At Midem 2012 independent music analyst Mark Mulligan, who publishes the Music Industry Blog, introduced his concept of ‘Agile Music’, a “framework for understanding how artist creativity, industry business models and music products must all undergo a programme of radical, transformational change”. In his speech on ‘Visionary Monday’ he talked about how digital music has not taken off with the same rapid growth as vinyl, cassette and CD did before it. This he puts down to digital’s failure to come up with a new format – a problem he says that is “dragging the whole market down”.
Seven years into the iTunes era, as music industry expert Tom Silverman pointed out recently in his piece for Hypebot, “CD sales [are] still running [at] almost 69% of all album sales”. They are, however, in overall decline according to the BPI, having fallen by 13% to 86.2 million discs sold in 2011.
So people are still buying albums, but Mark Mulligan, I’m sure, would argue that digital’s slowness to adapt and to replace the album is the reason for this, rather than the CD’s enduring qualities.
Back in the day, we wanted to own records so we could lean back and consume them; today, because we are more likely to ‘lean forward’ and listen to and interact with music at our computers, we value access to it. Mulligan believes a new generation of music formats that better suits the new digital market, and that require a new form of content, is necessary to increase the success of digital music. Over the years, albums have adapted to the formats on which they have been released, and in his speech Mulligan urged more artists to explore the potential of new formats of digital release to include fan’s input, through fan forums, social networks and fan remix apps.
These music releases should allow fans to customise, create and contribute, and they need “embedding into the creative process”. All of this means more participation on the part of the average artist. It might also mean releasing music when it is ready, or even before, so fans can have some creative input in the music-making process.
So one day, listening to an album, will truly be an old time’s sake activity. We will lean back – or even do the housework – and think fondly about the context that the album once gave to the single song, and the coherency that 12 songs could have – not always, of course! Or reminisce about the days when we could sit down, away from our computer, for 40-odd minutes, and listen to a whole album of sequenced songs.
There are plenty of classic concept albums that have capitalised on the album format: from ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’, and including ‘Dark Side of The Moon’, ‘Tommy’, ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’; to more recently, Plan B’s ‘The Defamation of Strickland Banks’ or Fucked-Up’s ‘David Comes To Life’. But what are some of the less obvious or less well known albums that you like to listen to from beginning to end? Here are 10 albums that I have grown to love in their entirety over the years. Please feel free to add yours to the comments section below.
1. American Prayer – Jim Morrison and the Doors
This was my first concept album experience. As a teenager I was a sucker for Jim Morrison’s poetry, and this album of poems put to music by the Doors after Morrison’s death still gets a spin – always in its entirety – quite regularly.
2. Lexicon of Love – ABC
From start to finish, the songs on this album, like those silver and gold lamé suits, hang so well together. Great segues; and good for cleaning the windows on a spring Saturday morning.
3. Forever Changes – Love
I first heard about Love by reading about the Doors, who became labelmates of Love at Elektra. This is a great upbeat summer record, on which each song seems to create an anticipation of the next.
4. Favourite Worst Nightmare – Arctic Monkeys
Totally missed the first Arctic Monkeys album - must have head my head up my arse – but if I put this on, it stays on. I love the journey to the last song, ‘505’ – that’s how it has to end – like life itself – in glorious reminiscence of a hotel room liaison.
5. Entroducing – DJ Shadow
I’m a rock guy, through and through, but some time around the later 90s I put down my prejudice, and stayed up all night regularly with a bunch of music lovers who turned me on to this, and other great beats and sample based records.
6. People Move On – Bernard Butler
This was always the CD we put on at 5am when the sun was coming up, and peaking through the curtains. By the end of track 12, ‘I’m Tired’, it was time for bed!
7. Rio – Duran Duran
Somewhere along the line – less than half way – I found myself in a face full of make-up, poncing round college in a suit, and playing in a synth-rock band. Don’t ask me how, or why. But over the years I have come to love this pop album from beginning to end. Good for a sunny Saturday morning, when you can open the windows that you cleaned the weekend before to The Lexicon of Love.
8. Adolescent Sex – Japan
This album is from that same era of my life. This is Japan’s first album released in 1978 when they had long hair and rock guitars. From the opening track ‘Transmission’ to the epic closing track, ‘Television’, this is a early synth-rock classic, which cannot be divided.
9. Trompe Le Monde – The Pixies
This is my favourite of the Pixies albums. The gaps between the songs are so short before you know it you are hooked by the next.
10. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain – Pavement
From the opening lines “Silence Kit, listen to your family…” to the blissed out ‘Heaven is a Truck’ this is the slacker album that, if listened to right through in the morning, makes you want to take the whole day off and go skateboarding instead.
Toby Burton @rocktilyoudrop
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 at 10:54. It is filed under Blog, News and tagged with agile music, albums, digital music, hypebot, itunes, mark mulligan, metadata, midem, music discovery, music recommendation, Spotify, Tom Silverman. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.