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Climbing to the Next Level: You're a Star!

Rock StarCongratulations, you've done it! After all that hard work -- the writing and recording, the networking and touring -- you've made it to the top. Nice job, rock star! Stop for a minute, pat yourself on the back and revel in the moment. It really doesn't get much better than this.

But don't get too comfy: becoming a successful musician doesn't mean all the work is over. In fact, some of the most difficult aspects have yet to start; successful musicians have the responsibility to stay successful. And with the music industry as it is, constantly moving from trend to trend in an exaggerated state of flux, staying successful is lots of work. Fans are fickle and real rock stars are in short order, so you've got to play your next moves carefully and with a complete understanding of the possible pitfalls successful musician's face.

The Sophomore Slump

Sometimes a successful musician with a hit record will release a follow-up album that leaves a little (or a lot) to be desired. The phenomenon is known as a sophomore slump, and it's a rock stars worst nightmare. The music industry is notoriously unforgiving ; one not-so-good release can ruin a famous band's career, even if they just recently had a hit.

And strange as it sounds, the sophomore slump is often completely out of a successful musician's control. So much time passes between the release of your first record and the writing of your second, it's not uncommon to find that your sense of musical direction has changed in the interim. Of course, fans and record critics don't care; they only just become acquainted with you as a famous band. No one's ready for a drastic change.

So how do you avoid this potentially career-ruining problem? Many successful musicians ward off the dreaded sophomore slump by stockpiling songs -- in other words, writing more material for your first record than you intend to use and tweaking the leftovers for later release. The problem with this tactic, however, is that you run the risk of your second album sounding like a carbon copy of your first -- or worse, like a collection of mediocre B-sides.

That's why many famous bands release five or six song EPs in the interim between their debut and its follow-up. That way, the stockpiled material is put to use, but the shorter format reduces the risk of it sounding like an overblown imitation. EPs also provide a nice transition between the old material and the new, especially if you, like many successful musicians, plan to take your second record in a new direction.

Of course, not every rock star has the luxury of stockpiled material. If you find yourself forced to write a new record completely from scratch, just remember one thing: fans and critics want a second record that stays within the boundaries of your band's sound, but breaks away just enough to be refreshing. A successful musician's sophomore record will almost always be a development of ideas introduced on the first, a more mature versions of his or her earlier self. Save the massive stylistic changes for your third record -- the industry becomes more forgiving as newly successful musicians grow to be more established.

Falling Off the Radar

Becoming a successful musician is a tough process, so it makes perfect sense that a famous band might want to drop out of sight for awhile after their first brush with notoriety. It's a well-earned vacation, right?

Well, sort of. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a little time off after a long stretch of recording and touring; rock stars, after all, need to recharge their creative batteries. But that time off can be a problem for newly famous bands. Fans and critics have a fairly short memory. Unless your band stayed on top of the charts for weeks, you'll need to keep your name in the public eye. Even the most successful musicians have to fight to keep themselves on the radar. The phrase "out of sight, out of mind" has never rung more true than it does in the music industry.

That doesn't mean you need to rush out and release a new record mere months after your first (a year is typically a nice interim). You don't even need to plan some expansive worldwide tour. Small steps often make big strides for famous bands; talk to your booking agent and publicist about small about small events at which you can perform while you're recharging your batteries. Think about trying to get one of your songs on a compilation and strive to play a few nearby out-of-town shows instead of launching a full-fledged tour. Also consider holding contests and giveaways via your label or website. Anything you can do to keep your name in the minds of fans is a good step toward keeping your rock star status.

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