paramount, DE
The number listed before each album is it's overall rank on the station. The #10 album that year is still in the top 100 of all albums. The only other year that I looked at that came close to this was 2005. In 2008 the #10 album ranked #191 overall, and in 2006 the #10 album ranked #228 overall. We can take a look at this in more depth with the following graph that shows the total number of top 10 albums each year that presently rank in the current overall top 100:
To be in the overall top 100 rank an album has to be in the highest tier, or better than about 98% of the other 4500+ albums on the radio station. Looking at the result, 2005 and 2007 both had the highest number of "hit-producing" years with all 10 of the top 10 CDs falling within the overall top 100 ranking. While 2000, 2002, and 2004 did produce a quite a few albums that rank in the top 100, the indication from the first graph is that a lot of other CDs that came out those years ranked quite a bit lower than the top 50 did in 2004 - 2009. It's also interesting to note here that there are a lot of peaks that seem to happen every other year.
We may need to wait a few more years to find out if 2009 - 2012 is really marking a downward swing in the quality of music coming out, or if it's simply an error in the way the data was analyzed as I described above. But it's clear from the data that the modern "golden era" of prog began to peak around 2004 and continues at least into 2008-2009, if not further.
Monday, October 31, 2011
As some of you know, I'm also a reviewer at Seaoftranquility.org. I'll try to make a better habit of cross-posting here, but here's what I've done so far:
Brooks, Chris: The Axis Of All Things
Ilium: Genetic Memory
Fantomas: The Director's Cut Live - A New Year's Revolution
Isis: Live V
Einvera: In Your Image
Francesco Atrusato Project, The: Chaos and the Primordial
The Book Of Knots: Garden Of Fainting Stars
Pluto and the Planets: 360º of Wonder
Bohren & der Club of Gore: Beileid
Posted by Sean Gill at 4:21 PM
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Happy new year everybody!
Just ran across an interesting article and wanted to share, since I think it had an impact on recorded music. Apparently Bell Labs had invented the answering machine, and the magnetic tape to go with it, in 1934. Fearing that it would hurt the telephone(?!) AT&T shelved it for 20 years. Imagine how recording and music might be different if artists hadn't been stuck with the limitations of recording directly to records in the 30s and 40s. More evidence, IMO, that innovation and invention must always be free and open.
Monday, September 27, 2010
The fretted harp!
Thursday, September 9, 2010
So Portnoy calls his quits?
I'm saying for a couple of years now that the band needs a break to charge their batteries of creativity. Now Portnoy, the band leader, is the one who does it while the rest doesn't. That's quite a surprise as I always thought it was MP who sailed the band into those commercial sell out shores. So was it the other way round and MP simply saw that they were going the wrong way and tried to get back on the right track? We will see.
It will be interesting who will step into his shoes as there aren't too many out there who could replace him, and I bet quite a number of them won't even try to compare themselves to him.
On the other hand the best times of DT in the past have always been the ones when they had to replace a member and merge new creative aspects to their musical identity, so there's hope that DT now find another spark that brings them back to their old strength.
Monday, July 19, 2010
In another in a seemingly endless series about the present day music industry, I had a new thought cross my mind. Not new information, but maybe a new metaphor to apply to the recording industry situation. I've make reference before to the idea that massive record sales of the 80s and 90s are an anomaly, not the norm, for music as a consumable product. People have moved on the DVDs and Tivo. I've watched in amusement for the last few years as the RIAA tries desperately not to accept this.
I have visited the Littleton public library several times and it's an excellent resource for a smaller library. While browsing the stacks last week I was reminded of how many hundreds of books are released every month. Even if all new book releases were stopped today it would take me decades to read everything in the speculative fiction section alone. It applies to music as well. Online radio like Progulus lets me get a good sample of a lot of music. I enjoy most of it, and I could never afford the money or time to actually buy all of it.
So why keep writing books? Well, for authors it may be a mix of artistic compulsion and a job. For publishers, they hope for the occasional huge hit, but they can also publish books in moderate quantities and not put a lot of money up front. With new digital options, there's almost no production cost at all beyond paying the people who worked on it. It's similar to something I read about Jazz back in college, that Jazz labels considered a record successful if it sold 20,000 copies. Make your money back, make a small profit, and move on the the next gig. The RIAA can't tell the difference between success and MASSIVE HIT EVERYBODY PARTY! No one should be pressured not to write a book, paint a picture, or record an album because it won't make someone else rich.
