Not too long ago, a good friend of mine still working in the music business said something that struck me: “music’s been cheapened”. I agreed immediately, not knowing exactly why, but gave it some more thought. It relates to how technology will affect music — not how we listen to music, but how we digest it, buy it, perceive it.
Let me first say that I love the iPod, and the device has even allowed me to rediscover music that was previously boxed away in racks of old CDs. The technology is wonderful, making it so easy to carry around your entire record collection at all times. But is the art of recording an “album” — an LP — in danger? I guess that’s what I’m questioning here.
One of my favorite rituals has always been going to the record store and buying a CD or two. The physical act of purchasing something, taking it home, opening it up, lookng at the artwork, reading the lyrics, etc. Will that become something of the past? Probably. For years we’ve been hearing things like “yeah, but you’ll be able to print out your own artwork to go along with the digital downloads”. Somehow that just doesn’t sound as nice.
The album as an artform
Creating an album — not just a collection of songs, but an entire “experience” has long been an artform in and of itself. It’s part of what got me interested in design early on: studying the packaging design and album artwork of bands and artists I worshipped. The collection and artwork combined with a group of songs recorded within the same time period always seemed like a time capsule of what the band was doing at that moment. But with the ability to buy a single song immediately via the web, will a shift materialize? Will we go back to the days of 7″ 45s, where the single ruled?
When my friend said that he believed music has been cheapened, he was referring to the fact that music is now everywhere. It’s in your cellphone, on the web, on your microwave, TV, toys, etc. It’s even a marketing tool. It’s become easier to get, but will that affect the music itself?
The web site “album”?
What has become crucial is the band’s web site — the depot for news, info, photos, music, videos, etc. It’s possible that the web site will become even more important as digital distribution gains even more steam. Perhaps an “album” will really be a web site devoted to a group of songs released at the same time. Each “album” will stand on it’s own like an archived article.
I don’t have any answers, of course. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out. The Compact Disc is the end of the line as far as a physical medium for music — but even as technology progresses, I hope there continues to be a way of relaying the special qualities that only a packaged album can deliver.
Expanding on the idea of the website album, I think we will definitely see integrated artworks for albums accessible via the web. The best example I can think of right now can be accessed here:
It’s a wonderfully engaging site that fuses the music of Boards of Canada with a innovative website.
If this is the future, I’m all for it.
I’m with you on the inherent joy of purchasing a physical album, which is one of several reasons I have thus far refused to buy any digital music that is available in another format. I’m actually currently working on an article addressing the subject of the current inadequacies of digital music, and once published, everyone is going to think I’m following a meme you started. Thanks a lot, Dan… ;)
First, I agree about the ‘cheapening’ of music, but I don’t think its entirely bad… I know personally it is so easy to get music (legally even!) that I seem to ‘go thru’ music faster… ie. listen a few times and then move on to the next thing I download from iTunes.
As for the album idea, I agree that idea is changing too… until Green Day’s American Idiot came out last year, I might have even said the album idea was done for… American Idiot’s rock opera roots kinda rekindled my belief in albums though.
I think that the way music is going these days is a movement in the right direction…for the consumer at least. Not having to buy a physical compact disc helps for better organization and less clutter around your room, office, car, etc. (at least for me). Being able to put three to four cd’s on one burnt mp3 cd, or to have a large collection on your computer saves on money, saves on space, and saves on the headache of what to do when you accidently step on your newly purchased CD, ten minutes after you buy it (yes that happened to me).
I like the idea of album websites, and I think that musicians should run with that idea. I don’t think that people are going to want to backstep from where they are now, and have to buy more physical things. I agree that the album artwork was and is a creative way of expressing who the band is. However, I think that a customer (at least most) would sacrifice that artwork for something that is easier, time saving (since it seems no one in this world has time to do anything anymore), as well as mobile. It is a lot easier to carry around 10 CDs on your iPod, than to carry a case around with ten CDs in your pocket.
I may not know what I am talking about, but those are my two cents.
By the way, Dan, I truly love your website, thanks for all the effort you put into it, it has given me great inspiration!
