Thursday, August 16, 2007

Death Of The Album?

A music blog I visit often, Fingertips, also publishes a web site. A recent article caught my eye and captured my interest, since I'm all old and shit and I still buy albums (though in CD form.)

Read it here. It's quite an interesting and thoughtful view of the issue.


Cat said...

My boyfriend likes this other music site:

It's got some weird/good stuff playing.

I'll check out the blog you mention too.

Joe the Troll said...

I have to say that I disagree with the article on at least a couple points. First, he says that concept albums fell to the wayside because of the CD's longer length, and that people won't sit and listen to the whole thing because it's too long. He mentions Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper, but glosses over other successful concept albums such as Tommy, Quadrephenia, and of course The Wall. All were double albums, and I'm sure there are more that I'm not thinking of. Perhaps it's the listener's attention span that's changed for the worse. Or, perhaps, the lack of a good concept album to listen to?

He also remembers the switch to CDs from LPs differently than I do. I was managing a record store in 1987-88. There were some CDs on the racks, but a lot of stuff had not yet been re-released on CD.

Our price tags had the date when the item was placed out for sale, and we did a store audit one week in 88 where we removed anything that had been out for over a year. I mean, if it sat there for a year already, it's good odds that it will sit there for another. The LP section took a wallop. More than half of it was gone. Some customers complained that we were trying to force them to switch to CD, but we had only removed what these people weren't buying.

It wasn't the CDs that people were buying instead of LPs anyway. We sold far more cassette tapes at that time than anything else. Tapes were king because they were portable, and everyone had a player at home and in the car, or they had a portable unit which was very popular at the time. LPs weren't portable, period. That's why they lost, and why CDs didn't become popular until a decent and affordable car player was introduced. Then people could use them at home and on the road, and they were considered to be worth more money because they lasted longer and sounded better than tapes.

As for why both formats started out with classical music, the writer ignored one important consideration. Every time a new format is introduced, it is very expensive, both for the hardware and the software, so to speak. When record players were introduced, only the wealth could afford them, and the wealthy were symphony folks. Other forms that were more commonly popular were introduced as players came down to prices that middle class people could afford. When CD players were first introduced, they cost thousands, and the CDs themselves were over $100.00 apiece. Who was buying them? Once again, wealthy symphony folks. Other stuff came out as we unwashed masses got our own players.

Also, the development of digital recording and reproduction was aimed to increase the fidelity and dynamic range of the recording. If that is your goal, doesn't it make sense to work with the most complex form of music with the widest variances in timbre and volume? The CD certainly helps the classical listener enjoy a fuller experience, but the difference isn't so much for someone listening to the Ramones.

Other than that, it was a fine article. :-)

Natsthename said...

I had trouble with a little bit of the history, too, Joe, but overall it was a good piece. I am not willing to give up a physical version of recorded music now or ever, so I certainly don't want the album, whether it's a straigtforward collection of songs or a concept album.

I'm betting he mentioned Pet Songs or Sgt. Pepper because they were among the first rock concept recordings, not because they were the epitome of the genre. Who knows.

Natsthename said...

And I also do not recall most of the first cds I ever bought having bonus tracks. Most of my originals were simply the digital (well, they were actually analog-to-digital) version of the LP. The first cds I purchased were used cds, too, since I didn't want to plop down 16 - 20 bucks for something I could get on vinyl or tape for under 10 bucks. (First cd I bought: The Bangles "Different Light.")

Joe the Troll said...

You're right - few initial CD releases had any bonus tracks. Those were usually an incentive to buy the reissues.

Jefe said...

For me, cassettes were definitely the bridge between LPs and CDs. I still have a bunch of old cassettes. Of course, what makes LPs and CDs so superior is the relative lack of degradation compared to audio tape. While my old LPs may have some scratches, they still sound awesome. Most of those old cassettes sound like shit!

Joe the Troll said...

A lot of them sounded like death from he get-go! High fidelity wasn't what tapes were for at all. The sold well for the convenience, nothing more.