There was a time that musicians produced collections of music called albums. A time when every song in the collection so published was worth listening to. A time when musicians even tried to create some sort of continuity, some sense of belonging, some coherence between the songs on the albums. Sometimes they called them concept albums, to differentiate them from the others.
Albums. A fine idea. As an example, take a look at the albums I’ve listed below. All just from one year, 1971. From when I was 14. Every one a classic of its kind. If I could have afforded it, I could have bought a new album every two weeks. [In fact, I had every one of those albums in my collection in vinyl. I now have the lot in CD form, and just over half in vinyl as well.]
- 4 Way Street: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
- Abraxas: Santana
- Aqualung: Jethro Tull
- Blue: Joni Mitchell
- Bridge Over Troubled Water: Simon and Garfunkel
- Chicago III: Chicago
- Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Emerson, Lake and Palmer
- Every Good Boy Deserves Favour: The Moody Blues
- Every Picture Tells A Story: Rod Stewart
- Fireball: Deep Purple
- Imagine: John Lennon
- Led Zeppelin III: Led Zeppelin
- Meddle: Pink Floyd
- Mud Slide Slim and The Blue Horizon: James Taylor
- Pearl: Janis Joplin
- Songs Of Love And Hate: Leonard Cohen
- Stephen Stills: Stephen Stills
- Sticky Fingers: The Rolling Stones
- Sweet Baby James: James Taylor
- Tapestry: Carole King
- Tea For The Tillerman: Cat Stevens
- Teaser And The Firecat: Cat Stevens
- The Yes Album: Yes
- Tumbleweed Connection: Elton John
- What’s Going On: Marvin Gaye
- Who’s Next: The Who
Well, that was over 40 years ago. I could have chosen 1969 or 1972 or pretty much any year from that genre and come up with similar results. As Mary Hopkin would have said, those were the days. Since then, slowly, alarmingly, albums started morphing into something else: vehicles for surrounding a few decent tracks with tat. Of course there were exceptions. But they were exceptions.
Not surprisingly, album sales declined, and continue to decline.
I could say that overall music quality declined as well, but that wouldn’t be fair or reasonable. Every generation tends to think that the music quality of succeeding generations is poorer. So I won’t go down that road.
What I can say is that the quality of recording is getting worse, something that Neil Young feels strongly about, something that we need to think hard about, find ways to change. In the meantime, Neil is working on a device and an end-to-end process that could transform the way we listen to music.
And in the meantime. I am so glad that sites like discogs.com exist. They’re amazing.
They help you discover music; make it easy for you to find people you share musical tastes with; provide ways to buy music and sell music in pretty much any format; they even have facilities for you to add to, correct or otherwise improve their database. Now that is what I call a 21st century open and social music site. Thank you discogs.
Okay, okay, you got the “social” bit, but where did I come up with the “open” tag? Here’s why:
A simple, worthwhile platform. REST APIs. Using open standards. Allowing people access to the core data and processes. Allowing people to build incremental value on top of the platform. Keeping to social, open and cloud principles.