Art, Trust, and Betrayal

Say a band puts out a debut album which is deemed by critics to have a great deal of artistic merit, and which a small number of hard-core fans love.  For their second album, the band puts out some crap that appeals to the lowest common denominator and makes a ton of money, but which retains its artistic pretensions (the latter point is important; the argument below doesn’t work if the band isn’t pretending that the second album is art too).  Fans of the first album accuse the band of "going commercial" or "selling out."  In effect, they claim (and at least affect to believe) that they are not merely disappointed that they didn’t get their preferred album, but rather that the band has done something that is in some meaningful sense a betrayal.  Does this position have any merit, or is it just sour grapes from a bunch of snobs whose preferences lost out in the marketplace fair and square?

I want to offer an argument that the original fans are (or at least can be) right to feel betrayed.  Most people regard art to be an important part of their lives.  But artistic products are, by their nature, things that you can’t fully appreciate until you consume them.  Moreover, they aren’t even "experience goods" in the traditional sense that once you’ve experienced them you know everything there is to know about them.  Rather, art exercises its influence over you subtly and gradually, and in ways that you cannot fully predict or control.  This means that you are, to some extent, at the mercy of artistic gatekeepers: it is inevitable that the people who feed you art, who tell you what is and what is not "good," have real power over an important part of your life, and that power is partially unaccountable in the sense that you will not necessarily ever know whether your gatekeepers have been acting as a faithful agent in your interest (i.e., acting to help you achieve the richest possible artistic experience), or whether they are taking advantage of you for personal gain.  This means that you must trust other people to look after this aspect of your well-being, with the knowledge that they may have interests that diverge from yours.  And where there is trust, there can be a betrayal of trust.  And as a practical matter, it makes sense to direct your opprobrium at anyone you actually catch violating that trust, in the hopes that this will serve to deter some of those would-be betrayers whom you would not have caught.  And by the way, pretty much the same argument goes for teachers.

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  • Someone can betray an implicit promise. So the question is how to resolve disputes about when there has been an implicit promise. Legal theorists have elaborate discussions of this issue.

  • I’ve noticed that some commenters often seem to feel deeply betrayed when I write a blog post they don’t like, and yet I didn’t charge my readers money, and never promised them anything except honesty. Mightn’t first fans have at least a more legitimate complaint if, lured by the first album, they paid money for the second?

  • brent

    This is one of those cases where I understand the form of your argument but think that you’re wrong. It feels like you’re missing something.

    …or perhaps, I agree that you’re right, but to a very very small degree. For instance, when I was younger I was a huge fan of Smashing Pumpkins. I would listen to Siamese Dreams and Mellon Collie etc etc over and over and over. But then when I read one day that they’d announced that they were no longer a guitar band, that guitar rock was passe (this, coming from Billy CORGAN, who put, like 23 guitar tracks on some Siamese Dream songs – the man who would flawlessly double-track a guitar solo in successive takes even down to the out of time and off-key neck bends???). How pretentious!! I was appalled.

    For all of 10 seconds.

    I have now gone on to spend the rest of my life ignoring anything that Smashing Pumpkins have released since that day, despite the fact that my love for their earlier albums remains as strong as ever.

    Sure, I was betrayed. But my betrayal was overpowered by my subsequent immediate disinterest in their music.

    So, that means that THEY lost out too, right? They should feel betrayed that I didn’t follow them on their new musical oddessy, on their brave and highly artistic change of direction? Music can’t be stagnant if it’s to stay meaningful, so aren’t I betraying them?

    When there’s a change in the dynamic between service provider and consumer who’s to blame?

  • This is a great post.
    Eliezer – money has nothing to do with it. The original fans gave the band much more than money.

  • Ugh… “much more than money”.

    Just what is that, and how does it pay for my daily bread and my beachfront condo?

    The word “art” used to have meaning back when it meant “stuff skillfully produced to elicit a strong sensory effect”. Back in those days, your goal was to produce a picture that could be mistaken for a real scene, and that achievement was called art.

    Then came cameras, and that put an end to that.

    Nowadays, what used to be called art is called entertainment. Because we are in an age where most people have leisure time to enjoy the entertainment/art, entertainment/art is big business. The kind of entertainment/art being produced is the one that’s most economic to produce, and what’s most economic to produce is what most people like. Because most people are dumb schticks, most entertainment/art is dumb and does not completely satisfy a sophisticated person’s senses.

