Declan McKenna: The demand for new music isn’t healthy

At 19, Declan McKenna’s debut album took him to into the UK top 20 and around the world.

Three years later he’s releasing the follow up record, Zeros.

It’s a gap he’s “more than comfortable” with but he thinks some people in the music industry aren’t as patient.

He says recent comments from Spotify boss Daniel Ek that artists can no longer release “every three to four years” if they want to stay relevant are “unhealthy”.

“I think it was an unnecessary comment… the problem is how condescending it comes across,” he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“It’s scary when one of the guys in control just seems to show a lack of appreciation for artists who want to release music in different ways.

“Algorithms work when someone is doing a daily vlog or something, not when it’s someone’s life’s work.

“People still like albums, why you trying to ruin that for people? I don’t understand.”

Reading through this is sad. Music is art not just “dialogue with your fans”. Less music doesn’t mean less work or less care, often times it can mean the opposite, you shouldn’t need an influencer style ethic to fit into the music industry. algorithms before art 👎 https://t.co/hXvEsgcZwq

End of Twitter post by @DeclanMcKenna

The 21 year-old also thinks the pressure he feels from streaming platforms is starting to rub off on fans.

“Someone will release an album then a month later it’s like ‘where’s the music?’.

“It shouldn’t be like that and it’s not healthy. If that is the modern landscape, then that is scary.

“This stuff takes years to conceptualise and come up with. I can just see that becoming worse and worse and I don’t think it’s cool to put artists in that position.

“I can’t say doesn’t get to me even though I try and avoid letting it influence my decisions.”

Newsbeat has approached Spotify for a response. The company is yet to reply.

As well as fending off the pressures of streaming giants, Declan’s taken on the challenge of releasing new music album during a global pandemic… and a flood in his new studio.

“I unscrewed everything and put it in rice,” he explains.

“By that point, though, the album was already delayed by two months so none of it was lost!

“The recordings have been done since this time last year so it’s just been frustrating. But then of course everything’s been put on hold.”

Zeros was due out in May, it was then delayed until August and again until early September.

Despite the delay, he’s confident the second album still comes across as intended.

Glam rock influences from the likes of David Bowie are evident from the off, with “characters, themes and plots” appearing across the album.

Although acknowledging there’s hints of it becoming a concept album, Declan says it was important that it didn’t become “an overly-thought out mess.”

He adds: “I didn’t want it it to become too intense.”

After his debut album featured songs covering “not necessarily happy topics” (including LGBT rights and claims of corruption in FIFA) the star says he was conscious to not be pigeon-holed as a political mouthpiece and put singles out “for the sake of it”.

While the new material touches on a range of topical issues from climate change to the pressures of social media, the singer felt he had more control to “make certain things more abstract” this time around and didn’t want to “just write songs to be the soundtrack to a movement”.

“It has to come naturally. I have a platform and I want to use it wisely rather than just being like ‘this is the hot topic’ and forcing myself to write songs about it.

“Just because something’s important doesn’t mean I necessarily have to write songs about it and release them right now.”

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