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The Story Of The Album – From Not Having Enough Money to Not Having Enough Time

“I don’t have the time anymore to play a 70 to 80 minute CD of a band unless it is great”.

I am constantly hearing the above statement from my peers. I am sure they are not alone. To use myself as an example, when my life was all about me, time was plentiful. Then I got married and then we started to have kids. The time that was plentiful in my youth is spread out between my wife, my three kids, my job and then doing anything in between that I could fit in for me.

So is time the reason why the album format has declined?

Going back in time, I remember going to the record store with about $20 to $30 in my back pocket. I always looked forward to those days. It was what I lived for. However as exciting as the experience was, it always had to end with me deciding which albums to buy today and which albums to buy next time around as I could never afford everything that I wanted.

So there I am thumbing my way through all the rock and metal albums. I am starting to formulate my algorithm as to what albums would end up at the register. Sometimes it could be an overpriced new release, which would mean just one album, or it could be a few older releases that I have been meaning to get and now that the price is right, I purchase them from the bargain bins.

Arriving home, I would rip off the shrink wrapping, drop the needle, sit back and enjoy the album with the lyrics to stare at while it played.

Those albums would do the rounds for what would seem like an eternity in today’s day and age.

I grew up in the Eighties and it was all about the LP. Labels always tried to maximise their sales, so they kept on releasing singles, picture singles and picture 12 inch singles and just 12 inch singles.

Of course the hard core lapped everything up, even though nothing new was on offer. The big difference in the Eighties was MTV. With the rise of music television, bands had to have that single song that would have mass appeal. So what the fans ended up getting was an album with two to three good songs and the rest was pure filler. However, we still needed to buy the expensive LP, just to listen to three songs. With the rise of the CD, this only got worse and more expensive.

When the CD first came out it was way more expensive than LP’s. The Recording Industry said that the higher prices would be temporary, due to set up costs and so forth. Guess what, the prices never went down and CD’s got pumped out in the millions. That is why the album format became unpopular to fans and very popular to record label executives.

So then the Internet comes along and changes the rules of the games. While the recording industry kept on sticking with the CD format, the fans of music showed them that they wanted innovation. When Napster exploded, the record labels failed to notice the following;

– Fans didn’t like the high CD prices

– Fans wanted back catalogue items that the record labels didn’t want to release. That is why obscure bands or bands available only on Import started to get some traction.

– Fans wanted portability

– Fans wanted convenience

– Fans wanted all of the above to be available 24/7 to them

– Fans wanted to pick and choose

The fan dynamic is changed forever by Napster. Fans used to look forward to the new releases of their favourite artists. After spending money on that new release, I played it to death because I paid for it. Somehow in the back of my mind, I needed to convince myself that I made a good decision, especially when someone else would say to me, “why would you waste your money on that, it was a crap album.”

So there I am, along with a million of other fans, playing the album over and over and over again, looking for a track or two to hook me in. When I heard Dr Feelgood from the outset, I only liked the song, Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away). With each listen, I started to appreciate other tracks. However, to this day, I still don’t like Sticky Sweet, Rattlesnake Shake, She Goes Down, Same Ol Situation and Without You.

The Crue comes to town and I needed to go. It wasn’t cheap, however I knew that they wouldn’t play certain tracks from the album ever again. Well to my surprise, the same songs that Motley Crue played in 1990, they played again in 2005 and in 2013. The Dr Feelgood tour was like a greatest hits tour, with most of the songs made up from Shout At The Devil, Too Fast For Love and Girls, Girls, Girls.

So where am I going with this?

In 2013, an album comes out. The cost of hearing it is ZERO. Spotify has it, within a day or two, YouTube will have a complete version of it. Instead of listening to each take from start to finish, I skim through. It sort of goes like this, hear the first 30 seconds. If I am hooked I normally end up listening to the whole song. If I am not hooked I move the song cursor into about 2 minutes of the song and listen for another 10 seconds. If still nothing, I move on to the next track.

This even occurs with my favourite acts. I played A Dramatic Turn Of Events from Dream Theater for about a week in 2011 and then moved on. I haven’t returned to the full album and I never will. I know that I like bits in certain songs. Breaking All Illusions has got some wicked sections and so those Outcry. On The Backs of Angels is not bad either, but not great. On the other hand, Unto The Locust from Machine Head, gets a re-spin every three to four weeks. It’s seven songs that really stand up on their own and as part of an album.

With so much music out there to digest and play, we seem to ignore our favourite acts in search of another great act to become our favourite. So to bring the story full circle, when I used to purchase albums, money was the factor as to what I decided to purchase and listen too. Fast forward to 2013, time is the factor as to what I decide to listen too.

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