    Because the sophisticated person is not satisfied, he starts insulting entertainment as being different from art. But entertainment and art are one and the same; what the snobby guy considers art, is the same thing as what he considers entertainment, except aimed at people with more complex tastes.

    What is going on here with “fan betrayal”, then, is essentially a group of fans finding an artist who produces something to their taste. Being starved of satisfaction for their hungry complex tastes, they hug the artist like an infatuated person in love. The artist likes it, but the number of these fans is few, and his desires are bigger. So for his next album, he produces art intended for a wider audience. The wider audience likes it, but the new art with wider appeal is not to the taste of the few fans with complex tastes. They thought their appetite would at last be satisfied, but alas, they are betrayed! And they are made to go hungry again, a long time to pass until the next time someone will take mercy and produce some entertainment that will actually satisfy their tastes.

    The “betrayal” that these people feel is the same thing as the “betrayal” of someone with whom you went out on a date, and after a pleasant night or two they inform you that they simply do not see a future for the two of you together. That’s not betrayal. It is disappointment.

    No one should be required to produce entertainment especially for you, just because you got sophisticated taste.

  • Kat

    Taste in art is deeply individual. Finding an artist you connect with is like finding a compatible friend or lover. If I loved your art and you start making a different kind of art, I can’t get someone else to give me what you’ve stopped giving me, though there are other artists that are different. And you as the artist have to know that, but you’re doing it anyway.

    If you’re doing it because that’s where your creative inspiration takes you, you’re being honest with them, your fans may be disappointed but shouldn’t feel betrayed. If you’re doing it for commercial success or popularity, it feels like a betrayal. Think about a lover who leaves you after falling out of love with you, whose plans are now changed, but who has always been honest with you — versus one who depended on your support and then drops you for someone richer or better-looking after becoming successful enough to attract them. Which one has betrayed you?

  • Kat

    …and Denis has posted essentially the same thing while I was writing. 🙂

  • Is betrayed the right word? Or would disappointed be a better description? Seems to me the latter. Betrayal requires a contract of some kind.

    Eliezer, this argument sounds a bit like something Elsworth Tooey made up. “The able have a duty to serve the lazy.” I feel a little disappointed, but not betrayed, that you aren’t at your best with this post.

    It has been said that “fame is a job with a million bosses” and I guess that’s what you’re getting at. But you seem to mean it literally.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “artistic merit” but you seem to be talking about it as an essential quality of art. Doesn’t that commit the naturalistic fallacy? There is no essentialism. Artistic merit is a relationship between something and somebody. It would have no meaning in a world without people. You know that.

    What if you reversed the order of the events? First the band puts out the popular stuff and then the less popular “better” stuff. Would the first set of fans have a reason to feel betrayed? If so, isn’t your argument just another way of saying no one should be allowed to change or grow?

    I rather think of it this way: A creator who disappoints someone will harm his reputation with that person. Reputation conditions future wealth. There’s no ethics involved, just natural consequences. Furthermore, a really disgruntled fan has many options, such as commenting on a blog entry, so that he has some control over just how he impacts the artist’s reputation.

    Nobody owes anybody “good art”, unless of course there’s a contract. Besides which, art is not a fungible commodity that flows from some art spigot, and even if it were, it could easily be argued that each one of us has access to exactly the same spigot. Just because someone likes the water in my tap better than their own water doesn’t give them a claim to my tap.

    As for teachers… People who yoke their sovereign minds to a teacher deserve to learn from that mistake.

  • Kat: on one produces art professionally because that’s where their “creative inspiration takes them”. Artists who do this are hobbyists who need to support themselves with actual jobs. Only incidentally will the same thing that you like also appeal to many other people.

    If you want to live from your art professionally, you have to think not merely about what you like, but what will appeal to your audience. If you want to do it well – and you have to do this if you’re targeting the more sophisticated people – you need to make it look like you aren’t trying to appeal to them; you have to find a way to weave your genuine creative impulse into something that your audience will like.

    But the consumer is king, and so it is for everyone who lives professionally on the fruits of their labor. If you do just whatever strikes your fancy and ignore the wishes of your audience, then you can forget about making a living, and just get a job.

    We live in an environment which puts an emphasis on each person providing a specialized service to others. Those who do art professionally do it for others, not for themselves. The art you do for yourself, well, that’s a hobby.

