Thursday, September 20, 2007

Onward & Upward w/ The Arts

Enough w/ the birthday & breast blogging, let's ease back into grim reality w/ a look or two @ the fate of the album.* Philip Freeman, editor in chief of Metal Edge, logs in @ the Los Angeles Times (While, of course, pimping his new book, an update of the desert island disc idea.):
I kept hearing from doubtful outsiders that the project didn't make sense because the album was dead, that it was all about downloads and iPod playlists, that people didn't listen to music "that way" anymore. Those doubters are wrong.
Maybe, maybe not. Not so sure that the "album preserved" by the same sort of oddball aesthete downloaders/"early adopters" Freeman refers to means it will last forever.
Furthermore, many albums posted and downloaded aren't new. They're old and frequently out of print, abandoned by labels that didn't see a profit in keeping them commercially available. So they're shared, fan to fan, among small virtual communities obsessed with '60s avant-garde jazz, obscure '70s hard rock or regional hip-hop from the '80s. Ever heard an MP3 crackle like vintage vinyl? Or one in which the sound wobbles like a cassette on the brink of unspooling? I have: It's the sound of the album preserved. [...] Media types frequently fixate on "early adopters," their own unacknowledged class biases allowing the actions of the ultra-hip few to overshadow the slower progress of the poorer, less tech-savvy majority. Even in the U.S., not everyone has an Internet connection fast enough to permit downloading of albums. I still see more Discmans than iPods in my New Jersey neighborhood; vinyl retains hipster cachet; and outside the U.S., especially in Africa and the Middle East, a whole lot of music continues to be sold on cassette. Ultimately, albums will exist as long as artists, and fans, want them to.
Our thoughts on this deal, as posted @ The Atlantic a few days ago:
I could go on about "young people today" & their shortened attention spans, but the truth is, the paradigm is no longer CDs (or, in my day, LPs) it's songs (as it was when rock 'n' roll first came to national attention). You'll note it's "iTunes," not "iAlbums." If a group (or one person, greater profit margin) can record a single, appealing song in their/his basement or wherever using a computer & sell, say, five million downloads @ 99¢ (don't know what Apple's cut is) they have a nice chunk of change w/ little monetary investment, & of course no record co. taking as much as "creative accounting" will allow. It's not necessary to have even an "LP's Worth of Tunes," to quote Todd Rundgren. And if you can get your tune in a national television commercial (a fairly recent development in the world of pop/indie/whatever music) you're on easy street, w/ royalties & exposure. Rather than crank out an album/CD a year, you really can get away w/, say, two popular/successful songs a year. And we all know how lazy musicians are. Posted by M. Bouffant September 9, 2007 9:32 PM
Recycling rules! Granted, we were making an attempt to explain the music biz to Ms. McArdle in the economic terms she's alleged to understand, &, as we so often do, talking off the top of our head, though it turns out she was in a band in college. And other commenters disagreed w/ us. So, who knows? And the NYT weighs in on the sales battle between Kanye West & 50 Cent.
Meanwhile music executives will stop celebrating and go back to scrambling as usual. They know that, when measuring the success of an album, first-week sales figures are sometimes less important than 20th-week sales figures. (You might argue that this week’s true sales winner is Fergie, whose solo debut, “The Dutchess,” has now spent an entire year on Billboard’s album chart; it currently sits at No. 6.) And they know that even a very good week — with three huge releases on the same day — doesn’t mean much in the context of yet another very bad year.
The best part is that the Times' style book requires the use of Mr. or Ms. or Mrs. before last names, yet Fiddy Cent is not called "Mr. Cent," but "50 Cent" throughout the piece. *Pointless, semi-interesting trivia: In the 1930s, when the discs weren't even vinyl but hard plastic coated in shellac, & spun @ 78 RPM, an entire symphony took six to ten discs, with the individual sleeves for the discs bound in a book like a photo album. Hence the term "album," first for the movements of a symphony, then for a collection of songs.


Larry Harmon said...

A couple of staff members at the hosp. have brought their ipods in to work and play them with "docking stations" so others can hear them, and in both cases I noticed a distinct and unpleasant compressed sound to the music. Audiophiles, I think, wouldn't cotton to ipods.

Larry Harmon said...

ALSO..... Some artists create music as albums, not discrete "songs". Think of dub, for example. The Mad Professor creates his music in album form for a reason. And could you imagine downloading sections of John Zorn's "The Classic Guide to Strategy" as individual songs? Yeesh! The Philistines have taken over!

M. Bouffant said...

The Editor States:
It is the official position of this "web log" that the Philistines have been in charge since they were first brought to the world's attention in that Xtian myth & legend book, if not long before that.

Other than crap heard on our devil-box, through a brace of tiny speakers, we've never heard an MP3, but audio fetishists don't really like the CD format, let alone the even more compressed (no harmonics or overtones) MP3.
Last time we talked w/ Steve Gregoropoulos of W. A. C. O. he was going on about how he couldn't listen to anything digital, & he was the first person we knew who owned a CD player.