I’m a musician and avid music lover. I love my iTunes as much as the next person, but is it hurting artists? Is it driving down the quality of music on an album? In the last ten years, there seems to be a trend of record companies pushing single song sales rather than pushing the whole album. Are artists being encouraged to merely deliver the big hit song rather than take the time and craft a CD full of quality material?
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the trend of record companies became to release one single from an album (two if the artist is lucky) to radio stations which made the consumer take a risk of buying said CD in hopes that the rest of the songs were listenable or buy concert tickets and hope that he or she will enjoy watching the whole show. There have been many times when I’ve loved the first song released from an album and bought the CD only to be disappointed to find the rest of it is full of filler songs. Wasting my hard-earned money on product like that started to make me wait until the second single was released or find some other means to hear the other songs before purchasing.
Don’t get me wrong, I have an iPod that I regularly load up with stuff from iTunes, but I still prefer to buy a good bit of material in hardcopy first and transfer it. A few years ago, my hard drive crashed taking all of my thousands of MP3s with it and when I replaced the hard drive, I had to re-digitize all those thousands of songs, but at least I didn’t lose the music all together. I know I’m not necessarily the norm.
Some record companies and musicians may be afraid that not releasing to iTunes or other digital music venders will hurt them. Kid Rock turned this idea on its head when he released Born Free only on compact disc. Billboard magazine’s Glenn Peoples compares how he might have fared financially if he went the iTunes route.
“Kid Rock’s “Born Free,” however, flies in the face of this common wisdom. It’s sold an impressive 612,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, without a single iTunes download. Taking into account a few assumptions, one can argue that “Born Free” would have sold roughly 294,000 units if fans were allowed to buy single tracks, at least by my calculations. By not allowing single tracks to be sold, Kid Rock has potentially made $3.3 million more in U.S. retail sales.”
While I applaud Kid Rock for sticking to his guns, a good compromise could be to release the entire album on iTunes as well, but not allow single song downloads thus requiring that the entire product be purchased. This would also push artists to record more than one or two good songs.
Is this single-only driven music business a result of a general public that has no attention span and wants to quickly move to the next big thing? Is it stopping record companies from signing musicians who have the songwriting talent to sustain a whole album? Is it forcing bands to crank out CDs faster and faster thus hurting quality and hurting the well-being of the band members?
This makes me think of Britney Spears. She released Baby One More Time in 1999, Oops! I Did It Again in 2000, and Britney in 2001. That’s an album a year and an extremely fast pace for a singer or band. Most performers take an average of two to three years in between album releases not only to whet their fans’ appetites, but to also take time to make sure it is quality. It seems as soon as a couple of songs were released from one CD, she was pushed into the studio to push out another and another. That break-neck speed will make any artist burn out quickly. I’m not saying her CDs aren’t quality as I’ve only heard the singles released (yeah, I know, but I’m not exactly Spears’s demographic since I prefer heavier stuff), but could this have pushed her toward her public meltdown?
Could this sort of thing contribute to bands breaking up? Is this hurting the worth of music being released today?