I definetly see the decline of the physical medium of music as sad but it was only a matter of time, it happened to books when radio arrived, it happened to radio when tv came along and now it’s happening to music. But the encouraging news is all these mediums have survived and perhaps have even been reinvented ie. satellite radio.
iTunes is nice, but it’s the it’s made the act of consuming music sterile and impersonal. Here’s a thought… As bandwidth increases and more and more and as more people hop on broadband, music moves more into a subscription type model.
Bands would begin to charge a small fee to subscribe to their sites and through that subscription you would recieve exclusive music packaging and other physical items from the band to enhance your listening experience.
Maybe establish some sort of XML + MP3 standard for streaming music that would give you access as a member, this way your music wouldn’t be iPod dependant, but rather web dependant. I think this would be great for the artists, a recurring stream of revenue that they could rely on.
I’m thinking either the label creates the artist site and gives the artist a fair share of the subscription revenue or an outside company comes along and creates a nice little network of sites from bands of all genres.
I’m sure there are alot of cons to this concept, but an idea that just came to mind.
Already, there’s some really interesting comments here. I like the XML+MP3 subscription model concept, Nick. Sort of like how podcasting has evolved.
Rob – don’t worry, I’ll back you up. I’ve really offered nothing but questions here, anyway :-)
I think we can see signs of bands moving to web sites dedicated to particular albums already. See http://www.dmbnewstudioalbum.com/ for example.
When my friend said that he believed music has been cheapened, he was referring to the fact that music is now everywhere. It’s in your cellphone, on the web, on your microwave, TV, toys, etc. It’s even a marketing tool. It’s become easier to get, but will that affect the music itself?
Music everywhere, cheap and for everyone? That sounds like a success story, not a failure.
This had already affected the music. Maybe not the music that you or I listen to, but think about all of the noise on the radio. Think American Idol.
Did digital images cheapen art? See any galleries going out of business because of web archives? Any theater troupes being run out of business by screenplay sites?
Music is cheapened today, but it’s not because of new formats. It’s because the music industry turned a creative industry into the worst mass production has to offer. People don’t care about the extras because frankly, the showcased content wasn’t that well thought out either. Honestly, when’s the last time you saw a creative use of album art? Sticky Fingers? 200 Motels?
A well put together album is still an attraction. It’s more than a collection of tracks, it’s as you mentioned – something to appreciate. I still find a few of those every once and again. Where you’re actually interested in reading along with the lyric sheets while listening to the performance. But not often.
What, you think I’m missing some hitherbefore unseen nuance to Britney by missing the liner notes?
Interestingly enough, Frank Zappa brought up these same objections about the CD format because of the reduced footprint for album art.
The music itself hasn’t been cheapened imo. It has become far more accessible and far more listened to than before. The musicians audience has become far greater and far more significant. The shift has come in where the money is made, to release the music is to be heard, I think live music is now becoming ever more important. Live events and clubs are becoming bigger.
Of course the price per head has fallen for straight sales, but at the same time I think they have more people buying than would otherwise, so it may not be as hard hitting on the sales.
A possible knock on effect of all this is a change in the styles of music people listen to, it will relate to what they can also go out and see.
I also think its a good movement, but it may take some time to see how it pans out. I really dont think it will nose dive as so many fear, but I do think things will change.
First of all, to be completely honest, I have probably only purchased three physical albums in the past four or five years. Why? I do enjoy opening that long awaited album and thumbing through the album art as I listen to the tracks in the parking lot of my favorite music store but something has to be said about the convince of iTunes-type purchasing.
First and foremost, I can typically find complete albums for lower prices through iTunes than I can at a retail store; that alone drives the sale of online music over its physical counterpart. Moreover, the cost and ease of creating a physical copy of music I purchase online has become almost second nature to even slightly computer-savvy users. Sure, I can buy a physical version of the same music and rip that music to iTunes and have the same convenience of re-creating additional copies but with online purchasing I have the ability to buy one, two, three, or all of the song from a particular album rather than being forced to purchase all songs. To me, in this declining age of quality full-length (being the key phrase) albums and being able to purchase the songs I like and only those that I like is vital.
No matter how you cut it, the digital distribution of music is certainly the future. However, I do agree with Nick that the physical medium of music will withstand the digital age much like previous mediums have in the past.