  • Paul Gowder

    Denis, Kat, in defense of David’s claim of betrayal against your objection that it’s merely disappointment, that the artist has a right to change — a critical premise of David’s claim is that the artist maintained the pretension of catering to the sophisticated tastes in the second album. It’s not as if a lover dumped you, it’s more as if the lover claimed to still be dating you while not returning your telephone calls.

    That being said, I still find David’s argument dissatisfying. But for different reasons. But in order to explore those reasons, I’ll have to be a bit pedantic for a second. I’ll try and summarize David’s argument as a traditional syllogism.

    (CLAIM for being a gatekeeper? Robin’s point re: implied K’s.)

    P1: Artistic experience can’t be experienced until it’s is consumed, and, even then, not immediately.
    P2: (implied): Thus in order to maximize their benefit from artistic experience, people rely on gatekeepers to tell them what to experience.
    P1+P2=C1: “[Y]ou are, to some extent, at the mercy of artistic gatekeepers[.]”
    P3 (implied): One has a right to rely on artistic gatekeepers, and one’s reliance on them implies obligations on behalf of the gatekeepers.
    C1+P3=C2: One legitimately blames artistic gatekeepers when they fail one.

    Expressed that way, it’s pretty easy to see that the implied premises are necessary to get at the ultimate conclusion, even though they’re not stated outright.

    The possibility of objecting to P3 seems to be Robin’s point, and I think it’s well-taken. Is there some kind of implied contract between artistic gatekeepers and consumers? Why does my choice to rely on the artistic pretensions of a given artist entail their obligation to continue to be faithful to those pretensions?

    In fact, there seem to be pretty good reasons to think no such obligation is implied. FIRST: there are other people who have that role in the economy, who don’t have (so much of) a conflict of interest. They’re called reviewers. You can rely on them instead. SECOND: we don’t ordinarily think we can rely on someone’s claims to have artistic merit. Suppose we change the scenario a little bit. Make the artists untalented. They THINK, honestly, that they’re doing art, but they’re not. Even the first album was really crap. Did we have a right to rely on their (honest, but erroneous) belief that they were producing good art, such that it entails an obligation on them to do the impossible, to produce said good art? Surely not. The point is that whatever else we’re doing when we buy the second album, we’re not really asserting that we believe it’ll be good because we accept the claim of the artists that they’re doing art. If that’s true, we could never reject bad art at all. THIRD: how’d we judge the first album, anyway? If we’re competent to judge the first album as good, why do we need the artists as gatekeepers exactly?

    I also want to deny the first implicit premise (P2). That’s a deeper claim, and not so easy to lay out in analytic fashion. But it seems like part of having a full artistic experience is developing one’s own taste. And one can’t develop one’s own taste if one is relying on gatekeepers for everything. One must listen to a bunch of music and decide for one’s self whether any given composition is good or bad. Only then has one fully developed that aspect of oneself. (I want to drop another John Stuart Mill reference in here, but that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.) And if those who claim to appreciate art ought not be relying on gatekeepers in the first place, they hardly are betrayed if the gatekeepers turn out not to be reliable. In fact, they might be better off in a world with unreliable gatekeepers who force them to develop their own capacities.

  • Unknown

    James, this wasn’t posted by Eliezer.

  • What does “betray” mean?

  • Alexandros Marinos

    In the article we have the listeners making not one but two judgements on the quality of the art being produced. They judge the first ablum as ‘worthy’ and the second one as ‘unworthy’. So it is not easy to then claim that they are dependent on the providers for direction since their judgement is demonstrated to be independent of the artist’s judgement. What can be said is that they have ‘faith’ in the artists to keep producing output that they judge as worthwhile and furthermore, react badly when the artists do not produce this specific type of output.

    Furthermore, this would be an easier argument to make if the fans were a coherent set with a single set of criteria for the artist’s work. However this is also rarely the case. i like the quote that James brought up, “fame is a job with a million bosses” for the reason that it demonstrates the dificulty of keeping everyone happy. Every move of the artist will disappoint a percentage of the fans. Some may want more of what was in the previous album, others may want certain elements to be emphasised and yet others may want the artist to follow a musical evolution similar to the evolution of their own tastes through time.

