More Music, Music, Music

The buzz around town is all about Keith Urban’s new single.  Not that it’s particularly good or bad.  It’s a fine song, if you like that kind of song.  But the reason folks are eyeballing it, and the reason you should keep an eye on it too, is that this single is off his 2004 album, Golden Road

Over at The 9531, they’re saying

All and all I think that releasing this song as a single is a great decision. The song is a winner with a track record of success and, in the era of iTunes when an artist’s whole catalog is easily available at all times, I think that more artists should follow Urban’s lead and release strong songs from their back catalog.

And I think there’s a strong element of truth to this. 

It’s interesting, though, to think about this.  For a lot of historical reasons, if any genre of music is primed to go back to the mode of each individual track making its own way in the world uncoupled from an album, it’s country music.  That’s how the music worked much, much later than other genres.  But there are a lot of folks in town who make their livings working towards a hit song while supporting themselves writing songs that get on hit albums.

As people buy fewer albums, but pick and choose through catalogs buying songs, it’s going to be harder for song writers to make a living the way they are now.  Okay, it’s going to be impossible.  Changes will have to come.

In the era of MP3s, we’re clearly seeing the song break free once again from the album.

What I wonder–in terms of “everything old is new again”–is if we’re going to start seeing the song break free of the artist.  Back in the day, a song would come out and lots of people would cut it (see Dean Martin’s beautiful take on “She’s Got You” as a for-instance) and you’d just buy the version of the song by the artist you like.

Right now, you can go to Amazon.com, for instance, and type in a song title and it will bring up every version of that song it has in its catalog.  This is great if you’re looking for “Travelling Riverside Blues” because you’re a huge Zeppelin fan, because it leads you to Johnson’s original version.  But that’s still about being a Zeppelin fan and then finding their source material.

What happens when you hear a song, say on a commercial, and you like the song, but you aren’t particularly invested in the artist?  If you were to look that song up on Amazon.com and see that the song was performed by four different artists, what version would you buy?  And why?  And, is it so hard to imagine a future in which you pick the version that is seventy-nine cents over the version that is ninety-nine?

Hmm.

Like I said, lots to think about, and this is just marks the official start of Nashville’s realizing that you might as well embrace the new ways of doing things (especially when they so closely resemble the old).

2 thoughts on “More Music, Music, Music

  1. You know what’s even more cool than this, though? When a single becomes a single not because the label released it but because some local DJ played the hell out of it as an album cut, and the listeners couldn’t get enough. The last time I recall that happening in country music was with Gary Allen’s “Nothing On But The Radio.” A DJ at an L.A. station just loved it, kept playing it, the fans loved it, the audience was large enough (it being L.A. and all) that after a couple of months the label decided officially to ‘release’ it as a single. I love the grass-rootness of it all. Of course, the owners of that station changed the format to something else a year or so ago, and there are no country stations in L.A. any more. So I doubt that’ll happen again any time soon.

  2. Pingback: Musing on Musical Models « Posts from the Gorgas Irregulars

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