Ive been saying the same things to friends of mine for a couple of years. Im a music junkie, at one point I would I was regularly making four visits to the record store a week. More than the actual tactile thing you get, the experience of going into a music shop, thumbing through things which quite often represent certain events or memories of my life is the best sort of a release that I know. I love looking at sleeve notes, and I adore the physical art of putting it into the Cd player, sitting back, closing my eyes, and going to a place where I never expected to go from the confines of my room on an afternoon.
However, even my insatiable desire for music has been dampened. Im no longer going to the record store just to look, only when I have a certain disc in mind. Instead I get tracks over the net, and stick them on my iPod, and enjoy only one aspect of the whole process which I have been in love with for years.
The idea of websites acting as a part of a album release is a good one, But nothing will ever replace the smell of a freshly printed album sleeve, with the words laid out in front of you ecactly as the artist intended them to be seen. There is never going to be a digital equivilant of that rush of playing the latest Radiohead release for the first time and feeling completley released from your environment. Music, more than ever is for the masses, and regardless of it being cheapened, people will always make music in the hope it will be heard and enjoyed, not that it will be commerically sucsessful.
The minority of albums are conceived as a whole. Rather, most bands/artists write songs (sometimes they go together as a theme, sometimes though less so, that’s on purpose). So a band has a handful of great tunes put together and then goes into the studio and NEEDS to create another handful in order to have a full album to release to the public.
So, to free the artist from the obligation of creating full albums may be a very wonderful thing. They can just crank out great singles as/when they are created and we can gobble them up.
Just a thought. But then the Stones’ “Satisfaction” was filler, too.
You’ve reminded To Vax Nostalgic article (this is link to pdf file, I cannot link directly to the article because of weird link system. You can find html version in this list) on experiencethread.com , which was among the first ones that gave me some thoughts on the subject.
It’s change… and change is sometimes hard to deal with. Especially when you see it affect a medium that you love. I’ll still buy a cd and even a LP if the artwork is that good. Many artists still release vinyl. Wilco just released “A Ghost is Born” on vinyl.
Anyway… honestly I think it will push artists to be more creative in the ‘album’ concept. That’s my hope anyway.
“Digital” on the recording end is both good and bad, in the same way that one really can’t say that books in general are any better now that most writers use digital tools to write them instead of quills.
However, “digital” on the recording and sharing end has allowed more people to push music out into the world and of course, some of it is gonna be crap just like it was in the analog recording days. The difference is that digital tools allow us to pump it out faster.
Just like writing and computers, I’m not sure digital has affected overall quality: we still have great stuff to wade through and now we can wade through stuff from India and Senegal much easier than before, which is due primarily to digital. Unless you’re a tube amplifier type who hates CDs because they’re mastered too sharp, I’m not sure the change from analog to digital has affected overall quality.
Well, there is something: maybe the speed of production is now out of scale with what it needs to be to do high quality work. Speed things up too much and brains just can’t keep up to oversee and make good aesthetic judgements and couple that with time = money in the recording studio and it’s not good.
I noticed that Dan didn’t use the word “remix” in his post nor has anyone used it in the comment thread.
If you’re the person doing the recording and you record 10 tracks and want to not only share them in 4 different ways, but also play over the entire thing and then, maybe 3 years later take the tracks and remix them again with a new track you just laid down, remixing (digital mastering) is the greatest thing to happen to music engineering in years. However, it’s also led to an amazing amount of plagiarism, which certainly cheapens things and gives “digital” a bad name.
I hate downloading music, even though I do it all the time (it’s legal in Canada). The act of looking for something and snatching an mp3 from another snatcher makes me as guilty as a nut on a stick.
If mp3 players weren’t invented, would this have happened?
When you really appreciate music and it’s art form, you spend the extra money for the CD or buy LP’s and EP’s so that you can enjoy the warm sound of vinyl.
People steal music. And if it doesn’t stop albums as we know them are going to go away. Period.
Anytime I see a local band play I buy their CD. I don’t even have to like it a lot. My friends will say, “hey they’re not that good, why did you buy their CD?” I respond that if we don’t support local music, who will?
Sure U2 doesn’t need any more money. But how about The Streets, Jem, or Portishead. I don’t mean to sound like I know everything (I hope it is obivious I don’t), but if you get something for free expect the same in return.
