So, there's so much talk of why bands don't sell albums ... illegal downloading, bad economy, bad music, no PR, don't tour enough, no more music stores, not famous enough, nobody buys albums only singles, prices are too high. All of these reasons I can both support and debunk without much effort. Interestingly, though, some of these reasons I often find debunked or supported by musicians while music business folks debunk/support a separate set and non-music folks another set. For example, listeners I often hear declare how wonderful Spotify is, but as someone distributing music through it I can't think of how its beneficial since it doesn't pay out what fans think it pays out. While I hear fans decry the large bonuses music executives make that sucks up profits earned on the backs of hard working bands, but music business folks seem to be silent on this topic.
But, I'd like to suggest another reason bands struggle with album sales. Actually, a couple reasons.
Let's say, for example, the Allman Brothers release a new album here in 2013. They turn out good music, without doubt, but most listeners, either casual or dedicated fans, are going to probably respond with the thought that the new album isn't going to be as good as what they did in the past some 30 years ago. Thus, there's some hesitance, by the casual fan at least, to buy the new album. It's going to take a lot of publicity and amazing reviews to get that one sale to happen. Or, let's say a new album comes from Hot Tuna or Bad Company? How many bands today do you consider past their prime and thus hesitate to buy their new album, irregardless of good reviews? How many bands have their greatest album long behind them? So, how can you get excited about the newest album? Let alone many bands now lack so many original members they're the bands we know in name only. We're certainly not buying the band we once loved. And, with that so many bands have changed their sound so much what they do now we don't enjoy as much. So, here I started with one reasons sales don't happen and look how fast it spun into three reasons.
While the other part of this is how many musicians are past their commercial sell by date? I thought Tom Petty's "Mojo" was amazing and one of the best albums he'd done in years, but I'm a minority. For the casual or younger, or at least under 30, fan Tom Petty is a name of the past, a nostalgia act. He has no clout anymore and that essentially means no sales potentially. A big break can happen, like the Beach Boys reunion, but how many older bands aren't getting such publicity breakthroughs that will reach to new and younger audiences? I mean, Neil Diamond, Boz Skaggs, Steve Miller aren't exactly hip names. Even Heart is suffering ... a changed sound, as mentioned already, doesn't help ... let alone just the natural changes in vocal prowess caused by age ... thus we're back to the best albums were made long ago.
Now, this gives an excuse to well known bands of the past. But, what about indies or lesser known bands? Obviously they have the added problem of a small fan base or less money to put towards publicity, but I'd like to suggest another factor I've not heard.
I have 2000 songs on my computer. I review over a hundred albums a year. Many of these will be reviewed. I have an excuse, but this is normal for most folks I know who aren't reviewing anything. I don't know how many albums that is. As for CD's? Hundreds. As for vinyl albums tucked away? Well, not so many as I once did but still plenty. Why do I need one more album? I've not even opened CD's I bought a couple years ago and even sold a few unopened. I've got downloads I've not listened to. You're who? Okay, I'll listen to your album ... someday.
We've all got all this music at our hands, but don't have time to listen to it. So, the desire to add more to our already endless collection isn't that strong except for bands we really like or are friends with or just grab us. Or, combined with the previous thoughts ... I have 2000 albums so why add the new Allman Brothers album I'm not going to listen to and then listen to only once and maybe not like?
The world where we save up our money to buy an album and we listen to it endlessly for weeks on end is gone for many of us. Now we can download the complete works of any musician with a few button hits. Will stopping illegal downloading stop this? Nope. Amazon still has super amazing prices and for very little I can get everything by a particular artist and if I want it badly I will ... and it will be a lot cheaper than buying all the CD's. Who doesn't get excited at a discount?
I actually found an album on my desk the other week from 2009 - Florence & The Machine. I loved her "Dog Days" song and wanted the album. It was the only album from a new artist I bought that year. Here it is 2013. It's still sealed! When do I have time? So, far I'm telling people it's a great album.
Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)