Thursday, January 19, 2012

State of the Album in 2012

It's crazy how much music is changing with technology, and how fast it's happening.  Five years is now a lifetime in this industry.  People my age and older grew up listening to albums, whether in CD, tape, or vinyl form.  Growing up my school was 25 miles from home, and I used to pray for traffic so I could listen to the entirety of whatever album I had playing in my Discman.  The album was how the art of music was presented to me, and I spent my whole life dreaming of making my own albums.  I made a couple homemade, 10-song CDs by the time I got to college, but you couldn't call them albums.  I lost count of the  number of bands I played and recorded with, but Broken Fences is the first time it's felt like the real deal.  So finally I'm here, producing the medium I've always dreamed of producing, and what am I hearing?

"The album is on its way out, man.  No one listens to albums anymore."

With streaming music like Spotify and Pandora putting up outrageous numbers and record stores everywhere closing, it's kind of hard to argue.  But to me that's like Major League Baseball deciding to play one inning at a time instead of 9-inning games.  That mentality undermines everything we've been working towards; all the time, money, energy, and emotion.  When I hear people say things like that, it causes me to take a close look at myself as a musician and as a fan.

I realized that the statement above is really about commerce, not art.  Making this album, then, might not have been the best business decision we could have made, but damnit if we didn't need to make it anyway.  An album has an artistic energy to it that a compilation of singles just can't imitate.  We recorded all of these songs close together, using mostly the same musicians, spaces, and equipment, yet still trying to make each song stand out.  I like to think of it as a high-wire act, and the same can't be said for just a collection of songs.

We're planning to make the album available on vinyl, not because that's an efficient way to deliver our music to our fans, but because we know it'll mean more to someone than just a play on some streaming music service, even if that someone is in the minority.  Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the album.

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