After a book or any creative is done, it enters the culture at large. Whether 10 people or 10,000 people read it, it's there to be used. Libraries now also have a lot of music and movies. Libraries are storehouses of culture. It's a place that holds a record of a people and their creativity. Storytelling is one of the few things left that humans do and animals don't (as far as we know). As an artist, I am more interested in being part of the creative conversation and part of the cultural record than in diluting my intentions to make money.
Do authors lose money when people borrow a book from the library rather than buying it? Sure, it seems obvious. But, as others have ably written, obscurity is far worse an enemy to art than whether or not people get it for free.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Topic: Methods of success.
"The night was hot... wait no. The night... the night was humid. The night was humid. No wait, hot... hot. The night was hot. The night was hot and wet, wet and hot. The night was wet and hot, hot and wet, wet and hot... that's humid. The night was humid. The night was dry, yet it was raining."
That's a quote from a funny scene in Throw Momma From The Train where author Larry (Billy Crystal) has a case of writer's block and spends days trying to come up with the opening line of his new book. It's not too far from the truth though. Staring at a blank canvas and trying to come up with the next work is a bit like the zen student trying to understand zen. One must capture little bits of their fleeting imagination in a real and finite form, and once the first line of music is written or the first brush stroke is applied to the canvas everything else must come from that. Moving toward a finished piece is a series of diminishing possibilities the last few notes are placed which fit only into that one work and no other.
In my last blog, I wrote about how and why musicians and bands often fail and quit. In this article I want to discuss the other side of creating music, and that is to discuss some methods and tools for success and staying motivated.
It's important to know that music is and has always been written by ordinary folk in their own place and time using tools that were readily available at their disposal. Our point of view and the starting materials that we use are a product of the world we live in. For example, the temples of Angkor Wat would not have been created if the 12th century Cambodian's didn't have a knowledge of sculpture and masonry and a strong passion in Hindi Buddhism, and and the Death Mask of Tutankahman would have not been made if early Egyptians had no belief that it wouldn't be needed in the afterlife, didn't have a large supply of gold, and hadn't developed the necessary skills to create it. We are not compelled to build similar things today because our set of beliefs and level of technology have changed. What the modern form is to us comes from our own realities and personal frame of reference. Todays 12-bar blues form of music would have made as little sense for Bach to write into his secular music as it would be for us to try and write a six-part fugue into a blues song today.
Furthermore, it's quite rare for a musician to invent a new music form right out of thin air. More typically a new or perfected form of music is born out of existing styles from the present day. For example, John Philip Sousa wrote military marches mostly because he grew up in a military environment and his father played in a military band and he later joined the Marine Corp and conducted his own marching band. His life experience taught him the marching band style and how to write in it, and hence the majority of his musical output was writing in this form and he ended up defining the style for future generations. By the same token Chopin didn't invent the marzurka but he perfected and defined it by writing 58 of them. History is full of cases of people who start out by following an existing style and then later breaking out of that mold to create a new style or form. It's the great ones who make the next set of rules for the generations that follow, and follow they do. There have been countless modern progressive rock and metal bands today who have followed in the footsteps of Dream Theater because they are inventers of the modern form we use today. There are a handful of other bands that are heavily borrowed upon which I won't name here. This strategy helps us gain a foothold on what we want to accomplish and where we take it from there is up to us. One of the problems with this is, as I addressed in my last blog, is that many bands end up quitting before they find their own voice so we are left with a lot of bands that are unoriginal copies of others.
Up to this point I've made the case that music is written by ordinary people and have refrained from using the 'T' word... "talent". We've all probably seen the videos of the 5-year old drum prodigy or the 10-year old who can play 64 notes a second on a guitar, but how many times do we hear of them going on to become productive musicians? I want to state right here and now that talent is indistinguishable from hard work. There's always going to be the rare band who can put out an amazing record on their first try or the musician who comes along once a generation who is far away superior to everyone else. But for the rest of us talent only goes so far. Think of the race between the turtle and the hare. The hare got a faster time off the starting blocks but in the end it was the turtle who dedicated himself to task at hand and ended up winning the race. I once read an interview with Al Dimeola where he said that when he wanted to learn how to play the guitar the first thing he did was to memorize every scale at every position on the neck. It's said that the difference between an amatuer and a professional is that the amatuer practices until he gets it right, and the professional practices until he never gets it wrong.
I've mentioned before that it's very difficult to write music or produce art in a vaccum. For this reason it's a good idea to become involved in peer or critique groups or to make friends with people who share similar interests. These groups not only give you a venue for your work, but also valuable critique on your progress. Fortunately today there are many different groups available widely on the internet via MySpace, MP3.com, forums, and many other places where feedback can be almost instantaneous. Porcupine Tree and Ozric Tentacles both got started by distributing free cassette tapes of their music for people to hear. Of course, having a record deal in hand can be a great motivator. But most prog labels want to hear the finished product before they commit to anything.
