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October 29, 2008

On albums

[Musicthoughts] recently had an interesting discussion about the value of albums, inspired by a Lefsetz rant. I thought this might provide a slightly different take on the idea:

For the record, I agree with Stephan's thinking completely:

"I don't think (the album) is necessary or useful," Jenkins told the
audience. "The album is an arbitrary concept. It's not something that has to

A few days ago, Jenkins said in an e-mail that he wants an opportunity to
expand on his comments.

"Albums are the most vital and compelling art form," Jenkins said in his
e-mail. "I spent my childhood with headphones and liner notes, finding my
identity through albums, and I have invested my adult life making them." But
Jenkins didn't back down from his earlier statements. "Albums were also
created so that record executives could make cash."

In the current environment, acts need to stop thinking about the album as
anything in particular and make it into whatever suits them. Make your art
as good as it can be first and package it for sale or distribution second.
Packages might include a 5-track EP of "Songs written on the '07 summer
tour", or a 13-track, 60-minute opus called "How I felt about my father's
death", or, if you're Jonathan Coulton, all of the "Song a week for a year"
tracks could be collected into a 52-track Album.

Stop thinking about CDs as albums and albums as CDs. Get 52 tracks, Master
them into a coherent statement, Zip them into managable, downloadable MP3
collections and upload them for sale or giveaway. "Album" from the latin
simply means "Collection. If Radiohead taught us anything it's that some
people will pay stupid amounts for the art and some people won't buy it at
any price. Make art anyway.

And finally, stop thinking that people have to buy what you want to offer.
If you make what you regard as an album, be prepared for people say "Nahhh,
most of it is crap ... but I like THAT track". Let them have that track on
its own, too ...

(God that sounds horribly post-modern :-)

Posted by Hughie at October 29, 2008 11:35 AM

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