Creative Communications

14 April, 2009

Record albums will still be made after perishing as a commodity

Filed under: Citizen Powered Media,Conversation,Future?,music — Tags: , — Sean Canton @ 1:18 pm
A 12" record, a 7″ record, and a CD-ROM.
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Various pundits have been predicting the ‘death of the album’ for a long time now. The popular rationale, advanced ever since Napster, is that since we are consuming music in 3-5 minute song chunks, there are far fewer reasons to purchase and experience an album in one shot. Before the MP3, there is no random access seeks in vinyl recordings, short of knocking the arm across the disc, hence the emergence of the linear album as the dominant presentation by which music may be purchased and experienced.

Digital music has changed the format of this presentation from a single, long form experience to bite-sized, easily digestible snippets of songs. Several songs strung together can tell a story with much more nuance and depth then can a single. Of course, the artist, producer and engineers determine whether or not this story is presented as a seamless entity in it’s entirety. Since the recording industry as a whole has focused on radio-friendly singles, not generally whole albums, it’s easy to extrapolate from history and come to the conclusion of how singles will be the future of music.

However, there are many releases which exist as a whole entity, made up of discrete parts, concept albums for example. You cannot say that because the recording industry will perish that the album as a presentation will not persist. Even in a scenario put forth by Gerd Leonhard, “Music Like Water“, where music is basically a media utility you buy into with a subscription fee, compilations in the form of albums will be much more rare. Collections of songs, however, (mixtapes being the lowest barrier to contribute here) form a gestalt entity, where the whole is greater then the sum of it’s parts, and will never be obsolete.

Looking at some of my favorite albums (forgive my conventional taste in greatness), The Downward Spiral, Dark Side of the Moon and Hell Awaits all have a few things in common. The central themes rotate through various lenses of interpretation, both sonically and lyrically. Albums allow for all the story-telling tricks we praise in the film world, foreshadowing, character development, climax, resolution, peripatia and anagnorisis. The production quality is quite high on all these releases which allows for persistent auditory themes throughout the album. This is the most important part, in my opinion, because it serves as a link between one song and each other in the collection. Yet, there is enough distinction that each song does not sound the same as the others, a sin committed by virtually every pop record produced in 2000.

That’s what it boils down to, ultimately, is focused effort on the part of the artists and producers. If you’re looking at something as a business equation, you want maximum results for minimum inputs. It just hasn’t been worth the effort to make entire albums stand out. Perhaps then album will perish because nobody wants to put the effort into making something which will be appreciated by so few. Since when did the lack of an audience stop an artist?

Albums will continue to be created because there are still musicians on the planet.

Now, the ‘death of the rock star‘ is something I believe will happen, with all certainty. That’s another thought for another time. Until then, thanks for reading, and I welcome your comments below.

11 August, 2008

NBC’s Xenophobic Olympic Coverage

I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to peruse any Olympic coverage on traditional media sources, but the ubiquity of Americans being shown at this international event almost sickens me.

I’ve watched two hours of Olympic coverage, and only TWICE, was a participant from another country identified and given on-screen time. A Chinese swimmer got 15 seconds, a French swimmer was pictured and attributed with some quote about ‘smashing America’. Wonderful.

Oh wait, they did mention something about Japanese people being too short for volleyball….

Beyond the argument that this promotes a self-centered international identity, I am irritated by all this for SEVERAL reasons.

One, the whole POINT of the Olympics is for us to drop our flag waving and come together in the spirit of human achievement. By offering America exclusive coverage of just Americans completely destroys this spirit and replaces it with the mundane ‘we are the best’ competitive mentality that causes no small amount of human suffering around the world.

Two, as a viewer and a citizen in this global community, I want to be exposed to other cultures and see what I have not seen before. I have seen America, not all of it, not even a significant portion of it, but I have not seen China, I have not seen Japan. I want to. I want to know their back stories, their struggles, their triumphs. To let our national pride interfere with our humanity, our interest in the people we share this planet with, is just ego-centric.

Finally, as a student of mass communication, I was taught that it is the role of the media to provide as many angles to a story as possible, so that an informed populace can make decisions. Now today, with the right-wing and left-wing pundits serving as our major media outlets, the bias is apparent. They do our thinking for us by controlling the conversation. Objectivity goes straight out the window.

I would hope that our coverage of a world event is not as one-sided as the advertising permitted within. I would hope that in order to promote an understanding between nations, the major media would step up to their responsibility as information providers, and show us the whole story.

Not just the American version.

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27 March, 2008

Emerging Patterns

We all get stuck in our habits, and business is no exception. The issue at hand is, instead of one life being burdened by the choice to eat chocolate in the morning as a way to start the day, an entire organization, spanning tens, hundreds or even thousands of people, gets stuck in a method of behavior it deems successful. Given that one individual takes nearly a month of repeated action or inaction to make or destroy a habit (according to how long would it take an entire company?

Change can come from two directions, directed from above, or from within. An example of a directed from above change would be the company-wide announcement, or executive team meeting, which rattles many chains and lots of talking happens, but, unfortunately, nothing really changes. In personal life, this would be creating your environment to reflect the changes you want, like cleaning your kitchen to make sure you keep your kitchen clean. Sure, in the short term, it works, but if you purpetuate your old habits, that kitchen will get messy again.

Then we come to the change which emerges from within, the kind which is directed by passion, creativity and intelligence. Every worker in a knowledge company has some degree of these, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. We use these factors to make the changes we need to make in our own life. Eventually, our inner creative need outs itself in a dramatic display to be seen and heard.

In an organization, how can one harness this vast creative force and channel it into a direction? It seems that people’s personal goals MUST differ from the organization because people are so diverse. Well, when we gather people by ability and experience, then of course, the interests will be diverging. Yet, what if we gathered people by interest, and put them in a position to learn and prosper utilizing those interests. Then they develop a passion that is reinforced daily.

How do you then remain flexible enough to incorporate new interests?

It’s all in the foundation you build and the leadership you maintain. Here’s some guidelines for ideals off the top of my head as to how this could be accomplished:

(note: while this is derived from my experience as a worker, none of it have I actually incorporated and pass off as actual wisdom)

1) Anonymous White Board – A general purpose online discussion, where everything is public, but anonymous, so grievances can be aired, and the culture of the organization can be measured.

2) Channel Growth from Bottom Up – A facility for those engaged with the day to day work of an organization to discuss efficiency improvements, market research, product ideas or other ideas amongst each other in order to push the organization towards achieving a common goal, instead of one person’s vision.

3) Interchangability – Everyone in the organization should have access to the resources necessary, either in documentation, training or people, to do the work of everyone else. One day a week should be devoted to interchangeability and discussing efficiency improvements. This way, even in middle sized companies, everyone gets to be CEO for a day, and understand the challenges involved, as well as receive respect for the job they normally occupy.

Anyway, maybe this will inspire a better world somewhere, which is really what this is all about.

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