Albums Redefined

This is an excerpt/reworking of something I recently wrote for a company I have the pleasure of working with. Thought I’d share:

Rethinking the “album”
Albums used to be songs, liner notes, and cover art. Doesn’t work any more. Albums now must be the collection of social objects created during the process of writing and creating the songs. Once the album is completed, the artist’s site (not their damnable MySpace page) becomes the central repository/point of dispensation for these social objects. People come to the artist’s site to gather the social objects. They then share these social objects in order to convert others. These others then come to the artist’s site for more.

Rethinking the album process apropos of social object creation
In order to fully appreciate the importance of social objects, consider the process of making a record.

The process itself becomes a social object. Prior to note one being recorded, a micro site/blog dedicated to the project/album (which is connected to the artist’s main site) is created. The microsite/blog is shareable; it exposes and (hopefully/axiomatically) attract people to the artist’s main site.

As the project continues, so too does the creation of more social objects.

The ms/blog for the project (again housed on/connected to the main site) collects email addresses/Twitter followers/FB friends and communicates to these followers regarding the process.

Notes on the progress of the recording are posted to the blog, demos of songs are posted, videos are posted, photos are posted. Naturally, all of these are shareable/embed-able. Naturally, they all reference the artist’s main site.

The documentation continues with the making of the record; video, sample tracks, interviews, photos, commentary. All of these represent social objects being created.

Importantly, these social objects operate at their highest level when they are not a monologue but rather a conversation. As the songs are posted, the constituents could, for example, have a say in the order of the songs on the record, etc. The result is an injection of energy.

If the tools used to create these social objects are things like Flip cameras and a blog, there is little cost involved with either the creation of the social objects or the platform.

It’s important to differentiate the album/project’s microsite/blog from the artist’s main site. The blog/ms serves a different, albeit related, purpose than the main site. The main site is gathering place for the artist’s tribe. The microsite/blog is the central repository/dispensation point of the accumulated social objects connected to the specific project.

Remember, the album redefined is a collection of social objects.

Over time, an artist will create numerous interconnected blogs/microsites that each represent the neo-album (the collection of social objects for specific albums/projects). Each are connected with the others and with the main site, but each have a unique perspective and purpose. Ultimately, these become the artist’s new catalog.

The old concept of the album is dead. However, we now have an opportunity – if we think in terms of social objects – to reinvent the album.

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  1. LyricalVenus’s avatar

    I love this! Been thinking about this in somewhat vague terms so it's nice to have it well thought/written out. I think Christine Kane is a good example of someone already doing it with her http://bemyrecordlabel.com/

    Reply

  2. christopher lars carlson’s avatar

    Wow! Well said.
    Pls email me your URL (I'm on my phone right now) and if you're on Twitter, that, too. We're on the same page and I'd love to open a dialogue.

    Reply

  3. Mark Eldred’s avatar

    This is great George! The future of music is definitely in this conversation between the artist and their fans.

    Reply

  4. christopher lars carlson’s avatar

    Hey! I just wrote a blog post that mentions your blog, and links to this post specifically here. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply

  5. George Howard’s avatar

    Thank you. I'd love to read what you wrote. What's the url.

    best,

    George

    Reply

  6. Tom Williams’s avatar

    I think you're correct in what you say but I think artists must be careful about their “album” becoming more of a collaborative effort than an individual statement. When this happens something is lost. I think the need to be very open and engaging with fans at all steps of the creative process must be balanced with the need for the work to be the artists unique vision. I think back to when Weezer was recording their 4th album, Maladroit, in the early 2000's. The band had a well maintained and trafficked blog which a lot of demos and in-progress recordings were posted. Fans listened and sent feedback. The end result was an album that sounded like group-think. It was bland, overthought, and inoffensive to nobody but unloved by nobody either.

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  7. George Howard’s avatar

    Thanks, Tom, you're absolutely correct. One of the things I miss most about the “old” business (it may be the only thing I miss) is the element of mystery; there was such anticipation leading up to the release of a new record – singles, etc. gave clues, but you really didn't know until it was released.

    I also completely agree with you regarding “group think.” Anyone who knows me knows that I hate “designed by committee” efforts (myspace music, anyone?). The artist herself must have the vision; the artist must not be swayed from that vision. customers never ever demand innovation (real innovation), and artists must be innovative.

    Balancing these things (mystery/being true to your vision) while still involving your constituency in the process is not easy. It can be done; artists like Radiohead and NIN seem to have it down pretty well.

    My point, I suppose, is about the involvement in the process at some level. It doesn't have to be (maybe shouldn't be) involvement in the artistic process.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    best,

    George

    Reply

  8. nicefishfilms’s avatar

    Nicely stated. We'll be talking about your insights on our weekly talkcast of music and tech- Are You Really Experienced? The idea of of community collaboration has mostly been a post-release practice (fan-remixes, etc) Artists like Todd Rundgren have been pioneers of letting their audience be part of the creation conversation. These are interesting times and artists who embrace “community” will maintain and even grow their fan base. Artists restricted to major label deals will miss out on this shift in thinking but should be pushing the industry from the inside to adopt.

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  9. George Howard’s avatar

    Cool. thanks. just checked your Site; excellent. let me know if I can ever be of any help (gah650 [at] gmail [dot] com.

    best,

    George

    Reply

  10. David Everitt-Carlson’s avatar

    Recently at TEG (The Entertainment Gathering) 2008, Todd Rundgren said it best, “Music is a service, not a product. It should be marketed as such”. His full video address is included here: http://toddrundgrenarena.blogspot.com/2009/01/t… His discussion of his “No World Order” project and succeeding Patronet subscription service forcast and implemented a collection of musical social objects over 10 years ago.

    Reply

  11. Conference Professionals’s avatar

    I am little curious to know more about it……………

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  12. India Dating’s avatar

    Oh! I have this great stuff to share with you…….

    Reply

  13. Watch Movies Online’s avatar

    When this happens something is lost. I think the need to be very open and engaging with fans at all steps of the creative process must be balanced with the need for the work to be the artists unique vision. I think back to when Weezer was recording their 4th album, Maladroit, in the early 2000's.

    Reply

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