Archive for ‘music’ category

The Cheapening of Music

Not too long ago, a good friend of mine still working in the music business said something that struck me: “music’s been cheapened”. I agreed immediately, not knowing exactly why, but gave it some more thought. It relates to how technology will affect music — not how we listen to music, but how we digest it, buy it, perceive it.

Let me first say that I love the iPod, and the device has even allowed me to rediscover music that was previously boxed away in racks of old CDs. The technology is wonderful, making it so easy to carry around your entire record collection at all times. But is the art of recording an “album” — an LP — in danger? I guess that’s what I’m questioning here.

One of my favorite rituals has always been going to the record store and buying a CD or two. The physical act of purchasing something, taking it home, opening it up, lookng at the artwork, reading the lyrics, etc. Will that become something of the past? Probably. For years we’ve been hearing things like “yeah, but you’ll be able to print out your own artwork to go along with the digital downloads”. Somehow that just doesn’t sound as nice.

The album as an artform

album coversCreating an album — not just a collection of songs, but an entire “experience” has long been an artform in and of itself. It’s part of what got me interested in design early on: studying the packaging design and album artwork of bands and artists I worshipped. The collection and artwork combined with a group of songs recorded within the same time period always seemed like a time capsule of what the band was doing at that moment. But with the ability to buy a single song immediately via the web, will a shift materialize? Will we go back to the days of 7″ 45s, where the single ruled?

When my friend said that he believed music has been cheapened, he was referring to the fact that music is now everywhere. It’s in your cellphone, on the web, on your microwave, TV, toys, etc. It’s even a marketing tool. It’s become easier to get, but will that affect the music itself?

The web site “album”?

What has become crucial is the band’s web site — the depot for news, info, photos, music, videos, etc. It’s possible that the web site will become even more important as digital distribution gains even more steam. Perhaps an “album” will really be a web site devoted to a group of songs released at the same time. Each “album” will stand on it’s own like an archived article.

I don’t have any answers, of course. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out. The Compact Disc is the end of the line as far as a physical medium for music — but even as technology progresses, I hope there continues to be a way of relaying the special qualities that only a packaged album can deliver.

Urgh! A Music War

I happened to catch a great documentary on INHD a few nights ago. Besides having a bizarre title, Urgh! A Music War captured some incredible live performances from the “it” bands of 1980.

The Police and the Go-Gos were well known at this point — but check out this lineup: The Police, Wall of Voodoo, Toyah Willcox, John Cooper Clarke, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Chelsea, Oingo Boingo, Echo and the Bunnymen, Jools Holland, XTC, Klaus Nomi, Athletico Spizz 80, The Go-Gos, Dead Kennedys, Steel Pulse, Gary Numan, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Surf Punks, Members, Au Pairs, The Cramps, Invisible Sex, Pere Ubu, Devo, The Alleycats, John Ottway, Gang of Four, 999, Fleshtones, X, Skafish, Splodgenessabounds, UB40.

I’m still having nightmares of Klaus Nomi (who I’d never heard of before seeing this), but seeing XTC, John Ottway, Echo and the Bunnymen and Devo live at a time when punk, new wave and techno were all converging was just amazing.

I’m not surprised it’s being played on television in 2004 as many of today’s bands sound similar — even 24 years later.

The Motivator

Lately, there’s been music. I’ve been listening more, caring more, even buying a new, larger-capacity iPod to hold more of it. And it seems like it operates on a cycle. There will be stretches where everything I hear, I love. Alternatively, there will be stretches where everything sounds horrible.
But lately, music has been the motivator. It gets me from point A to point B while struggling with a design or CSS issue. Thank goodness for “shuffle” mode.
It’s been asked repeatedly elsewhere, but what music motivates you these days?
Recently for me, it’s been recent offerings from The Killers, The Hives, The Autumn Defense (thank you, Jeff), and “shuffle standouts” Wire. Although I have a confession that is likely to have me pelted with deprecated HTML elements: anything I’ve heard on MTV from Ashlee Simpson has been downright catchy as heck. Is this completely uncool? Most definitely, but there… I said it. And I feel better now.

Copy Protection? Boo.

I’ve just purchased The Darkness new album, Permission to Land — it’s a great one, conjuring up rock’s past masters of the late 70s and early 80s. We’re talking Journey, Boston, Foreigner and Loverboy here.
Anyhow, the band is beside the point — this was the first CD I’ve purchased that has some sort of bogus copy protection built into it. Crap. Now I can’t play it on my Mac and I can’t rip it to live on my iPod. Ridiculous. There was no warning on the packaging about it being copy protected. Now I’m not sure of what to do with it. Return it? Then I have no way of listening to the 100% pure rock of the Darkness.
Has anyone else run into this dilemma?