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The Future of Music (Part 2 of 5)

5 Questions. 5 Voices. 5 Fresh Perspectives.

Welcome to part 2 of our 5 part conversation on the future of music. On day 1, the panel discussed the future of distribution.

The Panel:

Phil Conner: President, Red Room Management. Red Room recently signed Kentucky-based rockers Nineball.

Mike Condo: Senior Sales manager of Gotee Records (Family Force 5, Ayeisha Woods, Relient K)

Josh Ballard: Vocalist/pianist for Until June.

Manchild: MC for the acclaimed underground hip-hop group Mars ILL.

Luke Bushias: guitarist for the Chicago-based band Made Avail, who currently have no record label affiliation.

The Question: I’d like you to address the concept of “the album.” Younger teens especially are skipping the “traditional” packaging system, and only buying the songs they like on iTunes. What future does “the album” (defined as a group of songs written and recorded to be heard as a single piece of art) have?

Condo: Looking just at teens the concept of “the album” is no longer what it once was. My daughter ten-year-old daughter Chloe is allowed to buy 1 CD a month on itunes. Each month for the past year she has come to me with a list of 10-12 songs she wants. Never once has she said get me this album. We are seeing more artists try to force the concept of “the album” to their fans ,but once a song is played on the radio, most casual fans just go get that song. I still believe that if there are enough quality songs on a project, then even teens will buy the entire CD. One example of this would be [Gotee band] Family Force 5. Most would say that their fan base is of the age that only care about a song, yet they have sold 100,000 CD’s. Their fans have taken ownership of the brand, and want everything Family Force 5 puts out.

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Phil: Music has definitely turned back to being about the song more so than the album. We are seeing more and more one hit wonders out there, just like in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Younger kids say ” I love their song!” instead of “I love their album!” At the same time, there are bands that seem to be selling a lifestyle to kids instead of being just about the music. Teenagers now can fit into a group and identify with others by listening to a certain band, wearing the clothes and saying the things that come along with that. Scene kids, metal kids and emo kids are just a couple of examples. Bands like My Chemical Romance and As I Lay Dying are good examples of selling not just music, but a lifestyle, and a way for kids to fit in to a group.

Josh: As Until June we’ve seen evidence of this very issue in our record sales. As an artist you can have 100,000 iTunes song downloads and reach little financial/artistic success. Ten Years ago, that would mean you sold 100,000 records, now it means you’ve sold 100,000 songs and 10,000 records. iTunes is a wonderful tool and allows fans to download safely and efficiently. However it’s harder to tell the story of a book when you get one page.

Manchild: That’s tough to say. For those of us who came up in that era, we do want to see a collection of songs together, packaged and themed, and then we can decide what songs we like from that, but then again, young kids know what they know. I do think there’s a place for it, especially if a specific artist decides that’s the only way he/she wants to release the music.

Luke: Every artist has to have an arsenal of songs. The first song the listener will hear defines their perspective of the band/artist. Singles will only get you so far. There has to be credible content as well as genuine emotion. Some of the best songs I’ve ever heard were recorded on Garageband, in a basement. The quality of music in the future will not be measured sonically but emotionally. I believe the record is dying not because people stopped buying albums, but because the focus of albums tends to be on two or three singles. Is it really the teens that have lost the emphasis? Some of the greatest albums of all time have few to no singles according to today’s standards.

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