There has to be a solution out there that will allow new bands to make a profit and make more music, while allowing meshups, remixes, and for us to share a CD of our favor groups w/ friends and family. I just don’t know what that solution is.
I can’t see a time when people stop buyig music on a physical media, whatever that may be – as you say due to the experience and tangibility of walking away with the cd, case, cover, booklet, whatever.
What is a serious concern and one that is a huge disappointment to what the technology initially promised is the poor quality and durability of modern day cd’s. Remember, these were the ‘indestructible’ replacement for vinyl etc and they looked good too – to start with. You could scratch them, get them dirty whatever and they just kept on ticking.
I think today far too many people are disappointed at paying A$20-35 to get it home, drop it or whatever and then it skips and generally misbehaves – all in the name of ‘cheapening’ the product by making cd’s thinner etc.
A case of a good technology ‘;cheapened’ by unneccessary cost cutting. A shame and an opportunity missed and I’m afraid -another good reason to download instead.
I don’t think the album is any immediate danger as an artform. I remember hearing a lot of the same things when Napster and its kin blew up, but nothing really happened. There will always be people who are willing (or prefer) to buy physical media. The web album thing is a great idea, but I think it is best used as a promotional tool. I don’t see it overtaking the physical album any time before you and I are both old geezers that only listen to our ancient “CDs.”
sorry, no time to read all of these comments (so hopefully this isn’t redundant,) but in response to your article:
1) Most bands don’t create albums that “tell a story,” they create an album of 1-3 hits and 7-12 garbage tracks
2) I have never visited a band’s web site, and I can’t imagine I ever will, I am not interested in anything other than their music, I’m not looking for a multimedia experience, just as millions (most) of us have never inserted our CDs into our computers to get the CD-PLUS content. Seriously, who cares. Just play music and leave all of the other crap alone, maybe albums wouldn’t be $20 at Tower if the band didn’t stick all that useless shit on there.
3) I agree about the artwork, I grew up looking at my older siblings vinyl, listening to Sabbath, Zeppelin, the Stones, even my parents’ old albums. The album artwork did tell a story, I find today’s album artwork to be contrived–either too slick, or too artsy–I don’t need dental x-rays of anyone other than my daughter (you know who you are.)
You’ll notice that every new movie that comes out on theaters these days has its own web site. This is how music is for bands but not for albums individually, and if that changes, I doubt that they will stop distributing the physical media. Sure, the files may be smaller than a video and thus more easily distributed through the Internet, but with the rise of high-speed Internet, that will probably change, too. Just my thoughts.
Thankfully, almost every comment deals with the listeners love and interest of music. Talking about the consumer/customers need of everything being cheap, fast and accessible is a dead end. Most people enjoy a saturday in town doing a round of shopping, browsing through clothes-stores, secondhand-shops and music-stores. The anticipation and joy of going “treasure-hunting” in the blues-section is priceless! That said, I think the world is big enough for another way of enjoying life without rejecting old joys.
The “record store experience” is overrated. I was in Amoeba Records in Los Angeles this weekend and almost everybody smelled like ass. I wish showering and wearing clean clothes would come back into style.
Also, they couldn’t find several albums I was after (they were in stock but not on the shelf). I much prefer researching and shopping for music online.
I tend to agree with other commenters who have poimnted out that music has been cheapened not by the inevitable shift to digital, but by the policies and actions of the powerful in the traditional music industry. But I don’t think many of us are talking about that sort of mainstream disposable music anyway.
I did get to thinking about this in the context of The Long Tail.
I’m happy to trade all the (unreliable!) joys of going to a music shop, taking home a physical CD and poring over its design and content (again, not invariably joyous, sometimes disappointing), playing an album and over time growing to cherish it as a masterful collection of tracks, each benefiting the others by its mere presence (c’mon, how many times have you tasted the bitter resentment of knowing you paid good money for what turned out to be a couple of tracks you had a fleeting fancy for and a dozen others that were handle cranking filler?) in exchange for the possibility of true diversity in available music.
I think the fact that I can now listen to bands that I would have formerly never heard of is fantastic. I live in a country where we mainly get the top 40 hits and nothing else so it’s great to be able to discover new music (through online radio stations) and buy their music online. I feel that we’re going to have less huge selling artists and more musicians making a living that would not have had the fan-base before. Perhaps mainstream music is suffering because most mainstream CDs consist of two catchy songs (a lot of time the catchiness is the result of a sample of an old tune), a couple of mawkish ballads and filler. It’s very easy to pick this with a quick listen in iTunes.
