Friday, 20 April 2012

The Decline of the Album: Part Two

In part one of this post, I looked at what iTunes and the closure of specialist music shops had done to cause the decline of the album. In part two, I am exploring the role of the media in the decline of the album and what artists can do about it.

A song can be amazing, but if music fans don’t know about it, sales of the song will be none existent. Marketing and PR companies acting on behalf of the artist used to tell the media about a new release who in turn would let fans know. The intention was to create a buzz about the release and get people interested enough to buy it.

Now with social media, an artist can reach fans quicker than the time it takes marketing to spread the word. It is great that artists can communicate directly with their fans. However, they may not be the most skilled copy writers to promote their work through social media. Tweets like “my new album is out, buy it now” soon become boring when tweeted ten times a day. All artists should be involved in promoting their work, but they have to make sure they engage their audience properly to create a buzz.

When I first started buying music I relied heavily on magazines like Snoop and several websites which no longer exist. As well as telling me about new artists, they all regularly reviewed albums. The reviews were thorough, expressed opinion and I felt I could trust them. As well as praise, there was constructive criticism which helped me sort the hits from the misses.

Today there are few reviews and there is a lack of constructive criticism in the music media as people do not want to be labelled as “haters”. It’s wrong to make a personal attack on a singer, and call him rubbish without saying why. But it’s not wrong not to say that the song he sings is bad because he relies too much on autotune. Disagreement with a reviewer’s point of view creates a discussion and it is this discussion that creates a buzz around a new release. Writing a review takes time and effort which is why many music magazines and websites don't wite them anymore. Sadly, it’s now easier to illegally download an album than it is to read a decent critical review.

Some music websites rarely write their own articles, preferring to copy and paste press releases. This is why articles on different websites read exactly the same. This is lazy journalism made worse by the quality of the press releases. They are often badly written, full of grammatical errors or are sometimes sent out after the music has been released and I have already blogged about it.

The lack of constructive criticism, album reviews and cut and paste approach to album promotion has contributed to the decline of the album. It’s all about getting the news out in the quickest possible time to get the most page views rather than being critical and engaging music fans in a discussion. As there is only a certain amount of space on twitter and face book, it is hard to promote an album properly and there is little room to encourage a full debate about a new release.

What can artists do to save the album? They need to acknowledge changes in the media and buying patterns of fans and come up with innovative ways to make people buy their albums. Freebies, personalisation and even offering related non-music items for sale have all worked to boost album sales. When Swami released Equalize, those who purchased the album could download additional songs from the band’s website once they had found a password hidden in the sleeve notes. Some artists offer to personally sign albums when fans by them direct.

It is this added value and proper promotion which will make people buy albums. I will continue to buy albums for as long as talented musicans release them for sale and I hope other people will too.

Photos from my own collection. 

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