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Instant Gratification, Minimum Retention

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  • meta187

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 06:45 PM Edited by meta187, 15 March 2010 - 06:44 AM.

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A brief commentary from a music listener.

This last week the mega popular, multi-platinum artists known as the The Gorillaz released their third and most likely final album, Plastic Beach. Internationally fans from every corner of the world ran out to purchase or download this new album. A few teaser videos released to Youtube and various media outlets had peaked the general public's interest and created quite a buzz.

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Quite a few here at as well as myself have given it a generally positive nod. In fact, as I'm typing this out I'm now listening to it in it's entirety for the 6th time since my purchase on Tuesday. Ten, fifteen years back this wouldn't be such a strange thing but as I got to the 4th play through a slightly bothersome thought occurred to me.

When was the last time I'd listened to an album in it's entirety more than two or three times tops before moving on to some new musical obsession?

A couple years? Five maybe ten or more?

Certainly attention spans change as the years carry forward. You watched your favorite childhood movies 50 times in a row over the course of two months but can barely watch even a good movie twice through once you start into adulthood.

And yes, as a teenager new albums could be something of an event with entire afternoons filled with uninterrupted listening of ones favorite handful of albums but I think it's become very clear that these moments we used to set aside to sit and enjoy albums in their entirety have significantly diminished with so many media outlets offering an unending stream of instantaneous links to other artists and forms of entertainment viciously competing for our attention and spending dollar.

Typically, more and more people are listening for the hit singles. Everything, the video, the radio play, the advertising, the web links are all focused on getting you to at the very least pay for a few uploads of your favorite tracks.

It's been no major secret that the CD industry has been on a fairly steep downhill slide for the last decade due to the prominence of illegal and legitimate downloading of music and has been forced to consolidate down to roughly three major labels and a handful of viable independents. Artists have adapted and are seeking revenue streams, touring and merchandising more to make a decent return from their chosen professions.

The most unsettling general change from all this though would be found in the listener.

Starkly, in some instances, we are starting to treat this art we once cherished as if it were completely disposable. We listen to what we like and simply click on to the next track in our MP3 players custom shuffle to get to the next track. We listen to play the songs we love until they are completely whored out and we can barely stand to hear them anymore and then seek out new consumables to do the same to.

If you think I'm just waxing on about every other music listener consider the massive success of the NOW- That's What I Call Music Discography's:

QUOTE (www.nowthatsmusic.com)
The NOW That's What I Call Music! series is a joint venture from EMI Music North America, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group.

The NOW That's What I Call Music! series debuted in the U.S. in 1998 after the brand had been a multi-platinum international success for 15 years. The series has generated sales exceeding 200 million albums worldwide, including more than 74 million copies in the U.S. Every album in the numbered U.S. series has reached Billboard's Top 10, with NOW 3 the first non-soundtrack, multi-artist collection in history to reach #1.

This particular venture was designed to specifically cater to lazy f*cks who aren't motivated enough to turn off their radios and televisions for a brief moment and go down to their local record store or simply look about online and really work to discover new sounds for themselves. People buying these would rather be hand fed an ideal of what good music is rather than make a personal decision for themselves.

And they've sold like meth to bored small town kids. Similarly, You can go to your local Wal-Mart and pick up your Everyday Low Price music along side the fairly cheap ingredients to cook up meth in your kitchen right now to the same affect, producing a nation of uninspired, drug addled drones all listening to the same one hundred songs for the next two years.

I think about decidedly commercial albums like Stone Temple Pilots, Core. It was an immediately rocking album, every other song sounded like a hit single. Then the slightly more creative and "artsy" Purple and then the decidedly more out there Tiny Music...Songs from The Vatican Gift Shop and how I wasn't an immediate fan of the latter two but how I really came to enjoy the intricacies and depth found in them after repeated listening to them during work out sessions. I didn't get up to change the track. I simply let them play from beginning to end, regardless of my like for one song over another and really grew to enjoy them.

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I think about the immediate commercial success of De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising and then the slightly more polished and successfully selling follow up De La Soul is Dead. Then I think about Buhloone Mindstate and what an entirely different album it was, set aside from anything else, hailed in many top ten Hip Hop Albums of all time lists by people in the know on the subject and truly one of my personal favorites.

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Then I think how it sold barely 23,000 copies it's 1st week of release and sat at #40 on the Billboard Charts, sinking off into obscurity and general unavailability.

I guess the point of all this is I feel our respect for music artists and their work has just declined because we have been offered too many options on listening to their marketing approach as opposed to the overall message they are trying to communicate as people presenting an album that most likely has over 10 tracks as opposed to the three we choose to focus on.