    The interesting element is the fact that the artists are claiming that their art has not changed. This in itself may potentially implicate them morally in the sense that it might be an attempt to mislead the first wave of fans purely for the purpose of increasing album sales. But for there to be an issue of betrayal there would have to be an element of trust before, and i am not sure if ‘producing a worthwhile album’ is enough premise to trust someone.

    My take is that the behaviour is irrational since it connects the product (art) with the producer (artist) and falls victim to the halo effect (art good -> artist is trustworthy and/or has the same taste as i do). Then, when this breaks down, the consumers react badly instead of comprehending the irrationality of their prior belief.

  • Cássio

    James Bach, I could not agree more with you. Maybe Denis payed more attention to the relationship between the artist and the fans than between the artist and his art. Can I call this a cultural bias, since U.S. culture – art included – is deeply massified and very commercial?

  • Ben Jones

    Can we ascribe a specific name to a specific bias here? Simple affect for something you’ve come to know and love and expect things from? Or something different, relating to trust?

    When you buy an album (or ‘become a fan’), you don’t enter a social contract for that band to please you forever. That’s what makes it so good (and artistically good) when they do. Or, even better, when they do something completely different that’s still brilliant.

    Brent – I’m going to see the “Pumpkins” next month here in London. Their last album isn’t a classic, but it’s pretty damn good.

  • David J. Balan

    Several of you made comments along the lines that change is not necessarily betrayal, that it’s OK for an artist to decide to move in a different direction even if some of its old fans don’t like the new stuff. And of course this is right. But my claim never was that all change is betrayal. Paul Gowder put it nicely above: I’m talking not about the case where a lover dumps you, but rather a case where a lover betrays you while still claiming to be true blue. (This gets sticky as a practical matter, since these “claims” are generally not explicit, but it works for the purposes of establishing the principle).

    Paul Gowder, My claim rests on the idea that we can’t help but be partially at the mercy of individual artistic gatekeepers. That doesn’t mean that we are completely at sea; we have some ability to figure stuff out for ourselves, and we do have recourse to multiple gatekeepers. This is good, as it limits the power that any one gatekeeper has over us. But for all that, individual gatekeepers do have power, and I do think that implies an obligation. This reminds me of a discussion I had with a teenaged family friend whose younger sister was suffering pretty badly in her shadow: neither the older sister nor the younger sister asked to live in a world where every stray remark or trivial action by the older sister had the power to wound the younger one, but that’s how things turned out, so it sucks but too bad for the older one. The very nature of the situation imposed a burden on her to be more careful in her dealings with the younger one, and I told her that I thought that there’s nothing for her to do but suck it up and accept it. A similar point could be made about driving; neither the driver nor the pedestrians asked to live in a world where one false move by the one kills the other, but that’s how it is, and that does impose obligations on drivers.

  • David: umm… last time I went out buying an album – and admittedly, this was some time ago – it was possible to ask the store clerk to listen to the album before buying, and it was possible to listen to the whole album right then and there if need be.

    So – I’m not so sure what all this talk about “gatekeepers” is supposed to mean. If you want to check out the album before buying, you can do so. Even if you cannot judge the album thoroughly after listening to it that one time; even if you do not have the time, or inclination, to listen to the album whole in the store – you can still make a decision based on your probability estimate that your money and time investment will turn out well.

    There are no gatekeepers here, there are just people trying to take your money. You need to realize that, or else you are naive. You need to make your investment decisions for yourself, not rely on people who have obvious interest in selling you something.

  • Paul Gowder


    Interesting… I’m not sure I can agree that artists have bad moral luck in that sense, if only because it seems arbitrary to impose the burden on one side rather than the other. Why doesn’t the very nature of the situation impose a burden on the listeners to take some responsibility for their own tastes? Not every form of power implies an obligation — some kinds of power are just power, and it just sucks to be the person who is the object of it.

  • David J. Balan

    Paul, There is no doubt that the listener must take some responsibility as well. Indeed, the listener must take most of the responsibility. But when the dust settles, there ends up being a power relationship, and it only cuts one way. I suppose one could take the position that power relationships of this type do not confer any obligations on the one with the power, but that is not something that I would sign onto.

  • David: it seems to me that you are trying to justify a false sense of victimhood on behalf of the listener. The artist may have the “power” to produce something that brings you satisfaction (or not), but the consumers have the power to buy the artist’s work (or not). Buying an album is a voluntary transaction, and so long as you are not being deceived, the result is fair and square. The artist is entitled to produce whatever kind of art they want, and the consumer is entitled to spend their time enjoying it, or not, and to pay for it, or not.

