Legendary pop-alt band R.E.M. announced this week that they are calling it quits after over 30 years together.
It is tough to be critical of a band that so eloquently matured without “selling-out”. R.E.M. is one of the bands responsible for bringing alternative rock to the masses. But purely from a business perspective, the band should have quit over a decade ago. After the incredible Automatic For The People album, things gradually went downhill. They created some great songs after 1994, but their albums lacked consistency and failed to live up to the expectations created by their decade of greatness.
In this fantastic piece in the UK’s Guardian, Dorian Lynskey summed up the band’s challenges wonderfully well. “We carry our entire back catalogue and people’s personal histories with the music with each release we put out,” Stipe told Lynskey. “It makes it harder to kind of cut through.”
Had the band broke up in the mid-1990s, they would have gone out on top. Had they ended things when drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997, their legacy would be stellar, and nobody would question their relevance. Sadly, after fifteen years worth of mediocre material, people will need to be reminded of their greatness.
That reality isn’t lost on lead singer Michael Stipe, who joked “It’s just like me to overstay my welcome.”
Your brand has a life span. At the very least, your brand has as life cycle.
Stick around past your prime, and we forget how good you once were. Oldsmobile falls into that category. Let’s hope R.E.M. doesn’t.
The new book Brand Like A Rock Star is now available, and it is full of lessons from rock ‘n’ roll to help make your business rich and famous.
If you’d like to go deeper into the bands discussed, the “Musical Companion” is worth checking out if you have a Kindle.