One of the things I dislike most about the music industry is also something I really enjoy, so I suppose I’ll have to be the objective Devil’s advocate – or just seem contradictory. What I’m talking about here is technology in distribution. Basically digital music.
To preface what follows: when I say I dislike these things, know that my band uses all the digital platforms for our music, and I’d like to think we use them well. But my complaint is that technology has made so much music available that it has almost become disposable, and in a way because of that the mass of content is expanding exponentially to slake fans’ thirsts for more. Music is just spit out constantly, and it may be to a point where no single person could ever keep up with everything being released!
One of the things that I absolutely miss about pre-digital music is the effort that had to go into making a record. Not to say that prior to iTunes everything that came out was amazing, but it seemed to me that making a full album of good songs was paramount to a musician’s career. But now you can put together one song in a day and put it up for the world the following day. Artists now depend more on a single than on a full record, and many are putting out music in spurts of single songs because it is slowly becoming almost counterproductive to release a full length LP. Pre-digital fans could listen to a record and know not much else would be out for a long time. Now, they don’t have to be patient, they can search for artists just like their favorites and consume everything that artist just put out – and so on.
Another thing I miss is concept albums. Because, what’s the point of a record telling a story if no one will listen to the whole thing? Are the days of having albums like MCR’s the Black Parade or NIN’s Year Zero limited or gone? What would the music have been like if streaming was available decades prior? Would The Beatles ever have made The White Album? Would Fleetwood Mac ever have released Rumours? Would Jimi Hendrix ever have written Electric Ladyland? Would the only Nirvana songs we have be based on what were released as hits? And is that what the future will be like for this generation of artists or the ones to follow?
Possibly my biggest complaint with digital music and the availability of it comes down to mass consumerism and the marketing of said songs. Anymore it comes down to what fans want from music more than what artists want, and because of that there is an expected equation to be used which encompasses what the most popular trends are. Look at hip-hop and pop-country (since those are the easiest to notice), and ask yourself: is there really much of a difference between the hits of the top artists? And sadly when something new comes along, suddenly the bandwagon is rolling around again. Just look at EDM’s massive growth from the introduction of dubstep and its counterparts. How many new EDM artists spawned from that? AND how many existing musicians jumped into that trend – even rock artists?
To be fair to artists, what is the point of spending hundreds or thousands on producing a song if it isn’t going to make a return for you? But just maybe if music wasn’t so fast to come to market, perhaps there would be a much different timeline for trends and what actually was worthy of putting on shelves, rather than quantity.
To end on a good note, it’s not all doom and gloom. The benefits of digital music are amazing for fans and artists alike. I mean, you can look up similar bands to ones you like and find more music to love and support bands in more direct ways. For artists, we can reach people all over the globe without ever needing help from a record company or going on tour as in the past.
But do the benefits outweigh the consequences or is this just another step in the evolution of where music will one day be?
My only suggestion is to support the artists you love by purchasing their entire released record instead of the hits from it and maybe the future can be the best of both worlds.
Hydrogen Skyline will be playing the KRXP Xmas Bash in Colorado Springs, CO on December 10th with Switchfoot. For more information on that and to buy concert tickets, click here.