In addition to peer support and critique, all artists need a good and constant dose of self-editing. When Van Halen recorded their first album they recorded something like 20 songs and only used the best 11 for the album. Unfortunately many artists feel that every idea they come up with is a good one and should be slapped on plastic and sold to the fans. But even with critique and self-editing artists might feel misunderstood when there is a lack of interest in their work, and some have even taken on the faulty notion that lack of interest in their work is a necessary form of self-persecution for the sake of their art. But the truth is that artists must produce a large amount of mediocre work that nobody really cares about much in order for them to produce those few works that really soar.
Another popular technique to get yourself started and maintain momentum is to work within a theme. For example, pianists will sometimes try to write one work in each key. In photography one of the popular trends is to do a "photo a day" project or a Photo365 diary. Another example is photography groups that set up themed contests with a different subject each week. There are many variations to this, but the general strategy is to avoid writer's block and stay motivated by always leaving a little bit of something unfinished to come back to. You can set measurable goals such as writing and recording one complete song each month such as what Mindflow did recently with their "365 project". Also, artists who remain students of their medium are often more motivated because they experiment with the new things that they have learned.
A musician or other artist must at some point come to terms with making music for themselves as opposed to making music for others. Consider what happens in a "sophmore slump" which is a common occurance for bands. A band might begin their musical career with a sense of self-purpose, taking their time and enjoying what they do for just themselves. After they reach a level of notoriety they might to begin suddenly taking themselves "seriously", or worse yet freezing up because now have a whole new audience of fans that they must write music for. After the success of their first album they are now under pressure from their management or label to produce more of the same work as before, but different. Try making a conscious effort to do that sometime! All of the motivations have changed as a result and it's no longer a matter of creating for the sake of enjoyment. The only way to overcome this is to realize that good music comes out of making your music for yourself and nobody else.
Musicians are also constantly evolving and changing. There is the notion for them to believe that their past work is not up to par with their current work. This is a good thing and a sign of progression as an artist. An artist is a bit like a boat moving forward through the water and creating a wake in its path. The wake spreads out behind the boat and eventually disappears back into the water. Like the boat, an artist is constantly moving forward, speeding up or slowing down, changing directions, and the displacement of what they do creates a wake that remains and dissipates behind them. Another aspect of growth is that there are usually long periods of stagnation followed by rapid quantum leaps in understanding and inspiration. For example, as a photographer I started out pretty much like everybody else to learn the technical basics such as aperture, depth of field, dynamic ranges, flash techniques, etc. My first attempts would be to try to create photographic records of particular scenes. A short time later I came to realize that my pictures in print were never the same as what I originally saw. So my next leap in understanding came for me to learn how to predict how what I saw would look in print or view things with a "photographic eye," as they say. Later on I began to realize that my pictures weren't so much creating a photographic record of what I saw, but were in fact creating geometric figures out of subjects on a 2-dimensional space. After that I began and learning how to form these shapes in a visually pleasing way. A final moment of understanding for me came when I began to see how the borders of the print were also creating geometries within the image. Once those kinds of revelations have been realized they cannot be "unseen" and I from each point forward I could never look at a photograph in the same way as before. I'm sure there are probably other insights coming down the road too that I have yet to understand. But for each leap there was also a diminished sense of pride in the work I had done before. My point is that growth as an artist is an inevitable and desireable result of totally immersing ourselves in our work. We should take that path wherever it leads us even if it means acknowledging that we have already created our best work, because it may very possibly lead to even more growth and understanding down the road.
I mentioned communication in my last article. This is perhaps the most difficult thing to get a handle on because an individual artist often has little control over the actions of his peers and is totally dependant on them. Very often the pool of potential bandmates are fairly limited within a region, so people get stuck with one another for lack of any better options. Success in this fashion often comes down to luck of the draw. The one recurring theme to success I've seen over the years is that bands make it clear to eachother that they must have a strong work ethic and must each bear a share of the workload. Set certain times during each practice session to just work on new material, share new song ideas and critique them. Make it a rule that each band member must bring a new song idea to each proactice session, etc. Band members must be able to critique eachother in an open forum without creating conflict. Very often one band member grandstands or tries to control the others. This is not conductive to a good working relationship. Good communication is really the key to success. Band members can be a great internal source of motivation, though it's also still a good idea to seek critique from outside groups as well.
Creating the few works of ours that really soar are the result of a complete understanding of our medium, hard work, building on and correcting ourselves from our past failures, and most importantly staying motivated to continue in light of all the challenges in which we are confronted with.