I think all the “digital revolution” outcomes have been a bit on the early side. Adoption of technology has always been very quick. By that I mean, think of car companies that were as eager to adopt technology at the speed of companies on the Internet and software developers, we’d all be driving alternative fuel cars or be dead and not really caring about it.
As a musicician myself I find that music is now more accessable and I’m not as careful about selecting a new album. I find myself buying songs from iTunes quite a bit and then going back to get the album(s) later. My interests in music have expanded greatly in the couple of years since iTunes. I have always used my computer to create music, dispite being a comtempory musician, Guitar, Bass, and Piano. So going online to buy the music almost seems natural.
What I miss the most is liner notes. I want to know who guested on the album adding a new dimention to an already established group. I want to know who was the producer that caused a band to evolve in that unexpected way. These are the things that help drive music as an art.
Computers and the digital evolution have become the sharpest double edged sword to the music industry and the artfor that created it. We will never see another Blue Note record company and the days of the LP art are long gone. This is truely a shame but at what point do the few of us that care get to be heard? Remember 99 percent of music buyers just get the album for 1 or 2 songs and probably don’t care who did the album cover or who helped the band grow as artists. Damn shame? Yes. Damn criminal? should be.
Re: website as album art
I guess this is another good reason that people start using web standards. To be able to change the look of a site, each time an album comes out, with minimal fuss to any backend stuff – that’s going to be a great selling point.
It doesn’t worry me too much. Personally I’m not going to buy digitally distributed music online. I’m too much of a quality enthusiast, and MP3 etc are all sold at a bit-rate which is audibly inferior on good music equipment.
It’ll be a decade or so before ‘hard media’ fades out and pure digital distribution comes to the fore in the every-day-joe mass market sector.
I used to be the biggest CD freak. I had a collection of about 800 CD’s. It was awesome, but it ended up being deeply flawed. When I bought a new CD, I had to re-organize the collection. You can’t have 800 CD’s and have them in any particular order. The artwork on the CD’s was great. I enjoyed having such a huge collection, and then I had to move. All I can say is 800 CD’s, plus my record collection of over 1000 records, almost caused me to go into cardiac arrest. Now being able to have all this in an 8oz device is bliss. The organizational tools out there now for MP3′s are amazing. Since I now listen to music at my computer, mostly while I work, I can find information on the artist in a single mouse click. Websites, reviews, and collaborations all downloaded in seconds. I enjoyed the art of the CD and LP for ages, now I just wish that the record companies would produce music that I would actually want to buy. That’s another story altogether though.
Two separate issues here: the “cheapening” of music and the death of the lp. They have little relationship to one another.
When cds arrived, albums began getting longer and longer, since you could fit more material than on vinyl. If anything “cheapened” the lp it was this: lots of filler, quantity over quality.
Secondly, put this issue in historical context. The lp didn’t make an impression on pop music until the 60′s , and the roots of all American music were planted on 78′s, on which were issued on two “sides.”
As far as “cheaping” music, digital tools have literally accomplished this, with mixed results, to put it kindly. But that itself is typical of any technological advance.
Minor point, CD’s aren’t really the “end of the line” for physical distribution. SACD and DVD-A are currently niche players that are gaining ground. I think we have a few iterations left over the next 10-15 years before the record stores are officially obsolete.
Wow, great post and awesome thread!
This is something I think about, and have thought about, quite a bit. I went through a phase, a couple years back, where I was really worried about the effects digital media and distribution were going to have on music and the whole experience of buying and enjoying music.
Then I looked at my CD and Record collection and thought about how much money I’d spent and how much “filler” was in there. Sure digital distribution is “cheaper” but in many ways that’s a good thing.
Now I spend much less money on music, but I listen to more music I love than I ever have. As well, I go to more shows and I’m positive more of my money makes it’s way into the pockets of artists I enjoy than ever before.
What we’re looking towards, hopefully, is a means to connect an artist with a fan much more directly and intimately. Sure, I’ll miss the record store experience and the album covers, but I can accept that in exchange for easier access to great music and the money to go to more live shows.
