Friday, July 21, 2006

where did the album go? And some other thoughts on the state of the music industry

I was reading the paper this morning and a 23 year old columnist was chronicling how the all-encompassing influence of the internet and now the mp3 player (and more specifically the iPod) has increasingly personalized one's music tastes and listening experiences. He argues that this has further isolated individuals and taken away from the communal experience that music can bring as well as individualizing our cultural experiences. I could not agree more. That being said, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I have an iPod and I really enjoy it. I guess because I am old and not tech-savvy I looked at the iPod as a way to have all my favourite ALBUMS in the palm of my hand rather than being all about "playlists". The mp3 player has furthered the increasing trend in the music industry since the early 80s of being all about hit singles (rather than albums), so now you can download all the catchy hits and thus don't have to bother with entire albums. You can have your cake and eat it too. This saddens me because it takes no attention span and little real listening skill to just grab a song here, a song there, tailoring and specifying your listening to an unparalleled degree. No wonder artists don't really have careers anymore. You don't really see too many U2s, Bob Dylans and the like anymore because, with more artists recording than ever before, artists are here today gone today if they don't sell a bucketload of albums first time out! You can't afford to develop your craft or have a couple albums that aren't huge sellers because record companies won't allow it. It's all about the big single and if you can't keep putting out huge singles and holding the public's interest, tough crap! I am going to continue to dig for great artists who put out albums and not a big single surrounded by sub-par filler. I realize that this post is borderline incoherent and probably a bunch of different, though related, subjects thrown together and pooped out like intellectual diarrhea, but I was just typing as it all entered my head. Hopefully you get my drift...


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, Matty. I would also add that our concept of access to music and ownership of music has also deeply effected our ability to experience and enjoy it. I remember purchasing Zepplin 4 on vinyl when I was 13 and listening to that one album all summer (while reading Lord of The Rings on the back deck). Why? Because, with my paper route money, it was all I could afford. By the end of the summer, I didn't just own the album, but - in a sense - I had a relationship with it. Not just "Stairway to Heaven" but the whole sha-bang. By the time I was 16, I had what was considered for the times a large record collection. These days, in a matter of hours, my son can download that very collection for pennies. But will his experience of the music be the same as mine? Hardly.

I know I come off sounding like an old fart (by the way, I too have an i-pod and love it dearly), but you are quite right in suggesting that the music industry will never be the same ... to the detriment of art.


Anonymous said...

I am not a smart man by any stretch of the imagination, but I think what everyone needs to realize that there is still the ability to have a great album by a great band. Not just a single by the (sorry to use Matt's word) Theory of a Dead Nickelback bands of today. Attention spans are shorter and the world goes by fast and we want to enjoy just the music that we want.

Just because the medium that you listen to your music on has changed, doesn't mean that you can't listen to "stairway" half a million times and not feel the art in that.

I think the real issue that we should be worried about is not if they can make a great album, but are we listening to actual talent or just Ashley Simpson doing a jig on Saturday Night Live while her song plays over the PA.

Things will be alright.

Mike Lambert

beth said...

i see your point, and i agree... i was actually thinking about this very phenomenon the other day. i also think that there are plenty of good independent(-ish) artists out there who are putting out good ALBUMS (e.g. neko case's latest, fox confessor brings the flood, arcade fire, etc.), they're just not being shoved down our throats all the time so we have to put more effort into seeking them out. that being said, i do enjoy having (and with a 1gig iPod, need) the ability to pick and choose the songs that go on it.