I may be in the minority on this, but I haven’t heard a decent album since 1995-96. There might be a handful of bands/acts out there that produce an album that I can listen to end to end, but that is a rare breed. The Recording Industry shifted focus from making great music to making money. I don’t know when this happened or if it has been happening all along, but I do know 90% of the music produced today is garbage.
If you look through my CD cases the albums are 95% 1960-1995 and 5% 1995 to present. Look through your music collection and see if you find a void as well. I do not know the answer to this conundrum, but we may be living in a musical void in time.
So do I think it is the Recording Industry, yes. Is it because of downloads, partially. Is it because there is only one good song on an album these days, YES.
The music industry has changed a lot since the mid-nineties, that is true. Studios are dying, because people record on computers in their bedroom. Record companies no longer groom an act over years. Hell, most of the MTV stars have never stood on the stage of a small club. Music is a business now, in ways that we would have never imagined 20 years ago. I recently read an interesting article (in the NYT?) about Ahmed Ertegun and Atlantic Records and how the money was always less important than the music in those days… Well, the major record companies became large corporations in the nineties, with lots of shareholders that were clueless about music. Many cooks spoil the music. Many cooks means nobody is responsible.
More importantly, the medium through which we used to find out about music has changed even more: radio.
I completely disagree with Will’s statement that he hasn’t heard a decent album since 1995-96. Whenever a person makes a general statement like that I hear:
– I am stuck in a different era. I don’t like the present. Music/Art/Culture is a direct result of its time.
– I am stuck on a certain sound because that sound resonates with my personality. Could be what the musicians were expressing then, the lyrics of the song, the music itself, or could be something as simple as liking the old analog sound.
– I can’t find new music I might like, because there is so much music being produced and the old scouts are no longer around – the DJ who played wonderful new stuff on the radio, the record-store employee who always knew about a new band that had a great album.
There is great music being made now, but it may be harder to find the gems among the thousands of releases every week. With that onslaught of music we need excellent curators, who can point us to the good stuff. Somebody willing to listen to hundreds or thousands of releases and able to organize them into piles. You might like this and you might likes that. So far all software curators, and there are many out there, suck. I don’t think I have ever bought one of those amazon.com suggestions!
Yes, it is true, the major labels have concentrated on pop and money, but that in turn gave rise to many new indie labels who putting out excellent music. Yes, radio has gone the way of the dinosaur, but there are many interesting internet-radio stations! There are new ways of finding out about music via the internet. If you care to look. Music is generally most important to people when they are between 13 and 28 years old (just guessing) – that’s when we look most actively for music/art we can identify with. I bet that many 18 year olds could play us music from their computer or iPod that we have never ever heard.
People over 28 years old are generally so consumed by their life, their job, career and family, that they will stick to the music they discovered before. For many, listening to the Beatles (or the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin or Zappa) is like remembering grandma’s apple pie.
I suggest, Will, that you haven’t looked and are not interested. There is nothing wrong with that. I understand that position. But I cannot agree with a statement such as this one:
I haven’t heard a decent album since 1995-96.
I could give you a long list of great records from the last 11 years.
PS: …after a nice lunch at Kasasoba and more thinking on the subject I have to thank Will for making the comment. Our music-culture is changing rapidly and we all need to reflect on how it was, how it is, and how we want it to be. In fact, the subject deserves discussion.