I do worry a bit that it might become even harder to weed the good from the filler, with so many choices, but I think there are things that can be done about that.
I love the idea of an album as a Web site. But you and I both know that the average band Web site is a heaping pile of do-do. ;) But maybe there is an opportunity for people like us to help them out…who knows?
Personally I almost never listen to anything but complete albums. Playlists have never been of any interest to me. I demand a certain flow to the music I listen to, and why spend time carefully putting a playlist together when it has already been done with a number of albums.
As for physical music stores disappearing, I don’t see it happening in quite some time. As long as the demand is large enough there will continue to be a supply. Whether because of nostalgia, the physical item or the feeling I believe there will always be a demand for albums. And though the CD probably will disappear some time in the future, I believe the “album experience” will transform and live on.
this is interesting.. something i’ve discussed before. so what are the implications of returning to the 45′s era where singles ruled? well it might be a good thing for *true* artists that releaase actual albums.
take britney spears for instance. who actually likes most of the filler on her albums? people just want the singles… as a result, less people will purchase the entire album for these pop bands, which could mean less revenue for the record companies.
meanwhile, artists that come out with an entire album of *good songs* will gain more attention now, as it will become necessary for an entire album to be good for consumers to get the whole thing.
i have hope that the iTunes single download world is going to be a very good thing for artists that have been struggling against the influx of cheap pop music lately.
I hope these new methods of distrubtion starts to clue bands into the fact that most users don’t want intro/end/inbetween songs that act as filler on albums. I don’t enjoy the fact I need to waste time either skipping or listening to short little tracks or narrations on albums.
Some bands seem to be embracing the online world and providing all their work (Or at least a fair ammount of it.) for download rather than jumping onto a record label. Machinae Supremacy is one of my personal favourites who are an excellent example of this. They have a significant number of songs freely avaiable for download along with an entire soundtrack they produced and full tracks from their album(s). I really hope more bands will start to do this in the future, I can certianly say that I’m more likely to support a band I enjoy if they support open source formats and online distribution.
Mark Cuban weighs on the death of the CD. Definitely relevant to this conversation.
The new Jack Johnson CD, from iTunes, downloads a PDF version of the CD insert as well as the songs.
I’ll agree however, that it’s not the same as buying the actual CD, but I thought it was really cool to get that.
I have been collecting my music for a little over a year now. I have a total of around 250 albums on my computer, and I listen to most of them regularly. Occaisonally I buy actual CD’s from the store, usually when I am impressed by a band and have heard some or all of the album. I always like to support musicians, but I can’t say I’ve paid for every single CD I own. I know people that never buy CDs, and people that never download music at all. I really wonder though, how much the artists actually make for each album that is sold. Most range from about $12-$20, at least around here. Now, I also wonder how much money iTunes pays artists per song or album. It’s simple economics, how will the ARTIST gain the most profit from a successful album in order to keep making music? If a band gets 70, 80, 90 percent of the price I pay for an album, then I think it’s probably worth the money to support the band. However, if the band only recieves 20 or 30 percent, how can I justify paying any more for an album if the band gets less? Eventually, a new system will work out that is profitable and accessible for everyone. If musicians aren’t making much money off the internet, they will either figure out a better way to make money or they will stop making music. If they stop making music, there’s nothing for anyone to steal. Either way, I think that the move to digital is going to put more emphasis on the music as an art form rather than a means to make money.
I thank Mr Tesco for cheaper music, and other big stores for that matter. THey can afford to sell it cheaper, so the high streat has to keep up
I have been an ardent collector of music for well over 15 years, mostly on vinyl and a couple hundred CDs. On the digital-digital side, I have an iPod and have used both eMusic and file sharing (iTMS not yet available in my country) so I’ve come to know and get accquainted with all music formats so far. Yet I still enjoy the physical experience of listening and playing music on vinyl the most (the big design canvas is a plus too) and I will definitely regret it if one day this will no longer be possible.
