Music's Worst Year

This is the place where you can vent whatever's on your mind. Feel free to go off on extended rants or brief blurbs about whatever's rocking your world.

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n8
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Postby n8 » Fri Jan 20, 2006 1:47 pm

It's an interesting question and different people have different views. From my viewpoint, I'd have to agree with you grounded, that the advent of MP3 made the difference. The reason is that up until that point music was still largely released in album format (whether vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, etc.), and an album is as a whole a work of art. A song, no matter how good, is just a song, and as soon as we could buy and sell songs on a mass level, music became commodified. I believe the critical difference between an MP3 and a physical album is that the song has become dissociated from visual art, from permanent media, and from a prescribed context.

Jake
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Postby Jake » Fri Jan 20, 2006 2:51 pm

You guys are all crazy. Music has been bought and sold since the 1800s (as sheet music) and centuries before that if you count paying for musicians to play for you.

Grounded and n8, you've had this conversation before (not that long ago), and now you're saying the exact same things. So I will repeat myself to join in on the fun:

4 months ago, I wrote:It's important to keep in mind that the whole idea the album as we know it is a very recent invention. Only since the 1960s (a little earlier in the jazz world) have artists considered the LP a cohesive piece.

Are you saying that before the 60s, there was no art of music? If so, that's just dumb.

Rock and roll was built on the singles market. 45 revolutions per minute. Seven inches. In a plain paper wrapper. Later, record companies started adding picture sleeves.

What comes around goes around.

Image

vitas
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Postby vitas » Fri Jan 20, 2006 2:59 pm

i'm not crazy. i said the same thing with a little less detail and without a cool picture of an old fart. bah!

n8
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Postby n8 » Fri Jan 20, 2006 3:18 pm

personally, i'm just stupid.

n8
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Postby n8 » Fri Jan 20, 2006 3:28 pm

Jake wrote:You guys are all crazy. Music has been bought and sold since the 1800s (as sheet music) and centuries before that if you count paying for musicians to play for you.

Grounded and n8, you've had this conversation before (not that long ago), and now you're saying the exact same things. So I will repeat myself to join in on the fun:

4 months ago, I wrote:It's important to keep in mind that the whole idea the album as we know it is a very recent invention. Only since the 1960s (a little earlier in the jazz world) have artists considered the LP a cohesive piece.

Are you saying that before the 60s, there was no art of music? If so, that's just dumb.

Rock and roll was built on the singles market. 45 revolutions per minute. Seven inches. In a plain paper wrapper. Later, record companies started adding picture sleeves.

What comes around goes around.

Image


But wait Jake, you're making a different point. Paying for a performance is just that. It's different from paying for a digital, portable recording of music,
Paying for sheet music - again, you're not buying the music. You're buying instructions on how to play it.
45s are different too, and for two important reasons:
1) The B-side. You're buying two songs, not one, and this establishes a shared context in which they both exist. They relate to one another in a prescribed way.
2) They are sold on fixed, material media. MP3s are only data. When you pay for a 45, you're paying for the materials on which it comes as well as the various publishing and production fees that go into making, recording, and releasing a piece of music. When you buy an MP3, you're cutting out the material cost, and the music stands alone.
As for the art, yes there was a limited period of time in which music media did not have 'album art', but at least they had labels. The LP in and of itself is a piece of art. Shiny, black surface, tiny little grooves. Try to tell me you've never been transfixed by one spinning on your turntable. An MP3 is just 1s and 0s.
As for the pre-album age, I think its a non-sequiter to even argue beyond that. We're obviously dealing with a very short time in the grand scheme of things, but that's all it makes sense to do.
In my mind, music was either commodified with the advent of mass production of recorded music media, or with MP3s. I choose the latter.

LionIndex
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Postby LionIndex » Fri Jan 20, 2006 3:57 pm

n8 wrote:But wait Jake, you're making a different point. Paying for a performance is just that. It's different from paying for a digital, portable recording of music,
Paying for sheet music - again, you're not buying the music. You're buying instructions on how to play it.

Hold on there--before mass production of recordings (starting in about 1923), sheet music and rolls for player pianos were all you had. There was a huuuuuge market for that stuff. Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton basically got famous just from player piano sales. So, that's still music as a commodity. On sheet music, you have more of a point, but you also have to consider that playing music yourself was just the average form of entertainment before the turn of the century. No radio, no tv, so whatever you wanted to listen to, you had to do it yourself.
2) They are sold on fixed, material media. MP3s are only data. When you pay for a 45, you're paying for the materials on which it comes as well as the various publishing and production fees that go into making, recording, and releasing a piece of music. When you buy an MP3, you're cutting out the material cost, and the music stands alone.
As for the art, yes there was a limited period of time in which music media did not have 'album art', but at least they had labels. The LP in and of itself is a piece of art. Shiny, black surface, tiny little grooves. Try to tell me you've never been transfixed by one spinning on your turntable.