    The artist is not entitled to make the consumer buy the art; and the consumer is not entitled to coerce the artist into producing a particular kind of art.

    This being clear – I hope – the question is whether or not the artist is deceiving you. In the case of music, I think not; you generally have the option of previewing it before you buy, and if you forgo that option, you are responsible for your own costs.

    A stronger case for deceit could possibly be made with movie sequels which are low-quality ripoffs of high-quality original features (Matrix 2&3, Pirates 2&3, Shrek 3). But even then – you have reviews, you have IMDB ratings, and you have experience which tells you what the chances are of the sequel being as good as the original. If you ignore the ratings and the reviews, well – again, you are responsible for your own costs.

    I think you’re peddling some suspicious “I deserve” mentality here. If a listener thinks he deserves good art, he should create it.

  • What if the artist produces the same quality and style of music in the second album, but this time the fans don’t want it, because they have moved on to some other style. Can the artist claim to have been betrayed by the fans?

  • David J. Balan

    Denis, My claim is that the various mechanisms by which you can look after your own interests in this regard are limited by the nature of the product. That doesn’t mean that they’re zero, just that they’re limited. So we’re left with a reality (if I’m right that it is indeed a reality) in which there is something important (art) over which other people will necessarily have power over you. And how that power should be used strikes me as being of some significance.

    Robin, The case you describe strikes me as being a more conventional market interaction type of thing. Lots of producers end up doing their best, guessing the market wrong, and suffering for it. That’s one of the bad things about capitalism, but I think most of us agree that there’s little that can or should be done about it.

  • David, I think betrayal only makes sense in a relationship where obligations go both ways. If the artist owes it to the fans to keep making the same kind of art, then the fans have to owe something to the artist, don’t they?

  • David J. Balan

    Robin, I guess I don’t think so. We usually think of obligations as being somehow mutual, as would normally be the case where obligations are voluntarily entered into. But my whole point is that when circumstances give power to one side only, the obligation goes to one side only too. If you don’t like the art example, what about the big sister/little sister example in my earlier comment?

  • So, consumers need great art, and artists who can give it to them but will not are oppressors? Hmm. It occurs to me that I have been oppressed by beautiful women most of my adult life. Opressed for example by Nicole Kidman, Michelle Trachtenberg and Alyssa Milano, who clearly could be doing a lot more to provide me with transcendent experiences. Thank you for raising my consciousness.

  • Paul Gowder

    David, the problem with the big sister/little sister example is that there’s a familial connection between the sisters that conventionally implies all sorts of unchosen obligations. But we can think of lots of power relationships where there isn’t such an obvious intuitive obligation. Suppose I’m a boss hiring day laborers in a high-unemployment marketplace. Clearly, I have all the power, but we don’t think that power as such gives me many moral obligations (other than the basic ones to refrain from invidious discrimination) or to respect the expectations of the potential workers.

  • Richard Hollerith: that comment made my day 🙂

    David: I think one of the things you might be ignoring is that the matching of the artist’s work to your taste is not so much intentional, as it is coincidental. When the artist creates a new album with the intention of appealing to a wider audience, but claims that its essence has not been changed, it is hard to prove that the artist is not doing this in good faith. That which you think is the essence might not be the same thing that the artist thinks is the essence, and this in turn might not be the same thing as another fan thinks is the essence.

    Just because the new album disappointed you – because it lost what you thought was the essence – does not mean that it disappointed everyone else who liked the previous album. It does not mean that the new album lost what they thought was the essential value to them of this artist’s work.

    You seem to be implying that the artist has some kind of total knowledge about exactly what kind of art will appeal to exactly what proportion of his fans – or even to which fans in particular.

    If the artist had that kind of total knowledge, he could say: “If you liked my previous album, there is a 47% chance you will like this album more, a 17% chance that you will like it about the same, and a 36% chance that you will like it less. Specifically, if your favorite song on the previous album was track 10 or 12, your risk of disappointment increases by 96%. The error margin for these numbers is 1%.”

    The only way for the artist to have such knowledge would be to postpone the release of his new album in order to conduct expensive and thorough research so that he can discover the above knowledge and transfer it to his fans.

    Are you saying that the cost of people’s disappointment is so huge that artists should be required to “take responsibiity” for their fans’ mental well-being, and conduct such research, and warn their fans of the findings, before releasing any new albums?

