Rise of the Supergroups

The supergroup is no innovative concept. It’s a phrase that dates back to the sixties and was initially applied to rock bands. These supergroups consisted of members from already established groups who formed via label/marketing interests, their own random encounters and also previous friendships and bonds from other musical projects.

Historically, supergroups have tended to be short-lived and spur of the moment. Many musicians from popular music acts often break into their own solo careers and create their own brand independent of their groups.  However, with the landscape of the music business constantly shifting and breaking up, even that has changed. Now it appears as if supergroups are a more lucrative venture in the post iTunes/digital industry and solo acts are less prevalent. Here is a list of supergroups that have formed over just the last couple years:

  • Them Crooked Vultures (features members of Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters)
  • Dead Weather (White Stripes, the Kills, Raconteurs)
  • Monsters of Folk (My Morning Jacket, M. Ward, Bright Eyes)
  • The alleged Center Edge Territory (Jay Electronica, Mos Def, Curren$y)
  • Scarlett Johannson and Pete Yorn
  • She and Him (Zooey Deschanel, M. Ward)
  • Broken Bells (Danger Mouse and James Mercer)
  • Gayngs (Rhymesayers, Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, the Rosebuds)
  • Slaughterhouse (Joe Budden, Royce da 5’9, Joell Ortiz, Crooked I)

Now the real question is: Will the supergroup become the new vehicle or cash cow for the music industry in the future?

There are clear advantages to forming or joining a supergroup. Of course, there’s increased visibility. The individual members are already visible stars, so why not add them all up and become even more popular? A supergroup can hopefully attain greater album sales considering the music listener/fan is not only getting one rock star, but several  for the price of one. And last, but not least, because the supergroup is comprised of multiple talents, companies may be more inclined to offer corporate sponsorships and deals to the entire group as opposed to just one member.

Nonetheless, many musicians are still pursuing the solo career route. Thom Yorke, Julian Casablancas, and Kele Okereke from Bloc Party have all gone solo and received a great deal of publicity and coverage. Thom Yorke has enlisted Flea to play in his touring band Atoms for Peace and they played to sold out crowds all over the United States just a couple months ago.

But the question still stands as to whether or not the “supergroup model” will supplant other economically viable business models in the entertainment industry. It’s hard for me to personally point out many flaws within this model, but time will tell. In the meantime, readers, please feel free to leave comments and opinions on supergroups. Is the supergroup the remedy to an ailing music business?

*FYI, this article was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. Thanks for the great feedback Katie!

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