It should be pointed that, were it not for legendary artist Alex Steinweiss, the association of music with design would never have ocurred. Mr. Steinweiss conceived and produced the very first album covers for Columbia in the 1940s, and thus began a visual revolution that reached its highest peak in the mid-60s / early 70s with great conceptual album designs, where music and visual art were made for each other and equally enjoyable. What I do these days is, if I like a given title I hear on MP3 so much and has good art to boot, I’ll go get the record. The benefits of being able these days to listen to and sample tons of music for almost nothing cannot be denied, as it allows for wise buys and to separate the wheat from the chaff.
However as we progressively head to an all-digital future that shuns physical support to rely purely on virtual-yet-untangible experiences, I fear a vital part of the whole experience of recorded music will be lost, and that we will not realize it until it is too late. Sometimes we get so obsessed with a digital future that we tend to forget we ourselves are not made of mere ones and zeros.
Cory’s estimate that bands get 70-90% of the price of an album is high. Danny Goldberg, a music industry veteran, estimates most bands get about 10% of the price of a CD.
And David Byrne is on record saying that he doesn’t see much money from CD sales.
My understanding is that most mid level bands make their money from touring.
This is kind of a rant but it will make sense when it’s done I promise….
A big problem with music being “cheapened” is the crap that gets passed off as music. People complain about albums costing too much yet they’re forking over $20 for the lates prefabbed pop CD pumped by MTV. Has anyone heard of independent music? Get an album the week it comes out and it’s 10-15(MAX) at Best Buy/Virgin/Tower. Don’t buy Britney Spears or the latest Korn CD. Dig a little deeper and pick up Rocky Votolato or the Agony Scene.
Me I find myself on the outskirts of this “Music costs too much” and “Albums are filled with junk filler songs” because of the pure fact that I listen mostly to metal and or independent music. Nearly every CD I’ve bought in the last 5 years is good from opening to close becauses I search out real musicians who care about their art. Rather than the great pop song I heard on the radio that I can’t stop humming. That’s what iTunes was created for, those one hit radio wonders.
The Beatles (just as an example) didn’t always do “concept albums” but they consistently put out great albums filled with great songs. Because they cared about their artt and were allowed to mature in it. That’s another problem with major labels, they don’t sign an artist and let them mature. They only want to sign the artist with the quick sell and the hit single. Notice how the new bands that are getting signed that are putting out great material all around (Coheed & Cambria, Thrice, Thursday, and even longer ago Green Day) are all independent bands that cut their teeth on the road in front of small crowds of rabid fans? That’s not an accident. These bands know what it is to create music rather than bitch about how tough it is to record an album in a million dollar studio on your reality TV show COUGH ASHLEY SIMPSON COUGH.
Ok this musician/designer is done. haha
I hope that made some sense
Bands (generally) get between .75¢ & $3 per album, depending on the deal they negotiated. BUT before they get this the record company “recoups” to cost of recording the album, at the rate stated above, all the while collecting the rest of the $ as profit. So if your album cost $80000 to make, you figure out how long to recoup. Then there is iTunes I’m led to believe they offer about 65% of the sale price direct to the artist. This is actually a much better deal for the artist.
I own mp3s and vinyl.
I just feel i’ve been conned when i buy a cd. I know it cost about 3 pence to make, and it’ll just go onto my ipod anyway.
MP3s/ipods etc. are wonderful. They allow you to really broaden your taste in music.
But for those albums i love, a Vinyl LP is perfect. the size, the smell, the ability to see and hold the music and know it’s there, it’s all brilliant. The process you said about buying it is magnified and extended to every playing with vinyl.
When you listen to something on vinyl, you’ve really used all your senses (taste questionable)
My friend Phil runs a vinyl-only label. Most of the record covers are silkscreened by hand, a touch which seems difficult to match in the digital realm. Some of the records also include a cd “ripped” from the vinyl so that the digital recordings still have the analog pops and scratches. And if sales are any indication (they are), vinyl is still an extremely popular medium, at least in the independent music scene.
While I’ve purchased albums from the iTunes store, I still like being able to buy tangible products that are handmade and in limited runs. And while I feel that digital technologies have somewhat democratized the industry (easier to record, distribute, and promote independent music), it’s also increased the amount of really crappy music out there. I do booking for an all-ages venue here in NW Washington State and you wouldn’t believe the torrent of terrible sounding digital demos that we receive.
