Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Death of the Album?

I was the most connected with the "popular music" world in high school. I could hum a few bars from most of the Billboard 100 and had my own rock band. We didn't ever get signed and we never even had a manager, but we did manage to release something resembling a full-length album. Back then, my fellow music fans and I waited patiently for their favorite bands to release new albums, excited to hear/see the rare previews on the radio or TV. Making a good album (not just a few good songs) was seemingly the measure of a good band, and albums easily (and often rightfully) defined tours and even chapters of a band's life. "Concept albums" were a growing trend among contemplative songwriters.

This "era" was just over 10 years ago, just as iTunes was only arriving on the horizon. And now the "album" may be on its last leg.

I don't listen to Katy Perry's music, but this article (Warning. Some PG-13 language.), linked by a music production colleague of mine, has some good but sad points about the pending death of the album in the recording industry. Due to the increasing number of recording artists, access and customizability in the music industry and the technology thereof, bands are dealing with a more demanding and instant-gratification culture where the shelf-life of a hit song (much less an album) is discouragingly short. No doubt this will further drive the wedge between those who want to make what sells and those who want to just want to make creative art, not distracted by any factors.

It sounds ridiculous, but what if this demand of consumers spilled into other forms of art and entertainment, e.g. film? Would producers need to rush the schedule (potentially losing key cast and crew unwilling to overcommit) to make an awaited sequel six months earlier than what's typical? Or should we pass on releasing films in theaters anymore, and just release them in 10-20 minute segments online every 1-2 months so we can appease the impatient audience?

This socio-cultural reality applies to corporate worship in churches as well. Although profit is not the end goal of writing and executing worship songs, it's a bit troubling how short of a shelf-life even the best modern worship songs have.

Music-makers and Christ-worshippers, what are your thoughts?