Critic Center: Downloading Extinction / by Jeff Legg

If you love music and can't live without it, sit down. We need to have […]
May 5, 2014

If you love music and can't live without it, sit down. We need to have a talk.

There is a titanic movement that is killing the music industry and most people don't even know it's happening. If you are one the millions upon millions of music lovers that buy your music from any form of digital media provider, you most certainly have been guilty of picking individual tracks of an album instead of purchasing it in full, and thus, helping to download the extinction of the album artist. I'll admit it; the digital revolution has been great for a lot of artists but has been a demon for way more. The biggest advantage of digital music is that it is much more accessible, and I love it just like everyone else. But I buy complete albums, not one song here and one song there. I don't think you should even be able to buy individual tracks, unless it is released as a single ahead of the album release. This whole, "Why should I have to buy the whole album when I can buy just the songs I like" mentality is a common theme for today's music buyers.

Heck, I'll bet in 5 years, most teens won't even know what an "album release" means. One of the reasons I still buy the full album, either physical CD or digital download, is to support the artist that does this for a living. Remember, this is their job; their income. The best part is, once you buy this music, you don't ever have to give it back; you can listen to it forever!!!! It does not expire or dissolve; you can keep it from now on. When you think about it in that perspective, it really doesn't cost that much more to buy the complete album. It's really hard for a band to make a living selling one $.99 song at a time and then, because album sales are slow and interest is low, they have to share a stage with five other bands at a casino outside of town and no one shows up to sing along to the two or three songs they know. I guess we should start requesting tours that resembles a playlist; 10 or 15 artists on the same bill and they all get to randomly play one or two songs. This picking and choosing is great for your party mixes and playlists, but what about these guys that work hard for months and months to put this music in your hands and then you say, "Oh, I'll just take that one and that one, you can keep the rest".

This practice has a more damning effect on Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music because every 13-16 year old teeny bopper with a cell phone and access to social media, control most all of the marketing decisions that are made in this country, and they aren't listening to Metal. Pop music and Hip Hop rule the American Culture and all of the so-called "album" charts that make any kind of difference these days while Metal bands struggle to get any kind of exposure. I honestly believe that the younger generation doesn't buy music because they like it; they buy it because that's what everyone in their "click" is listening to.

Back in the day, I used to mark the calendar for the release date of the new MOTLEY CRUE album, or KISS album, or VAN HALEN album or whatever album released that week, and usually went to buy it that day. (Oh, the smell of fresh vinyl and the scent of a new cassette tape is forever etched into my senses). I couldn't wait to get home and put that thing on my turntable and/or in my cassette player, sit in my room with my friends and rock out. No playlists or mixes required. I used to think about how much work went into putting that little piece of endless entertainment in my hand and all I had to do was put down 5 or 6 dollars at my local record store. In a sense, you really just got a piece of that artist's heart and soul without ever meeting them. Not only were we entertained musically, we were also emotionally and physically satisfied. Eddie Van Halen could damn near cure cancer with just a few smoking solos. No matter how bad you felt or what situation arose, we always felt better whenever we heard our favorite singer screaming through the speakers. These guys were true Rock Stars and in some weird way, they became a part of our lives. I still have memories of particular events or situations when I hear a certain drum beat or guitar riff or even seeing a certain album cover. These were the days when music really mattered. Fast forward thirty years and here we sit with our complete music collection in a device the size of that little cassette tape. In the past ten years, our images of rock stars have gone from 2'x3' posters on our walls to a little postage stamp size Thumbnail on an iPod playlists. What do you say when someone asks you "who's your favorite band" or "who you listening to these days"? You should be saying, "Dude, that new BLACK LABEL SOCIETY album is amazing or I can't stop playing that new CLUTCH album. I love this track and that track". Most people these days say something like, "Oh yeah, I love metal, I just downloaded that new NICKELBACK song from that movie soundtrack". Can you image some of the great albums in the history of music being sold song by song? "Back in Black", "Toys in the Attic", LED ZEPPELIN's "IV", "Appetite for Destruction", etc! How about playing "You Really Got Me" without "Eruption" leading into it? It's not even fathomable, right?

What sickens me is the thought of how many great songs will fall on deaf ears because people don't buy "albums" anymore. The deep cuts or bonus tracks, track 7 or track 10. Most of my favorite songs were never released as a single and all of the greatest classic albums have more than a few. For few artists, songs and lyrics come easily and effortlessly and are recorded and released in days. But for most, they put weeks and weeks into these songs that they feel so passionate about and work on them for months upon months. It's really sad, but most of them will never see a play button because they weren't released as a single or show up on some movie soundtrack. The next time you're looking to buy some music, take a second to think about how and where it came from and maybe you'll buy the whole album. We all need to stand together and take on this problem together.

Digital music is here to stay, I understand that. But PLEASE don't let the album artist become extinct. Support the artist, not this selfish system. The more artists that we let fall by the wayside, the faster music will die. PLEASE BRING BACK THE ROCK STAR!! BUY THEIR ALBUMS!!! SEE THEM PLAY LIVE!!! As we face this problem going forward, do you want to be labeled the "Cause" or do you prefer to be a part of the "Cure"?


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