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Think your industry changes fast?
Picture yourself as Kip Winger (above), leader of band Winger. It is early 1991. You’ve just come off a 13-month tour in which you played sold-out stadiums around the world with bands like KISS, The Scorpions, and ZZ Top. You’ve watched your hit songs get played to death on MTV. And you’ve been nominated as “Best Heavy Metal Group” at the American Music Awards. Pretty cool.
And then, without warning, along comes Nevermind. And the bottom falls out.
The debut album from Nirvana in September of 1991 was the breakthrough album of the grunge era, and seemingly overnight Winger’s forte – big hair, leather, slick guitar solos, polished production, and rousing choruses about sex and girls – went dramatically out of style.
Winger didn’t do anything to deserve it.
Neither did Poison, Extreme, Warrant, or Skid Row. It just happened.
With the rapid rise of grunge music and its emotionally draining angst, distorted guitars, and low key visuals, all of the so-called hair bands became immediately passe.
Rock ‘n’ roll is a world of perpetual change.
Songs end and new ones begin. Tours go city to city, different shows each night. Albums rise and fall down the chart. Nothing is constant.
You either adapt or die, in business as in rock ‘n’ roll.
The hair bands, for the most part, died. Some tried to alter their sound, but even Guns N Roses and Van Halen fell apart within a few years.
Here are four lessons you can learn from the hair bands and their early 90s demise:
1. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do. If you are great at hair band rock, and hair band rock goes out of style, you can’t easily become a grunge act. The perceptions of you are realities. Changing minds is nearly impossible.
2. Even when you aren’t in style, your fans didn’t just disappear. There are still people out there who want to hear your songs! So entertain them. Forget about past success and focus on making your customers happy. Even when the tide turned against gas-guzzling SUVs, there were still customers who wanted to buy a Navigator instead of a Prius.
3. Wait it out. If you can afford to wait out the fads, you might just come back into style. This summer KISS and Motley Crue are on tour together. Many of the big hair bands of the 1980s are still playing for fans and making a great living doing it. Even though the hair band isn’t today’s big thing, it is not nearly as uncool as it was in 1991.
4. Popularity and talent are not related. When his band faded from popularity, Kip Winger studied classical music. He worked on solo projects. And he wrote a 30 minute symphonic piece that because the musical centerpiece for the San Francisco Ballet’s hit production of “Ghosts”. Without the trappings of immense fame, Kip Winger found immense freedom.
Rock on!PHOTO CREDIT: photo of Kip Winger from www.wingertheband.com