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Musical Cheese

All Killer, No Filler?

Was just reading some news squibs about the fact that some bands, specifically Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers have refused to have their music sold online via Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Their rationale was that they were unhappy with the service for allowing customers to download individual tracks, with the rationale that “Our artists would rather not contribute to the demise of the album format,” This, in turn, has sparked the usual flaming on the discussion boards about how albums today have maybe two good songs, while the rest is just filler crap. Some songwriters have responded that they feel none of their work is filler, but represents their best efforts, and artists don’t spend a year of their lives working on what they think is just filler, blah, blah, blah…

I’m here to tell ya [old man voice] these kids today [/old man voice] must not remember that when singles artist in the early 60’s–and that’s most rock ‘n’ roll artists–were accorded the honor of putting out an album, they were just one or two hit singles and a lot of filler. Check out any original Motown album: you get one or two of the Supremes’ latest two hits, and then ten cuts of show tunes, or covers of songs made famous by other Motown artists. I can understand an artist still wedded to the concept of an “album” as a single unit of music that he wants to control: Brian Wilson mixed most of the Beach Boys’ LPs, especially “Pet Sounds,” in mono so the listener couldn’t fiddle with his vision of how the music should sound (that and he was deaf in one ear). But if you really want your album to be an intact “vision,” then you have no business releasing singles from it to radio. That instantly divorces those songs from the experience of listening to the album.

Besides, each songwriter may think each of his efforts is excellent, but record companies determine early in the process that “these” songs will be the singles, which will have videos made for them, and which will get the extra production boost. No matter how much the creative person protests, there are less worthy songs on a CD that many consumers resent paying $18.99 for, and would prefer to have just one or two songs.

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