The following is a guest post from Jack Isquith, which originally appeared on his Digital Music Insider blog and is reposted with his permission. Isquith is a digital music industry veteran who has held senior posts at Warner Brothers Records and AOL Music. Billboard.biz welcomes guest editorials -- contact Jem.Aswad@billboard.com.
In Sunday's L.A. Times, Ann Powers tackles some issues that digital music folks are increasingly discussing.
Namely, can artists share music and the artistic process as they create? Does sharing their art in this kind of "real time" way open up creativity? And does this immediacy of creation and release open up new business models for a music industry increasingly gasping for air?
Ann wonders if the traditional release cycles for singles and albums are still relevant given rapidly declining sales numbers.
"Great music is now constantly becoming available in ways that force us to reconsider what we're hearing, and how we listen," she writes. "For half a century, musicians have congregated along two poles; the album and the single. There's been plenty of spirited debate about the relevance of each form, as sales for conventionally distributed music continue to shrink and music lovers perfect new practices, building playlists and ripping music from the cyberspace cloud."
She tells the story of creative newlyweds Neil Gaiman, a bestselling writer, and Amanda Palmer, ex-leader of cabaret Alt-Rock act Dresden Dolls.
"What's revolutionary about Palmer and Gaiman is their constant willingness to share new creative work with their worldwide network of fans," she continues. " 'Hit reload to see a fistful of new content' reads a line on Gaiman's website, and it's true, a reader could spend all day clicking on a mouse-roulette wheel and finding new short stories, essays, video and other material. Palmer goes her swain one better by posting fan art, and videos as well as her own. She's been known to announce 'flash concerts' via Twitter, sending hundreds of devotees to a spot to see her play. 'WE ARE THE MEDIA' she declares on her blog."
With Damon Albarn and the Gorillaz releasing a free iPad created album on Christmas day, and Beck, MIA, Gucci Mane, Amanda Palmer and most notably Kanye West releasing excellent tracks, videos, mix tapes, cover versions, art experiments, etc. on a seemingly weekly basis, there is clearly a trend afoot. Lil Wayne's strategy of two years worth of constant releases still resonates.
Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips promises to record and immediately share a song every month: "We want to try to live through our music as we create it, instead of it being a collection of the last couple years of our life," he said.
The Final Take: Ann Powers contextualizes a digital trend that has been growing for at least the last three years. Digital technology has definitely challenged the economic and artistic validity of the old album-by-album models. Fans want artists to deal in immediacy. Look how the fans live. Tweets, Facebook status updates, YouTube videos, free tracks posted just for a day, flash concerts ... these are the things that carry the most currency. They come hourly. In fact, they come minute by minute. Email feels slow. Last month's concert feels ancient, and an album release nine months from now feels vague. Fans want to know -- what is Kanye up to right now? What is Kanye thinking right now? What is he recording right now? Is the Kanye/Jay-Z track up yet? It goes up tonight, right?
They live with their fingers on reload. And when they hit reload, they expect to see -- and hear -- a fistful of new content.