Rather than marking the quality of an album's presentations from beginning to end we give them just enough success on a few catchy songs to make it to their next album. In turn, they grow so fearful of not putting out another hit album that they refrain from taking creative chances and churn out some recycled, watered down version of the thing that made them popular to begin with and then we have the audacity to call them "sell outs" when it was us who didn't support them on the occasions where they tried something new.

An album from any serious artist is a portrait.

The tracks are arranged with peaks and valleys to inspire imagery and moods, scenes and situations. From the opening track to the closing song, a message clear or vague is attempting to be communicated to us by the person.

In such busy times, how well are we listening?

-Meta Pathos

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  • Cheat

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 07:19 PM

Another great topic, another great opinions.

I need to admit, I think that I'm also much persuadable by the media when it comes to music.
For example, when Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 came out last fall, when I got it, I was first more into songs like D.O.A and Empire State Of Mind. This is the point when a human mind creates the first impression, which - at least in my case - later shows up in my complete view of the album, and in the first listen, I focus on the tracks I've already heard and beware of being too quick in stepping into the rest of the album.
It has taken me time to realize the best tracks of that album, which totally aren't the singles.
For example, the song Real As It Gets from that specific album is in my opinion the best track off the album, and I only heard it at my second listen of the album - the first full listen.

To put it all in a faggy metaphor, an album is like a good cake:
First you eat the whipped cream from the top and the next day you take the cake from the fridge and realize how good the dough is.
The dough, that hand-made real stuff which at the end is what you are searching for.
Which also is the difference between underground and mainstream in it's own way, a good underground album is the sh*t, mainstream is something that only includes pieces of the sh*t.

I guess the shuffle option in my iPod is too alluring; would you rather pick a album with those 3 songs that you know or the full discography with slightly bigger chances of your favorite bangas coming up. It's also a moral question:
Maybe it would be better to go with the albums and found some new good tracks.

  • WHAT!?

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 07:21 PM

I know exactly what your talking about. Back when I bought CD's I would listen to the entire CD. Read the jacket that came with it. Make myself very familiar with every aspect of it. Since the trusty interwebs have come along. I've stopped this behavior.

First it was due to hard drive space. I'd just keep some select songs from an album so I could keep many artists hosted on my computer. As time moved on I just got used to the constant shuffle. Only lately have a fallen back into purchasing entire albums and really listening to them. I've actually began to go through my entire catalog of collected music and complete any partial albums I own. I've been listening to them one at a time for months now, I've found tons of new "favorite songs" as well as developed a deeper appreciation for the music itself. Not to mention notice the genuine art set itself apart from the recycled tripe.

Its a process I'd recommend to anyone. Good little read there, Meta.

  • kevin2006rhs

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 07:46 PM

STP's purple album was one of the first albums I ever owned. Still one of my favorite albums. Every song, I mean every f*cking song on it is a hit to me. Pretty Penny is my most listened to out of the bunch though.

Sure I can go out and download an album off the internet. Its so f*cking easy to pirate an album via bittorrenting (I do not condone an of it *waves sarcastic angry finger), but if I really want an album or already like all of the song s on an album I go out and buy it. But with the bands now a days, they just seem to make a hit or two and throw in sh*t filler. I remember getting the Godsmack self titled album and loving every one of the songs on it, I still rock out to timebomb and bad religion. But now, I am scared to get a new album from them because there is a good chance they will follow that trend.

  • fili

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 07:55 PM Edited by fili, 12 March 2010 - 08:00 PM.

If by Instant Access, the Internet is the main source, I think it's likely more age specific, but not entirely. Judging from YouTube comments which I read at length...people generally admit to owning the album but search the artist and song out on YT as well. I just bought some used LPs I never owned and listened to them over and over as you describe. But I move on before returning to hear them again.

With Cds or a Tape in the car, I listen to the whole thing because I don't and never owned a "changer"

  • meta187

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 08:34 PM Edited by meta187, 12 March 2010 - 08:38 PM.

I thought quite a bit about what I mean in regards to "Instant Access" and it extends beyond downloading music via the internet. The Music people are wanting us to hear is coming from every available media orafice. It's on our television, our phones, our ringtones, our advertising and mother f*cking Hanna Montana Musical Toothbrushes. We've pretty much whored it out to no conceivable end and take less time to do what What?! described, getting to know the artist and the motivations behind them. In a lot of cases if we really looked into some of these "hit" artists we'd find their backstories paper thin and inauthentic. And if we took time to read the lyrics to some of these songs we'd note some really shallow mentalities and a complete lack of passion.

