~ singles aren’t enough
I understand the new music paradigm. I really do. Big labels are dying, musicians are entrepreneurs, singles are the product to create and sell on iTunes and the album as a concept is DEAD.
RIP Sgt. Peppers.
Well I’m clinging to the edge of the cliff with my fingernails and hanging on to the album with my teeth. I’m not letting go even though I may then be saved. Saved? By what? An iTunes download? I love and admire the artist that can put together a cohesive album and I don’t ever want to see that part of the music world die. So when I go to iTunes for music I always download the whole album.
I wrote an essay a few years ago about how downloading singles is like buying “So-What Music”. Yes it’s a nice song, but so what? Here’s what I said about the album concept then:
The albums I bought usually had an arc to them and I would listen to the first side and then want to turn over to the other side to hear how the thing ended. “Born To Run” is a prime example and I can’t listen to just the song ‘Born To Run’ without humming ‘She’s the One’ right after it. It’s the next chapter in the story. These albums had songs that had depth and imagery and the albums themselves had an arc to them that demanded that I listen to the entire thing.
I still believe that, but I want to add more to it since I am now seeing the demise of the physical CD. One song is not representative of an artist. If you were to hear only one of my songs you might think that I write only country or only rock or only experimental. On my last CD “She”, the first half of the CD is very heavy with full band and distorted guitars and then the second half is more acoustic. You wouldn’t know that if I had only offered those songs as a collection of singles. It’s the concept of the album that created the linkage of those songs. Songs are much more interesting when they are part of a larger work and when they are connected in some manner to a greater concept than just the idea contained in that one song.
When an artist pulls a listener into the world of the album, they pull them into their broader world. It’s like the artist says, ‘Come in Listener and hear what I have to say from the vantage points of each of these songs I’ve written.’ I hope that artsts out there are still thinking about this and not being forced into thinking that the single is the thing. The album is micro and macro at the same time. What other art form does that? Tell me if you know.
At this time I am collecting my new songs and combing through a few older ones. I’m looking for threads. I’m looking for commonalities. When I find that path that leads through 12 or 14 songs, then and only then will I put them on to my next Album.
What do you think? Is the album dead? Please leave a comment.