It’s an unfortunate truth that tragedy and musicians tend to go very much hand in hand. The world is decorated with thousands of murals commemorating musicians taken before their time in unfortunate circumstances. Last week was the anniversary of one of the prime figures of tragedy in music, Kurt Cobain, who unfortunately took his own life in 1994 at the height of his success with grunge band Nirvana.
Ever since his passing music fans have mourned for the music that could have been if Cobain stayed alive, but there is a positive externality which came out of Cobain’s death, Nirvana’s two other members went onto make more music which may not have happened if they were still in Nirvana. The story of Nirvana’s tragic end starting off a chain of events which led to the formation of more bands perfectly explains the topic of my PhD thesis; Seedbed Role.
Seedbed Role is a process where the death of small firms, creates a fertile breeding ground for new firms to be born. Essentially it means that firm deaths help cause future firm births. This may sound strange but there is logic to it. The employees that work in firms have several skills e.g. qualifications, interpersonal skills, and on the job experience.
So when a firm closes these employees are dispersed into different parts of the economy and often seize economic opportunities using their skills. This means that businesses closing down can actually lead to a more efficient allocation of individuals in the economy and spur on entrepreneurship. This process is also observable in the world of music and in the below figure.
Besides Kurt Cobain, Nirvana had two other members (unless you count Pat Smear who joined the band as a second guitarist on tour toward the end of the band). The two other members were Krist Novoselic (bass) and Dave Grohl (drums). Both were very good musicians in their own right and had several skills of their own. Dave Grohl for example also provided backing vocals and could play guitar as well as being considered one of the best drummers of his generation.
So when Nirvana ended he continued to use these skills in other areas of the music industry. Most notably in his own band the Foo Fighters, but he also played in Them Crooked Vultures and Queens of the Stone Age as well as recorded with Tenacious D and Nine Inch Nails. Novoselic pursued the rest of his musical career with Sweet 75, Giants in the Trees and Flipper.
So through this example we can see how the break-up of a band can lead to more bands being created. Now, whether this produces better bands than the original is completely a matter of opinion, but this process of band death leading to the opportunity for new music still makes for a nice thought.
By Daragh O’Leary