Many artists rarely get the kind of exposure afforded by their own deaths. After passing, cult musicians like Joy Division, or even someone like David Bowie – surely the biggest cult artist of them all – received the kind of media coverage they’d never experienced while they were alive. Queen are another good example of a band who were huge when at their peak in, 1975-1979, but who became even more popular after Freddie Mercury died, in 1991. Clearly, death sells. Even if an artist’s music has deteriorated, their posthumous career gives them a newfound popularity. So why do artists reach a wider audience when death occurs?
Though a large percentage of us are music lovers who follow with our own ears, the majority of listeners are told what to like and follow this rule, so when a musician’s death is on the news, it triggers a memory the average fan wants to explore. It is actually quite rare that someone will loyally follow an artist from childhood to pensionhood.
David Bowie’s 1983 tour marked a commercial peak for him; up to that point, though popular, he hadn’t played huge stadiums. He did during the Let’s Dance era, though: 45,000 at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. He was massive. Many people who disliked him, or were disinterested before, went to see him. Unfortunately, when artists hit a peak there is only one way to go – and it is generally down.