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All Filler, No Killer

Dr Spin looks at iTunes and albums once more.

by Dr. Spin
July 14, 2003

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All Filler, No Killer_Dr. Spin-Dr Spin looks at iTunes and albums once more. Dear Dr. Spin,

Remind me again why the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland.

The Inquirer

Dear Inquirer,

Remind me why we have a Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame at all. The R&R HOF has “inducted” so many non-Rock artists; it’s now a misnomer.

I believe there is some sort of rational reason, something like that’s where Allan Freed (one of the first disc jockeys to play Rock ‘n’ Roll) worked at, came from (?) But my suspicion is the real reason why the R&R HOF is in Cleveland is the same reason for everything else: money. Cleveland shelled out more cash than any of the competing cities (I don’t even remember what other cities were considered; I think Chicago was one of them). That may sound cynical, but why, before the Hall of Fame was built, were the first few Hall of Fame ceremonies conducted in New York? Wouldn’t it have been logical to have them in the city where the Hall of Fame was being built, even if it wasn’t complete? And why New York? Could it be because they would get better press coverage/attendance/interest? But I digress…

Dr. Spin,

I recently read the Metallica and Red Hot Chilli Peppers have come out against Apple's iTunes website, which offers single track downloads for a dollar. It surprised me at first, since iTunes ensures artists get paid for the download, but then I saw their point: when listeners pick and choose songs to make their own CD mix, the concept of an artist's album is lost. These bands do not wish to contribute to the demise of the album format. So my questions are this: Do you think the album format will die? Would that be okay as part of the natural evolution of the industry? Or should listeners back these bands and support the continuation of the album?

- Album Supporter

Dear Al,

I’m afraid the album is already dying. I don’t know if artist really have “concepts” of albums anymore. They may claim they do, but I find very few artists these days that vary their songs enough to warrant they be played in a certain order.

The invention of the CD also brought the invention of the “shuffle play,” a way for the listener to either randomly or deliberately change the order of the CD he or she was listening to. This has paved the way to listeners able to pick and choose songs and (with newer and better technology) eventually make their own CDs their own way. (One of the points of brilliance of iTunes and sites like it is that the customer pays the same price for the songs they would for a pre-recorded CD, AND they have to supply the CD! I can just see the smiles on record executives faces when they realized how much their overhead costs just dropped! But I’m digressing again…)

I understand artists’ contention, but I think they’re not giving their fans enough credit. I know I would download a new album of an artist I respect in its entirety the way that artist intended to be played, because I trust that artist’s vision. However, if I found it objectionable, or felt I could do a better job, I might try to “remix” that album, and really, as a listener that’s my right. The artist is trying to sell his or her music to me, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to buy it. Regardless of how much of an “artist” a musician is, bottom line he or she is trying to sell me his or her craft, and if the artist wants to make a living off me, then that artist better be willing to cater his or her music to my taste. Otherwise do “art for artsake” and do it for free.

One of my favorite albums of all time is the Beatles’ Revolver. Track for track, I cannot think of a better album. And as much as I enjoy the way the Beatles and George Martin arranged the songs, I also like “shuffling” the order every now and then. The amazing thing about Revolver is (for me) the tracks are so good, it almost doesn’t matter what order they’re played. Perhaps modern artists are afraid their material can’t stand up to the same scrutiny, that if not played in their specific order the music won’t resonate as well. Giving the customer the right to choose what songs but pressure on the artists to put out only the best, or like the title of a Sum 41 album “All Killer, No Filler.” Musicians who want to make money at their art must respect the wishes of their fans, and if fans creating their own “vision” of a musician’s work is the next step in the evolution of recorded music, then musicians must accept it and adapt.

* * *

Dr. Spin would like to note the passing of the great Barry White. While not a fan of Mr. White, Dr. Spin could not help but notice the effect of Mr. White’s voice with the ladies. Barry White’s slow sexy bass vocals will be sadly missed.

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