    And if you think that such research would be economically efficient, and the artists don’t do it, than why don’t you try forming a company that will do this research on the fans’ behalf, and see how many fans pay you for your services in order to avoid being disappointed?

  • The usual deal seems to be that once an artist gets popular their original fans get upset that they don’t have something special all to themselves. Metallica has claimed that is the source of “sell-out” accusations, but that’s because they suck now.

  • David J. Balan

    Paul, In your employment example, I’m not sure I see where the source of the power comes from; presumably both parties to the transaction agree that the worker will be hired at the going wage. But you could surely come up with stories where power would be a reality in a workplace setting, and yes I would say that that would confer moral obligations as well.

    Denis, You’re right that the principle I’ve outlined in the post has practical limitations. My point is only that the principle is valid and deserves to receive weight.

  • Nick Tarleton

    Paul, In your employment example, I’m not sure I see where the source of the power comes from; presumably both parties to the transaction agree that the worker will be hired at the going wage.

    I think he means that a worker generally loses much more from being fired than the employer loses from not having that worker anymore.

  • Paul Gowder

    What Nick said, also that the employer has power over the hiring process (e.g. who gets hired) in a rough job market. Suppose that one of the day laborers (for example) has an ailing mother — does the employer have a special duty to hire that worker (beyond the normal duties of beneficence that you might think exist) rather than some other worker, because the employer has power over the employee?

  • Dar McWheeler

    Hi All,

    As a recordist, performer and music producer with 35yrs experience in the industry I disagree with much of this.

    There is a hard, cold reality to the music biz that musicians, fueled by narcissism, fantasy and drugs, along with their fans (often fueled by at least 2 of the 3), wish to deny but is nonetheless true.

    The “fans” an no more “betrayed” by a change in style than an OJ drinker is “betrayed” when Minute Maid alters it’s formula, or a housewife when Tide changes the colour of their filler material (the little coloured pieces).

    Music is not art. Say it with me brothers and sisters; Music is not art. Recorded music is “craft”. Everyone in the industry knows this except, it seems, the musicians and their fans. Recordings are “product”. Bands are fodder from which record execs, myself included, profit. That’s why the majority of them come and go without much fanfare.

    But some guys, the Gatekeepers as you call it, make a truckload of dosh from bands’ efforts. Big outfits like Smashing Pumpkins etc are business people FIRST, musicians SECOND. But no fan ever, ever wants to hear that. So we don’t tell you.

    I guess the real point here is that bands and their product releases are not the right analogy for the betrayal of trust argument. There is no trust to get betrayed. It’s all just bands paying off their HUGE loans to record companies, so art, not a chance. Much more like furniture manufacturing. They sell units or they’ll be cross-collateralized into an obscurity where their paycheques from their post-contract gigs at the Qwicki Mart will be garnished. Or worse. Maybe mom and dad put their house up against a startup loan and now they’re all living in a trailer park.

    At any rate there’s no betrayal between marketer and consumer. Products, generally speaking are lowest-bidder so as to achieve bottom-line profits. Consumers vote with their wallets. If you chose to hinge your emotions on products you are only “betrayed” by your own unrealistic expectations.

    So, really, the betrayal of trust lies in the consumers/fan betraying themselves with their own shallow, materialistic self-interests and sense of entitlement.

    Imagine hearing, “I really love 2D animation and the new Simpsons movie is mostly 3D with a toon-shader. I feel soooo betrayed.” and you’ll see what I mean.

  • gutzperson

    I am a visual artist. Did I betray audiences (actual and potential ones) by producing some stuff that was not that adequate? I do not think so, I might have let myself down. Some of the work might have been more inspired by economic necessities (meaning, if I would not have done it I might not have fed myself and people depending on me). Artists are only too human, they have bad days, even weeks and months. They have times when they produce ‘crap’. Even Picasso painted flowers on clay vases and got away with it. Some of his mass products are pretty appalling.
    Referring to your example of a band producing a bad second album;. Who says, it is bad? Music critics, music lovers or other audiences (the broad mass)? I think that a lot of bad albums are loved by a wider audience. Album number two (the bad one) might not be preferred by you, the informed listener, but by another group. You feel betrayed, music experts feel duped, but some guys in the pub are happily listening and singing along. Perhaps, the ‘bad album’ has even become a Karaoke hit.