It's not about being a "hater" or some sort of knee jerk reaction to trends in order to look like a musical hipster, it's about really investing in knowing why you enjoy the artist and taking the time to do so.

  • meta187

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Posted 15 March 2010 - 06:36 AM

Just changed the font to Arial just to make it a little easier on the eyes.

Thanks voodoo.

  • gamesguru

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Posted 17 March 2010 - 02:19 PM

Some very good points have been raised so far, but I'm going to see if my feet have a snug fit in this current discussion. It is true that of course music is now less about the art, and more the business. There would be a time when an artist had freedom, could say what they wanted and use the samples they wanted, so on and so forth. Now there is so much paperwork and money involved, that if an artist or artists were to make an artistically viable album it would indeed have a huge chance of failing commercially, meaning no profit, bankruptcy, falling out with labels, of which is not a good career move or future. We hardly help as fans crying foul, but still not going out and purchasing the material to support our beliefs. Maybe our heart truly doesn't believe in what we say, or more interestingly, may have given up in this generation.

So it seems that sometimes, taking the cowardice route of producing easy mainstream accesible music is the only route. I always had felt like this, being only 18 I was born long past the days when there was a huge focus on the art and the joy of music. I never really listen to any [modern day] music, apart from a few. As some know, Gorillaz are my favourite, and I've been foaming at the mouth for their third album Plastic Beach since the first demos arised. The ideal you hihglighted of that music is not being listened to as an entirety and that we push that shuffle button one time too many is true. Using Gorillaz example (again), the debut single Stylo did so well on iTunes compared to physical sales, which was far form flattering.

I only really got into music a few years back when I got into rapping myself and the aesthetics of production. I thankfully found that there are still those out there that make legitimate and enjoyable music [for the soul]. Which reminds me........the other day I watch the making of Plastic Beach DVD and Damon Albarn (lead vocalist/co-founder) was talking about that he wanted to make something that was just like MP3s, streaming and MP3 player shuffling, but he wanted to make something that was whole, a story if you will. But he also mentioned that he wanted to make so many different sounds on the album that it sounded like you was listening to shuffle anyway, but in relaity you was still focused on the one story, and that one feeling. The man has some very interesting points, which is why the Gorillaz have accomplished so much musically.

  • meta187

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Posted 17 March 2010 - 03:47 PM

Nice to see a proper reply to this topic after a bit of a pause I had a friend or two from outside the forums say this topic's subject matter was probably a little too "mature" for the denizens of GTAF, thus the 200 views and like 4 or 5 replies but I like to give our readers the benefit of the doubt.

I think the arrangement of Plastic Beach was done very well with that whole "peaks and valleys" thing I reference in the article well set into place. They've done a consistantly good job up taking you up and down and through a lot of different sounds on all their previous albums as well.

I was listening to an interview on KUT yesterday with Broken Bells, DJ Danger Mouse and James Mercer's new collborative project and towards the end of the interview, both they and the interviewer started talking about this very thing. How people don't listen to albums in ther entirety to get a full picture of what the artist wants to convey. Like, how they had specifically layed out the tracks on the slbum to tell a story and they wish that people would in fact listen to certain songs in the order they'd arranged so apparently this issue is starting to be noticed more and more amoungst people in the industry.

  • epoxi

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 11:25 PM

This is an obvious thing to say, but I think the industry has been seriously warped by the rise in disposable income and mobile phones/the internet shifting the buying power to 14 year olds (no offence intended to cultured 14 year olds reading this, but you know what I mean).

I remember buying a tape or CD was a momentous occassion, something you'd save up for and plan carefully; with iTunes it's just a click of a button. These days the children have the money, but the lack of responsibility that enables them to buy music on impulse purely because it's popular, or it's part of a franchise record companies feel like pedalling. The effect snowballs: rise in the charts means the record becomes even more popular, and substantial artists get shafted by the sheer bulk of teen pop.

What really gets on my nerves is how this is seen as a positive shift: giving music to a wider audience. If anything, this is biasing the demographic and making it even easier for commercialised artists to sell their songs and generate hype. In my opinion, the work of every day artists such as Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Beyonce has deteriorated in quality because they don't even have to try any more...it's more about selling a brand than a record.

  • meta187

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 11:57 PM Edited by meta187, 20 March 2010 - 12:00 AM.

Well said, man. Well said.

I think of certain artists known for coming from a slightly more humble place where they thrive creatively and then they get that one hit or two and it all goes out the door.

Such an example would be The Black Eyed Peas, they had a slightly underground pedigree and yes they had all been street dancers as well but they went from having actual lyrical skills on joints like this:

I mean seriously I thought they were the 2nd coming of The Pharcyde when I watched this.

