Fans Are Not Fools: It’s Time to Retire the Album

Amanda Palmer

The concept is antiquated in today’s multimedia landscape. Just ask Amanda Palmer

It’s about the money, not the statement.

Do you write 10 tunes in your head every two or three years? And in between have long stretches of absolute darkness? Do you not sleep for months and then get under the covers for weeks at a time?

The album is an antiquated construct that fits the modern era not at all but it sustains because it’s the only way artists and labels have figured out how to make money.

Oh, so you want an album deal? How would you like to be on RCA Records right now, with their Timberlake juggernaut? Hey, I dare you, name one song beyond “Suit & Tie”!

Oh, you want me to admit I was wrong. That we’re all not tired of JT, that he’s a god.

I’ll admit that there’s still life in the old system. Saturation publicity. Getting a fraction of the public excited enough to purchase an album without hearing it first. A frenzy. But that’s not love so much as impulse. Like a one-night stand instead of a love affair.

And who knows, maybe people will have a love affair with “The 20/20 Experience,” doesn’t bother me.

But I will tell you there was “The 20/20 Experience” and … Yes, if this is a paradigm for the future, where are the other successes? Justin Timberlake won the lottery and you’re still broke, scraping up cash to buy tickets.

And RCA is thrilled. Because they just made their quarter, maybe their whole damn year. Because a label doesn’t care what sells, only that something sells. So if you’re another act on RCA today, you’re getting short shrift, all the energy and dollars are going where the cash is, “The 20/20 Experience.”

Yes, you want to be a priority. Why do you want to put your fate in the hands of others?

And why do you want to make an album?

You say it’s about the statement, but you didn’t make one. The truth is you’re just inured to the old way. You’re stupid. You’re afraid of the future.

The labels do it because that’s where the money is. Which is why they made people buy the album for the single back in the last century. And as soon as people got the option to get only what they wanted to hear? Via Napster and iTunes? Singles soared and albums tanked. Because no one wants to hear that much bad music.

It’s a circle jerk perpetuated by those on the artistic and business side of the music industry. The public doesn’t want albums. Oh, don’t tell me about Aunt Liz who still buys CDs. Hell, I’ll tell you about Cousin Joe who still uses a flip phone, who thinks the ability to send e-mail and surf the Web on a hand-held device is unnecessary.

Sure, there are always segments of the public left behind, living in the past. If you want to appeal to them, be my guest. Hell, that’s the specialty of the music industry, living in the past and crying about the future, which is how all the established players missed EDM. They couldn’t see how to monetize it. Meanwhile, the deejays are laughing all the way to the bank, they could care less about recorded music sales.

If you have an ongoing relationship with your fan base, tweeting and Facebooking and Tumblring, why do you only release music every year or two? That makes no sense. Your fans want something new, but you won’t give it to them. Because you can’t fathom the future.

Yup, what’s killing the music business is the fact that the fans are more savvy than the industry.

The fans know you can’t get a good ticket.

The fans know most of the album sucks.

The fans have money and want to spend it, on you, you’ve just got to figure out how to do it.

That’s the lesson of Amanda Palmer (pictued above). She figured out how to give fans what they want, engagement and access and music, and she monetized all of it. And following in her footsteps are … Almost nobody.

Palmer gets off her label, you want on.

Palmer releases material constantly, even a single last week.

You’re polishing your turd of an album.

But one day someone like Justin Timberlake, someone that big, will not be a pussy and will embrace the new world, will invent the new
paradigm.

In the meantime, you’re gonna send me e-mail telling me how ignorant I am, hating on me, so you can feel better about yourself.

Like I care.

Click here to visit http://lefsetz.com.

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  1. Avery says:

    So I’m even more radical than Aunt Liz. If I like an artist, my first choice is analog LP, second choice is CD. Both bought directly from the artist at a concert venue. I buy online digital files rarely. It’s all about quality sound and maximum return to the artist.

  2. Ivan Cohen says:

    I have gotten past the stage where because I was a fan of the artist and their music, I would be willing to sell out a considerable amount of dollars for an that had the hit record which was a few minutes and seconds longer than the single. Wading through filler just to get to the hit does not cut it anymore. I’d rather wait for the artist to release a “best of” or “greatest hits” album as opposed to tolerating the so-so filler material. Oh how I wish artists would go for a b-side to their hit record rather than the remix or radio edit versions.

  3. Chris says:

    Bob, learn how to write. Learn that everything is not absolutes. The album is important, even now. The single is important, even now.

    Fuck, did I mention I’m mocking you?

    And how awful your writing is?

    Complete a thought.

    Yes, still mocking you.

  4. David Thrasher says:

    Getting rid of the album format is a bit extreme. How about simply not making it the default format to put out music? Without the album format, just where is the next “Sgt. Pepper” or “Pet Sounds” going to come from. I know these albums are decades old now but that doesn’t mean that things never come back.

  5. recordguy says:

    Amanda Palmer is not so much a cult leader, as someone who is a member of a cult. When she married Neil Gaiman, she married into a high-ranking Scientology family who could help her “career.” Before Palmer married into the Gaiman clam, she couldn’t sell enough records to keep her Roadrunner contract, suddenly she get a million through Kickstarter? It makes no sense until you see the donations are in huge increments and cannot be verified.

    The Kickstarter campaign is just another Scientology scam. Amanda Palmer is from a Sea Org family. Her Uncle Doug and sells fixtures under contract to the Sea Orgs. Her husband, Neil Gaiman and his entire family are high ranking Scientologists. Gaiman gave the cult half a million in 2010 through his company, The Blank Corp.

    Billboard indicates that over 90% of (Amanda Palmer’s) 23,000+ units “sold” (which propelled her to #10 on their chart) came from digital downloads.EVERY person who ordered ANYTHING from her Kickstarter – 24,883 people — received a download code which, when you really look at it, indicates that not even all of the Kickstarter contributors bothered with downloading her album — and that in effect, for all of her controversy and promotion (by her and her husband), she actually didn’t get all of her fans to gin up her pre-ordered estimate and only sold some 1,700 ‘new” albums she and her team hadn’t already factored into her unit movement.

    80% of Palmer’s followers are fake. Palmer’s following is an illusion, an empty illusion.

  6. MM says:

    Amanda Palmer is a cult leader. She cultivates followers (to feed her narcissistic ego, but that’s beside the point). The $1.2 million dollars she raised came from just 20,000 dedicated fans. Most musicians will never be capable of inspiring that kind of devotion.

  7. Ray Hamilton says:

    Wow Bob, your fans love you. Your choice of Amanda Palmer is spot on. I’m an old school DJ and I’ve seen her perform, seen her speak (Ted Talks) and I still don’t know how she does it. Does that mean I’m old. Yes, but I’m smart enough to know that she is the future. Unfortunately she is way ahead of the curve. It may take many years before others are successfully emulating her. She is like a magician. She will tell you what she’s doing, even describe the moves, but when she executes the magic you are left speechless. She is ahead of her time. She’s that good.

  8. EK says:

    No reason to hate the guy. He;s just a shitty writer.

    • recordguy says:

      Join Scientology. They’ll be happy to show you their thousands of Sea Org members working for $50.00 per week, creating the Palmer “magic.”

  9. tiger says:

    after reading I saw that lefsetz wrote this. i remember now why i unsubscribed from his newsletter.

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