It's pretty unscientific. But last year I noticed that more than a few artists were putting out more albums than they usually do. In normal times they might put out a couple of albums. Max. But usually it's a single album and that's more than enough. Maybe a track here or there as a novelty might filter out in addition. I expect that increased regularity of albums will continue this year at least until live gigging properly returns. The free-improv artist seems even more likely to pump out as many as three or four albums per year.
With streaming in front of invisible audiences becoming part of the scene more and more it's certainly easy to convert these online performances into future live albums and start a kind of pipeline. That's one bit of multi-tasking artists certainly will like given how some venues have high quality studio-equivalent kit at their disposal and the chances are the live album will sound better than it usually does in a noisy club when more post-production work is usually needed to make the audio that bit more pristine.
But it's still at home or a nearby studio where most of the recording activity continues to take place. The temptation to DIY an album using all that spare time many artists have is too great to ignore. OK but the problem for consumers is ''album fatigue'' sets in after a run of this. ''Oh, another album by my favourite artist. But you know what, I just can't be bothered as I have already got their record that came out six months ago and I'm still playing it.'' Is quality control as high as it usually is? I've noticed sound quality is more ''cushioned''. A lot of albums could do with a third party producer but as often as not the artist acts as producer too. This isn't always a good thing I'd contend. But usually it comes down to budgets. Produce yourself or don't have a product is certainly part of the ongoing dilemma.
Maybe the new, surplus to requirements or not, album will somehow reach an audience so far unknown and not yet familiar with the artist's work. Maybe. And if so that's a big plus. The chances, however, are that without investment in publicity and marketing that album will stay known ironically only to the existing fanbase. They're the only regular people interested after all! Finding out about new releases is still not straight forward. I'm still, for instance, discovering interesting albums I didn't know anything about at all released just a few months ago and I for one follow release patterns pretty thoroughly. The publicity ecosystem isn't always jazz-release friendly. Certainly the mainstream media scarcely scratches the surface at what is really out there mainly shoved instead this way or that for coverage by big label publicists.
Sticking to less is more I think is better in the long-term. For fans scarcity increases desire. Fans don't want to start feeling that they are being milked. If artists double down and think ''I need sales. I'll make an extra record just to make sales'' they are certainly barking up the wrong tree. I hope no more than a small number think like that.
In the current climate it's a waiting game for fan and artist alike. Flooding the market isn't a solution. It's just yet another indication of what a mess we all find ourselves stuck often helplessly and for now interminably in. Stephen Graham