To making utter meaningless crap like this.

Is it catchy? Sure.

Would I maybe sing along if I were at a bar drunk or stoned off my ass hanging out with Lindsey Lohan? Sure.

Is there one shred of artistic substance going into it. As our dearly depated W-J-F, would say "Highly f*cking dubious".

I mean seriously. 50% of the lyrics are:

Let's do it,
Let's do it,
Let's do it,
Let's do it
And do it and do it,
Let's live it up
And do it and
Do it and do it,
Do it, do it
Let's do it, let's do it,
Let's do it, do it, do it, do it

Think they're going to do it?

I swear PeePee Princess, Fergie is the worst thing that ever happened to them.

Anyone else out there have an artist that made them feel this way?

  • epoxi

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 06:40 PM

Excellent example: I remember seeing a BEP song pre-Whereisthelove, only once, but I was impressed. You are right to liken them to Pharcyde, it's a shame that people don't know this side to them.

To be honest, if I was an artist and had the option of crossing over to generic pop to make lots of money, I wouldn't heistate to take the opportunity, regardless of how much I hate the direction the market is going. It's because of this that I don't blame the artists: there will always be someone to take your place if you don't play ball. I blame the consumers.

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 07:14 PM

QUOTE (meta187 @ Mar 19 2010, 23:57)
Anyone else out there have an artist that made them feel this way?

Kings of Leon, definitely.

I really liked those guys before they went all mainstream and starting shouting about having flaming sex. I mean, what was that all about?!

  • meta187

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 07:14 PM Edited by meta187, 20 March 2010 - 07:19 PM.

What's weird is there used to be some backlash when pop hits become whored out to the point of no redemption. Like people would answer that.
One of my favorite Hip Hop tracks ever was 3rd Bass's Pop Goes The Weasel where they just ate Vanilla Ice for lunch.

*embedded double click, don't be lazy.

Or even more recently with the New Radicals, You Get What You Give?

Which was a direct call to arms to an entire generation to stop allowing itself to be fed bullsh*t.

Those were both substancial hits but both groups of artist had personal issues following those songs that ended their careers.

So yes, the consumer is certainly to blame in this instance because it falls on us to reward the things we appreciate in music and the artists who give us an effort and to boycott the things we see that fall short of the mark but the view of that changes with age and demograpahic so things get kind of complicated from there.

@Chunk: I heard the same, they used to have all this buzz now they are just a band for your girlfriend to oggle like f*cking Dashboard Confessional or Maroon 5 which I liked a little initially then totally saw how they were pimpin' out the front man and got immediately turned off.

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 01:23 PM


I don't really have anything further to add to the conversation, except for that I definetly agree with everything on the topic, I just wanted to bring up this topic as it popped up in my mind, and I re-red it, accompanied with some Flying Lotus in the background and a nice cup of black coffee.

It's a great read, better than 99% of the bullsh i t they write in today's music mags and I want to bring up the opportunity of reading this to the people, I definetly recommend it.

  • Tyler


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Posted 07 June 2011 - 01:39 PM

Everything mentioned by Meta is definitely agreeable. I'll admit that I've been caught listening to three songs from the album and not going over that line. For me it's a mixture of two things, though. The band might either be a niche feeling that doesn't happen with me too often, like when I'm listening to Mastodon (nothing against them, I love their skill, but it's just not something I can listen to all the time). So instead of exploring further I just replay Crack the Sky a couple times.

I've recently moved away from doing that, but the notion is still pretty simple. All it takes is someone not caring enough about the artist, or simply being too lazy and the album will never get it's full attention.

It's dire that we've made the music industry so cut-throat that some folks need to 'sell-out' just to continue along their careers. Until we change the way we listen to music, or better yet, the way we appreciate the music, it'll only get worse. Good topic, Meta.

  • ska


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Posted 07 June 2011 - 03:34 PM

While I agree with everything said so far in this thread, I really think it's more generational and corporate deterioration than anything else. I honestly don't think that we will be seeing changes regarding this matter, because most of society is used to it by now. It's the norm. While I still admit to downloading full albums once in a while, I do try to save up and purchase albums just because I genuinely enjoy the experience of sitting back, listening to the record, and reading/looking through the album art and booklet. It's one of those experiences that you just can't replicate on digital. It's more of a personal thing, almost like a relationship between you and the album.

I recently did this with I'm Having Fun Now by Jenny & Johnny. It was an album that I originally downloaded first, but then purchased as a CD later. It was an entirely different experience between the two, and I appreciated it much more after purchasing it and really listening to it.

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