I’m not really sure how to improve on the experience of digital music. I know that with his last album, David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion) launched a website for the album that included extensive recording notes, live versions of songs, lyrics, etc. I really liked reading about how each song was recorded, which mics they used, etc. Of course, that’s mainly content for geeks, but I think it was a nice bonus.
A couple of friends of mine just left a couple of hours ago after they visited me from out of town for the weekend. One of them had brought his IPod and offered some of his music in return for some of mine.
I’ve been purchasing records for over twenty years and have been more than generous with sharing music for my friends. Lately though, some of my younger peers who have fully embraced trading music with IPods seem to be taking advantage of me by asking if they can burn a couple of my records, actually upwards of one-hundred fifty, and put them in their IPod. They were kind and offered me the chance to copy their records from their digital collection. I wasn’t particularly eager to do this since I am not entirely satisfied with listening to mp3s (no artwork, physical object, etc). There were about one hundred or so albums to choose from, none of which I was particularly interested in listening to. I copied a few but I wasn’t prepared for the fact that this seemed like an excuse for him to copy about one hundred of my cds and records that I had actually paid for. I know that he didn’t pay for any of his music. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I paid well over a thousand dollars for this much music or is it that each one of these albums had a special place in my life experience.
I can remember the day and the weather of nearly every one of my one thousand or so record purchases. I remember the music my older friends and I got stoned to and listened to over and over. I remember running out to buy the newest pixies record with my best friend and coming home and ripping it open. I remember finding a sealed original copy of Piper at the Gates of Dawn, opening the cellophane and the twenty year old smell of the cardboard jacket hitting me like a load of bricks. I remember going to Bleeker Bob’s and looking for a copy of The Beach Boy’s Wild Honey, finding out they didn’t have it, getting word from another customer that he had one at his store in Hoboken, the travel there, finding out he was a roadie for Roxy Music, and sitting there for a couple of hours listening to his stories. This new generation of music collectors, it’s my opinion, are missing out on the experience of the physical act of going out and seeking for these nuggets of history. Everything is so quick, and so easily disgarded with these advances in technology. My friend hooked up his IPod to my computer and within a few minutes a hundred or more of his albums were copied to my hard drive. Just seeing that download progress bar speeding away just sort of hit me as sad. Sure, I’m probably being overly nostalgic and sentimental about the record as an object. Do I think of it as an object of conquest? Am I jealous that he didn’t have to pay for anything? I’m all for sharing music as I feel that the record industry is taking advantage of people by charging so much for something that costs so little. I’m not looking for a response necessarily and I’m typing this rhetorically. This is just a way of organising my thoughts on the issue.
I’m very positive ’bout digital music ’cause ‘fore Napster all was ’bout BackStreet Boys and crap like that.
Without services like Napster, KaZaA or iTunes there won’t be any emo, and alternative metal bands like Avenged Sevenfold would only exists in my dreams.
It democratizes the market a lot, putting at the same level Britney Spears and Atreyu. The music industry is losing a lot, cause with the iTunes 65% of the revenues goes to the artists instead the crappy 5%-10% that they receive from physical CDs.
Also, the lie of selling information (wether it’s music, images, etc.) with a physical media, and tell everyone that the information IS the media are no longer taked by anybody.
I use all the services available here, either legal or not, and I just tell you that iTunes and Rhapsody (the service not the italian band) are the future.
And the artists should link the songs from their websites and selling by themselves, without any label and get the 100% of the money, thus lowering the price of the song (I think ¢99 is too much), and still earn more money than selling CDs.
You don’t need a piece of plastic to hear music. The music is in the air, and is in the net. And the artists don’t need a record label to distribute their songs and be heared. I just love entering a band site and find sample tracks on MP3 or Real Audio.
And in spite of all the stated above, I actually buy CDs. After download 3 o 4 songs of an album, if i like the 4 songs (that aren’t hits), I go to the record store and buy the CD. It’s called “try it before you buy”.
What cheapened music is not sharing it online, it’s the mass market mentality of only 5 labels on the RIAA deciding what YOU should hear. Independent music rises from Kurt Cobain’s grave thanks to iTunes. And we’ll have enough indie to go for a long time, trust me.
It’s all to the advantage of the artists, who forever have been exploited by the record industries. Artists can handle the entire operation on their own, almost all in thin air. No plastic required.