In other news, there's an entertaining article online in the New York Times about the death of the album as a selling vehicle. The article barely notes that this really only applies to labels with a majority of artists who make albums that plain suck. A more honest admission would be for major labels, and some indies, to admit that the talent they sign is rarely worth one song each, financially, and spending money on full-lengths for these retread emo-grunge outfits, pre-teen girl groups, and songless R&B performers is like throwing dried shit at a wall to see what sticks.
Make the album yourself, they ought to tell artists, and like a true middleman, we'll sell the songs we think are good, in our format, in our choice of form, with a cut for you. And then we'll try to push/release them at the LCD* level that we feel transcends your fan base which, hopefully, you've already grown yourselves through touring and indie releases.
(btw - I really hope Radiohead has the balls to release their next album independently, as they've been threatening. Just to further blow the labels into the forbidden zone for good.)
The non-music geek has always bought a single or wanted one song; I'm talking about the casual music listener who hears Kenney Chesney or Britney Spears one afternoon on the radio over the kitchen sink, or in the supermarket. They don't buy albums much at all, and if they do drop $17.99 at the local Sam Goody's for that one decent song amid 13 filler tracks on the new album by Ciera, they don't mind all that much. Of course, anyone in their position wants to spend 99 cents and miss the filler, who wouldn't; but this is the *LCD we're talking here, and the likes of Universal etc have always been concerned with them, mostly, because they bring in the money by their sheer population.
But there are those bands and artists, and always will be, who have the talent to not only make a customer, but to make fans. The trick is to find them, and then find the LCD locations from which to expose them. Nonesuch, a Warner label, has the intelligence to understand that Wilco or the excellent new Caetano Veloso album need to be heard as a snippet on NPR, no matter how milquetoast and yuppie that venue might be; NPR is where overeducated, time-constrained white people get their news. They still hope they can discover new music that won't embarrass them, and they will listen to an entire album, if it's good. Luckily for them, NPR picks real talent, if middle-of-the-road (with some exceptions. But you probably won't hear the Boredoms). How Nonesuch keeps the WEA hands of their parent out of the hair of their musicans, I have no idea, but remain impressed.
At the end of the NYTimes article, one executive bemoans how difficult it'll be to stay ahead of trends and track and fund and distribute music via singles and downloads. But it's pretty simple. Be smarter. Have better taste. Listen to acts with your eyes shut, and take the emphasis off videos. The acts you pick will probably still be 55% good looking, anyway, but I suspect the digital-download-oriented consumer wants to just hear a song over and over, regardless of looks. The Truth of the digital download is portability: the LCD wants a song to help them work out, drive to work, or party. Visuals matter little.
Also, recognize that the best artists out there - and most aren't on your large label -- are going to make mistakes, but if you leave them alone, make money for you in the long run (REM, anyone?). Rock and roll has no rules, not like jazz. Pop should have no rules. To make an artist follow rules is to deaden them.
Electrelane's a good example. While you might favor one song over another, it might not be long until your favorite song on their new album, No Shouts, No Calls, due April 30 on Too Pure, one of my fave labels of all time, is replaced by another right after it. Their three albums before this (and one singles collection) spread their considerable, technical musical talent ( to see Electrelane's singer/guitarist/pianist/saxophonist Verity Sussman perform live is to realize she's a virtuoso, possibly classically trained) over a cinematic instrumentals (their debut) and pop-rock versions of Spanish sonnets (The Power Out) and knotty, post-rock creations confomring to few genres (Axes); this new effort combines all three approaches. Here's a soundtrack track and a pop single, respectively, both on the same great record:
I was gonna say they were lucky to be opening for the Arcade Fire, but that tour's been cancelled due to Winn Butler's sinus infection. Don't they have nine people in that band? Can't someone else sing for him? Doesn't his brother sound like him?
I love their blog entry title: No Tour Goes. Read about it in Electrelane's tour blog.