It's not like either Radiohead or iTunes needs any more press, but this week's tip-o-the-hat goes to Radiohead finally placing its catalog on Apples music store.
Too many artists are taking too much time getting over themselves and the perceived importance of "the album" as this all-important body of work.” Spare me. In only very rare cases is a full album greater than the sum of its parts -- or songs -- and even then only a handful of fans really care enough to feel the need to listen to the whole thing at once (even if for some stupid reason you did synch the whole thing to "The Wizard of Oz," or whatever).
Radiohead was one of the last holdouts to realize this. There are others, like the Beatles and AC/DC, but those delays are more about licensing and rights complications and, of course, money. Radiohead's holdout was about art. It was about wanting its music to be presented as a full album, as opposed to clipped-up into individual songs, which frankly is a bit hypocritical.
After all, why force fans to buy an entire album when you still allow them to listen to the songs individually? The band doesn’t force radio to broadcast its entire album on-air rather than individual songs. It doesn’t force fans who do in fact buy the album to listen to it from start to finish each time.
The hard reality, whether artists like it or not, is that the concept of the album is slowly becoming outdated. I'm not talking about the CD... I mean, the idea that you need to spend a year writing, recording and compiling eight to 12 tracks together into package of songs that you then release in one shot and then spend another year -- if not longer -- repeating.
Back when all we bought were CDs, and only listened to a few new ones every month, bands could get away with this. But that's ending. With access to so much music -- either free on P2P networks, via subscription music services or whatever a fans digital outlet of choice is -- the fact is that music fans today have a whole lot more music to listen to, discover and enjoy.
When new album comes out, I’ll maybe listen to the whole thing a few times, but after that I'm on to the next release I just discovered. I'm forgetting about that new album pretty quick. A track or two may stick with me, but that's about it.
The smart artists of the future will release smaller chunks of music on a more regular basis. Maybe three-song bundles at a time, every three to six months. That way they're always fresh, always new and always added to my "playing now" list.
Perhaps there's room for a traditional physical "album" to come out after the digital slow-release process -- kind of like how you can buy season three of "Lost" after the season is over, with a few extras.
I'm digressing. The point is that we music fans like songs, so give us what we like, give it to us a lot and give it to us regularly. I'm not sure I like the way that reads, but you get the point.
OK, I get it... the Jonas Brothers are popular. But for all you digital music services, applications, technology firms, etc., stop using a Jonas Brothers case study as a proof point of your success.
This is not an indictment of the Jonas Brothers or the group’s music. The band has successfully built up a fanatic following of young, digital savvy fans, and aren't shy about utilizing virtually every digital music tool available to them to keep in front of that base.
But that doesn't mean that every digital music tool they've employed is suddenly a viable new service just because the Jonas Brothers did well using it. That's just preaching to the choir. That's like putting out a bowl full of honey and then crediting the bowl-maker for all the bees that show up.
For a digital service to make a real impact, it needs to do more than just pick the low-hanging fruit. It needs to bring new people to the party. It needs to expand the market.
What's more, traffic alone can no longer be the metric best used to gauge the success of an online music destination. Sure, it's an important factor, but so are things like time spent at the site/service, money spent, click-through rates on ads, etc.
The simple, hard truth is that there are way too many digital music tools and social networking efforts out there right now that can ever survive -- Jonas Brothers or not. Those who want to stick around better find a way to replicate their successes with emerging acts or established acts with less digitally-hip fans.