There’s been much discussion about the death of CD & the freedom this will bring musicians & this has got me thinking what does this freedom entail & what possibilities will be created.Â For the last 50 years the vast majority of LP driven music (e.g. pop) has been constrained to 40-70 minutes of music consisting of individual songs which have no connection with each other.Â That’s certainly what the record buying public expect & seem to like so why change.Â There have been notable exceptions such as the concept album beloved of prog rock but really most music today is just a collection of random songs but does it have to be & I would contend that this has been driven mainly by the format they are published in.
I listen to a fair amount of classical music where there are standardised forms which often consist of connected movements e.g. a symphony typically has four movements which are intended to be played together in sequence.Â There are song cycles, e’g Schubert’s Wintereisse which link together songs around a common theme or collection of poems, again intended to be sung as a complete performance.
Now the tyrrany of the fixed format has been supeceded is this new freedom going to encourage song writers to explore the writing of suites of music or is it going to be business as usual with the normal random collections.
I’ve given a lot of thought to whether I want to release songs as they are finished or wait until I can complete an album. I’ve already decided that all of my music will be free to download, regardless. The way I see it, the worst thing that can happen to music if for it to languish in obscurity. Having thousands of people sharing my music for others without making any money on it myself would be a wonderful problem to have.
So, I look to the world of webcomics for inspiration, and see a number of artists giving their daily strips away for free, and making money (in many cases, enough for a real living) on occasional compilation books. This kinda fits with my basic idea: give away each song as I write it, and then the CD at the end of the year (or maybe even more often) becomes like the compilation book that fans can buy.
Webcomics artists usually include incentives to buy the book. Bonus stories are a common one. The hardcore fans who buy these books will rarely scan these bonus stories and post them out of their respect for the artist. In the context of my music, the bonus story would be like a bonus unreleased song. A CD release can also have the benefit of being remixed and mastered, and thus sound as good as possible, probably better than the released song files.
These are just a few of the things I’ve been thinking about. So, where does the death of the CD fit in? Well, in my scenario, the CD is alive and well, but serving a different role than it did before. Indeed, in my scenario, it would be possible to be quite fancy with a CD compilation release. If there is a ready market for it, I could afford to include extra artwork, or even create some really cool packaging. It’s all about value-adds, right?
I think I’ll stop there before I write my own book on the subject. 🙂
I’m not hopeful that new formats will be widely embraced. I’m sure there will be experiments, but inertia will ensure we’ll see lots more albums consisting of 10-15 song, 3-5 minutes in length.
Since Darren brings up webcomics: when webcomics started appearing, there was lots of talk about the web removing the traditional restraints that paper comics faced, and speculation about the wonders that would surely ensue. I haven’t seen much that has confirmed that speculation. One notable exception: the comic titled “The Story so Far” (that used to be here http://www.yellowlight.scratchspace.net/comics/sofar.html, but seems to have been pulled by the author) – it was a continuous piece of artwork spanning many, many horizontal screenfuls.
Maybe I’m wrong, and each musician will develop their own form that best suits their music. I hope I am wrong. Maybe I’ll take this as a challenge and see if I can’t write a two-hour long ballad…
It’s also interesting to me that some MP3s I’ve downloaded have a much wider frequency range (at least to my ears). The “loudness wars” have been well publicised but the death of the LP means that we don’t need to worry about the low frequencies causing the needle to jump – so tracks like this one http://www.normanfairbanks.com/mp3/corporatelies/norman_fairbanks-sunset_plaza_drive-320k.mp3 seem to me to have a lot more bottom end than I’m used to hearing.
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