Happy Anniversary Already — Why Do We Celebrate Music Before It’s Due?


Have you noticed music acts are celebrating album anniversaries all the time now? Between reissue releases, box sets and tours, there’s no way to dodge these anniversaries, and I have to be honest, it’s getting a bit annoying. 

Why is there this need to honor and celebrate so much these days? And when we do celebrate why aren’t we waiting for a more appropriate, time tested opportunity?

Every time you turn around lately some emo band is firing up a 10th-anniversary tour for their album that only super die-hard fans know or care about. Or there’s that classic rock band performing an anniversary show for an album that contains one or two songs known by most casual fans. Oh, and there’s only like two original members in the band.

I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer and rain on someone’s tribute, but you have to admit that self-administering your own album recognition is a bit... bloated in thinking, perhaps. Who’s to judge when an album is cherished enough to have a birthday party? I can’t really say for sure, but I’ll take a swing at it here I suppose. 

U2 recently skipped around America playing The Joshua Tree in its entirety to acknowledge the album’s thirtieth year of release — that worked out well. The band is still one of the biggest in the world and the album is cover-to-cover legendary. The music, the sound, the influence: all important. It just doesn’t hold the same weight as a band born post-MySpace celebrating ten years for one of their barely known records. What's so special about 10 years? I have cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup on my kitchen shelves older than that! Guided By Voices put out about fifteen albums in the past ten years! Is a decade enough time to deem an album worthy of celebrating?   

We don’t allow things to mature properly anymore. Let these records thicken with more admiration over time. Why must we rush every single thing these days? That answer is simple: because we can. Unfortunately. The on-demand, swipe and download world these days gets it when they want it. I guess patience is a lost art. It’s a shame because the lack of it certainly ruins the overall experience I believe. 

The anniversary rush thing is partially instigated by record companies lets not forget. Since the sales of albums have continued to decline, “Record Company Inc.” has to find a way to create a product that will sell. So, many of them dig into their back catalog and they bring back records that already sold well for them. They slap a “20th Anniversary Edition” sticker on it and add a few liner notes written by Dave Grohl or Jack White and there you go! The labels spend no money in the studio, there are no hassles with the artists creating new material; they just put that same record out in a celebrational way and people buy them. Again. Happy Anniversary! Cha-ching!   

I think the gimmick of awards shows in recent times has nudged this trend along as well. We seem to be patting ourselves on the back way, way too much and it’s getting worse. Awards shows are out of control. I don’t watch any of them anymore, but they’re coming at us left and right now. The TV stations see it as a valuable program for ratings and advertising, artists see it as a chance to be recognized for something when it's so tough to “win” anything these days with record sales dwindling and of course the viewers can just sit at home and control world trends by hashtag-ing their asses off over every outfit, speech and over the top performance during the show. Thanks to all of this we now have more awards shows than ever needed and now everyone gets to go home with a prize! 

Business is a big part of these anniversaries for sure, but I don’t think it’s the only reason. I do think artists want to instigate something. Success in the music industry today is tougher than ever, so maybe an anniversary allows for some type of success points for an album’s duration.  

Are we worried that without pre-mature anniversaries or extra awards shows artists won’t find a chance to be valued? Shouldn’t your work be the only spotlight you need? To point out the fact that one of your albums is ten years old and you’re going out to tour and support that short term landmark is basically saying we believe this album is already important enough to parade around waving its colors. Most times, it’s not that important. Other times, not yet. 

True fans that are in line to support that ten year anniversary have all the right in the world and certainly should enjoy themselves. Go right ahead, diehards! Real fans are gold. But, don’t kid yourself into thinking that stating the age of an album makes it more loved or more precious in the big picture. It’s simply a reason for a party and that is ok! Short-term anniversary tours should be parties, not forced recognition evaluations. Marriages, now they are to be celebrated at any interval! They are worthy of a one-year, five-year or ten-year anniversary without a doubt. Fall Out Boy’s second record? Yeah, not so much.      

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