We all know the music business is changing, so I won’t bore anyone with my lamenting, my sighing and hand-wringing or any other ings that show displeasure and uncertainty. But one discussion that is often lost in this huge topic is the question of the album. Is the album a needed format or is it obsolete? Is it even worth it to make one these days??
The concept hasn’t been completely abandoned but I know many bands that have no interest in albums at all, for various reasons. 1- it takes a lot of time and money to make one. 2- people rarely buy them. 3- it’s not how music is consumed anymore. All of these reasons are valid. Sure, some artists will be stuck on the album, it’s all about a full idea, the cohesiveness of a bunch of songs put together, blah blah. And for some bands, that can work. But for most artists, and especially new artists, it’s maybe not logical to put all your eggs in one basket. As with the speed of the Internet, the speed of music consumption is super fast. You’re better off putting out singles on the Internet, leaking them one at a time, because that’s how people are getting music these days.
Take, for example, Pitchfork’s track reviews. Often, they are reviewing songs off a MySpace page. Today they posted a review of “Feel It All Around” by Washed Out, which is some dude in South Carolina with electronic toys. He doesn’t yet have an album out (though Mexican Summer is releasing an LP in October, can’t find deets) and his songs are obviously home made and DIY- which is really cool don’t get me wrong, and, for the record, I like the songs, but the point i’m trying to make is this: tracks are hyped these days, not albums. This guy’s forthcoming album could suck, but it doesn’t really matter, people will remember the leaked tracks, so heavy handedly hyped online. Artists were once judged by the quality of their albums, if you had a good single and a shitty record, you were deemed a one hit wonder and reduced to VH1 reruns. Today that’s not the case at all.
(For the record let me state that I am a believer in albums, I like listening to a band for more than 3 or 4 minutes, it’s probably good for the brain, too.)
Another example: The Very Best (Esau Mwamwaya and Radioclit (a name i hate!!)) have been giving shit away for free for what feels like forever. First there was their free download last year that everyone has, and in the past couple of months they’ve been leaking tracks slowly and purposefully on the Internet. Just yesterday we got the third leak from the Warm Heart of Africa album as an “exclusive” on the FADER. The track, “Rain Dance,” features MIA. The album is out today on iTunes and Oct. 6 on CD and vinyl. Will anyone buy it? Does the track giveaway marketing actually inspire people to buy the album after they’ve gotten so used to getting bits of it for free? I’m not sure. I hope so. I think.
This exact topic is being discussed today at 2 EST on Soundcheck. Live stream here.