Save The Album?

If I hear one more old fart who grew up separating seeds from stems in the middle of a gatefold cover say we’ve got to save the album my head is gonna EXPLODE!

What ruined this business was the single.  The individual track honed to perfection and then sold on MTV.  Suddenly, people no longer believed in artists, but SONGS!  It was 1963 all over again.  When the 45 RPM single ruled.

But that was an interesting time.  Despite all the one hit wonders, there WERE certain artists who did return business, who got the public to buy disc after disc.  Artists like the Four Seasons.  And the Beach Boys.  Because they realized it was about the ACT, not the song, or the presentation.

Sure, the Beatles turned the album into an art form.  But the old fogeys would have you believe there was no legitimate music, never mind act, prior to this happening.  That the history of music before the 33 1/3 LP is completely irrelevant.

Let me put this all together for you.  To make it today, to have an impact and longevity, you’ve got to establish a CULTURE!  You have to create a community.  People have to BELIEVE in you.

Do you think everybody loved "Rubber Soul" from the minute they heard it?  God, some people didn’t even buy it because it DIDN’T have any singles.  Albums like this, like so many great records of yore, you had to play again and again and again to GET INTO THEM!  And the reason you gave them this chance was because you believed in the BAND!

That’s where it’s at.  Not a collection of ten to fourteen tunes.  It would be as if Beethoven or Bach were only relevant, only important, if you could collect their great work on one LP, or CD.  And that’s hogwash.

Hell, if you want people to buy an hour long production then replicate Jethro Tull’s "Thick As A Brick".  Other than that, know that the album is HISTORY!  Done.  Finito.  To deny this is to live in an ancient fairyland far from reality.

The key is to hook somebody so they’ll want EVERYTHING you do.

The idea is to be an ongoing artist.  With a steady stream of product.  So people don’t get over you.  Today’s paradigm is like having an intense girlfriend and then not seeing her again for three years.  Especially if you’re under the age of twenty, do you think the relationship would last?  Don’t say it’s about attention spans, it’s about CONNECTION!  While you’re off flogging yourself in a foreign land I’m supposed to hold a torch for you?  What’s more, what if you come back exactly the same?  If three years go by, who wants a girlfriend who’s still fifteen rather than eighteen.  That’s what it’s like when an act releases a new disc after years have gone by and it sounds just like the old one.  The only people interested are those who are nostalgic.  Can you say U2??  That’s what’s going on with this band.  Repeating the formula so only people who went to college in the eighties still care.  Oh, don’t send me hate mail.  Just name two tracks from the last two records as good as "I Will Follow" or "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For".  Or with the limit-testing of "The Fly".  Case closed.  Go back to sleep.

Can we stop arguing about disintermediation?  How we’ve got to keep the integrity of collections?  How the iTunes Music Store is ruining music?  Like I said up front, it’s the corporate marketing policies that got us to stop believing in "musicians".  Explain J. Lo to me.  An actress/model "sings" in an almost million dollar video and I’m supposed to BELIEVE IN HER ART?  Oh, they were thrilled over at Sony.  Execs at other labels were waxing jealously.  But it’s this kind of shit that got us in trouble.  Why would you need a new J. Lo single/video.  To see what she’s wearing?

If you’ve got a story to tell, make it all one song.  Or, explain it on your Website.  Tell people how to sequence the downloads.  Or maybe, ask THEM how they sequence the downloads and what the result means to them.  If the medium affects the art, the Internet is about collaboration, get the listener INVOLVED, don’t dictate to him.

So, stop polishing turds.  Make a ton of music.  Put it up on your Website constantly.  So people will go back and LOOK for it.  Don’t tour over five months a year, so you have TIME to relax and get inspired and continue to write, which is what you’re truly about, being an artist.  Establish a relationship with the fan, an ongoing one, not a static one.  And know that if someone is into you, they’ll want everything you ever did.  Which is why I comb the P2P services for live tracks by my favorite acts.  THIS is the passion we need.  Not fat cats lamenting the passage of the old days eliminating all the soul from the enterprise.  Music is dope.  Sell it that way.  Get people hooked so they won’t let go.


One Response to Save The Album? »»


  1. Comment by Fred Vail | 2006/04/29 at 10:44:27

    Hi, Bob,

    You’re right on the money there. Bravo. I certainly don’t expect today’s ‘name’ acts to put out three, four or even five albums A YEAR, as did Sinatra, Elvis, Brian and The Beach Boys, and Sir Elton. After all, it’s a different time. However, an album every two and a half to three years is too far in the other extreme–as is a single languishing 25 to 35 weeks on the chart, then played for another six months as a ‘re-current.’

    Can’t we get rid of these singles any quicker? Why not open the airwaves to a broader variety of artists, including new acts? And radio wonders why satellite has 12 million subscribers and counting. It’s certainly NOT because there are no commercials. It’s because radio has become so boring that people are looking to satellite radio, the Internet–and even shows like American Idol and Nashville Star–to hear new and emerging artists.

    Basically, people are now willing to pay $12.95 a month for something radio used to give us for ‘free.’ Variety.

    Meanwhile, the labels are not doing much better: six months to a year of ‘pre-production,’ followed by six months to a year of touring, followed by three to four months in the studio. It was not that long ago that all the great artists recorded ‘live.’ No overdubs, no three to six days to mix one song. No Pro Tools to tune the vocals.

    Each morning at 9:35, our local #1 deejay, Gerry House (WSIX-FM), plays what he calls ‘new music.’ The audience is invited to call in and vote–on a scale of 1-10–how they like the track. However, instead of it actually being ‘new music,’ it is more often than not, a track that is already out on a CD. I love it when a listener calls the show and tells Gerry: "Yes, I love that ‘new’ single. In fact, I loved it two years ago when it came out on their album!"

    Have a great weekend, Bob!!

    Fred Vail
    Treasure Isle Recorders, Inc.
    Nashville, TN

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