Oh, whatever. Nobody has ever gone out and bought black vinyl circles for no reason whatsoever. Sure, manufacturing costs figure in, but that's no different from programming or computer manufacturing costs.
As for the pre-album age, I think its a non-sequiter to even argue beyond that. We're obviously dealing with a very short time in the grand scheme of things, but that's all it makes sense to do.
In my mind, music was either commodified with the advent of mass production of recorded music media, or with MP3s. I choose the latter.
As soon as people decided they could make money by controlling access to other people playing music, it was a commodity, pretty much by definition.

n8
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Postby n8 » Fri Jan 20, 2006 4:12 pm

LionIndex wrote:As soon as people decided they could make money by controlling access to other people playing music, it was a commodity, pretty much by definition.

Like most things in life, it's a continuum. I agree the starting point may have been player piano music, NOT live performances and NOT sheet music.
I believe that commodification requires a medium. And player piano sheets are just that. Maybe someone else can point back to an even earlier technology?
For reasons I discussed above, MP3s have then taken the commodification a huge step forward, to a new level. I don't think anyone can argue with that. The main reasons for this are the loss of an established context for the song and the elimination of physical media. These two factors are huge in terms of changing the way we interact with and pay for recorded music.
Last edited by n8 on Fri Jan 20, 2006 6:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

steve-o
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Postby steve-o » Fri Jan 20, 2006 5:18 pm

grounded5am wrote:itunes, to me, is killing the soul of music. it's becoming disposible than ever. since when did music become a file? or a series of numbers (if that's the case)?


How do you mean killing the soul of music? Sound quality? Frankly, I'd love to be able to put Otis Redding in a time machine and have him record some of his stuff in digital format. The sound quality of most well encoded mp3's beat much of what used to be recorded in analog format.

I personally do prefer albums to sound files, simply because I like having something tangible to hold in my hands. But itunes has also been a great resource for new music, especially if a random song pops into your head that you want to hear without buying the whole album. It's definitely not an either/or situation.

I mean, I don't like it when "Pictures of You" gets put into an HP commercial (of which I have already bitched about at great length so I won't repeat myself), but that's kind of different than complaining about every single instance someone makes money off of a song, thus making it by definition a "commodity." Like it's already been said, that's been going on since music was ever first put to wax.

Jake
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Postby Jake » Fri Jan 20, 2006 5:43 pm

steve-o wrote:The sound quality of most well encoded mp3's beat much of what used to be recorded in analog format.

That's bullshit. Pretty much all big-budget professional studio recording done after World War II used state of the art German recording technology that's still being used (by serious audiophiles) today. Listen to the jazz stuff recorded for Verve in the 50s and you'll never hear higher fidelity. And that shit was recorded with one or two (very well-placed) mics (in very sonically awesome rooms)!

I'm not knocking mp3 files. 8-tracks, cassettes, cds, mp3s, whatever. That's just the medium, the output. The recording technology, though, the input, hasn't advanced much, if any, since the 50s according to the engineers who contribute to TapeOp. Mixing and editing and stuff like that has gotten much more simple and convenient and fast thanks to ProTools and stuff like that. But the basic "capturing the original sounds" part has not improved. In fact, digital is still catching up to that WWII-era German technology.

steve-o
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Postby steve-o » Fri Jan 20, 2006 6:34 pm

Jake wrote:
steve-o wrote: Listen to the jazz stuff recorded for Verve in the 50s and you'll never hear higher fidelity. And that shit was recorded with one or two (very well-placed) mics (in very sonically awesome rooms)!


That's why I said much, keeping in mind people like Phil Spector, and stuff I might not have heard, Verve jazz recordings being an example. I was thinking of stuff like Motown, which I think was good for it's time, but I still wince whenever I hear some of those ridiculously bright highs. You don't get as much of that on modern recordings.

I think it ultimately comes down to innovative production, and it always has. But that's a different discussion. But these days, with software like Nuendo and ProTools, a good Mac, and a good ear, you can't deny that it's possible to produce music that's sonically at least as good as much of what was put out in analog in the years past. I'm just jumping into defend the digital technology against the idea that all that other stuff is good simply because it's old.


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