… I have no other words for this.
First, some points of fact: I’m not defending Katy Perry. I don’t care about Katy Perry’s music. I haven’t heard the album in question.
But, a better point is that I don’t know who Bob Lefsetz is. Judging by his picture, he didn’t grow out of the ground just yesterday, but rather he gives hard-hitting analysis of the music industry.
Um, sir? May I point out that you are part of the problem you outline above?
Because, even though music has been around forever, the “music industry” is relatively new – maybe a century old? And whole chunks of the industry exist only because people want to make money off the backs of talent instead of getting a real job. Let’s be upfront about that.
For example, there’s no art in the business of iTunes- just nerds who figured out how to skim off the backs of the people who are doing the work at the lowest possible price where they make the most possible profit. Yeah, I said it. Am I wrong?
I know from experience there are people in and around the industry who are passionate and who care about music and spreading the word of newly-discovered musical genius. But, I also know I’m not a fucking idiot. Those people brimming with passion are few and far between. There’s also a whole class of… let’s call them “people”, for the sake of this point, who want only to keep sucking at their music-funded money teet. Not surprisingly, those teets, they are-a-changin.
What has not changed is that the “music business” has always been a singles business. Even though our collective attention spans seemed to be tiny compared to days we remember only from magazine adverts and Mad Men, we have been more culturally in-tune with the 3 1/2 minute pop single than just about anything musical for the whole of the last 100 years.
But, keep in mind, that for many music is something that kids listen to, or that others enjoy, or that you put on while doing the dishes. A PASSIVE consumption of music is taken by the vast majority of people who are living, and have lived, on earth over the past century. The album was only ever treasured and collected and coveted and prized and ACTIVELY SOUGHT by the smallest segment of people on earth. That has been true since the album existed. A million apologies if album sales are not making “people” rich like they did in the 70s (if then).
So, just because someone is dumb enough to pay you to write a “grumpy old man says get off my lawn” column about music, please don’t start sounding the alarm as if the album has been THE gold standard for the age and is now endangered. The era you think you remember never happened in popular culture. It happened in your record store. It happened in Almost Famous. It happened in your mind. Mostly.
And, hey, I’m not picking on your ancient-ness. I’m old. So old, in fact, that if this were Roman times, I’d certainly have been dead a while. The last new songs I enjoyed were by Eminem (Rick Rubin!) and Arcade Fire (David Bowie!) (Ahem).
Of course, all artists now sell fewer albums because people steal more music than ever before in history. We’re now on the second generation of people who thinks artists don’t deserve a living from their work. (Napster kids now have kids. Yup, keep chewing your knuckles.) I’m going to guess their thievery digs much further into the bottom line more than single sales do. Or anything else.
Are there future rock stars? No, probably not. The era is probably as close to over as it has ever been. But it also means some of the leeches will wither up and die. In short, albums don’t work anymore because they never really did. Circle of life, man… So at least we know Elton John is still getting paid.