A Chronicle Dated November 13, 2008: What is an Album?
WHAT IS AN ALBUM?
My life is measured out in albums I have loved. We try to make those albums.
On November 18, THIRD EYE BLIND is going to release three new songs from our up coming album, Ursa Major.
It’s been five years since we put out our last album. Since then, the options on how to release music have exploded. Yay!
All of these options made us ask:
What’s an album? How does one want to encounter it? Reaching people with music is our challenge and purpose—how should we do it? Here’s what we think.
Albums are the most vital and compelling art form in my life. Bohemian Rhapsody is my favorite opera just by virtue of brevity!
I grew up with headphones and liner notes, finding my identity through albums, and I have spent my life making them.
Led Zeppelin, every album (cept presence!) sounds dangerous and compelling to this day.
The Police's first three albums are still liberating and exotic. The Velvet Underground, Prince, Cat Stevens, The Clash, Joy Division, Tribe Called Quest, Jane's Addiction, and most influential to me, Camper Van Beethoven—their albums owned me probably more than I owned them.
I spent last year getting crushed by the Raconteurs, Justice, The Foals, MIA, and the Kings of Leon.
I can’t wait to put out Ursa Major in hopes that others will feel about it the way I do about bands I love. I personally won’t feel like Ursa Major is done until I put the vinyl on the turntable and until I’m holding the CD in my hand.
I prefer albums to singles and mix tapes and playlists. I still put vinyl on my turntable and freak out about how good Icky Thump sounds recorded on 16 track tape heads.
However, the album was created by the limitations of vinyl--about forty-five minutes and then expanded to the cd--about eighty minutes.
Artists like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Pink Floyd made cohesive pieces of art from these limitations.
Albums were also created so that record executives could make cash.
Albums require huge time commitments and budgets and then lots of promotion and album cycles and of course key tracks and hit singles, and payola, and getting signed and getting dropped, and 360 deals, and a very few people at the top of corporations who are interested in quarterly statements and ameliorating risk and who knows what's best for your band.
We love albums, we also feel limited by them.
All I am saying is your website can now be your album, an ongoing ever-changing one that grows and morphs and reflects your creative impulses as you have them. Grab the moment of a song and share it the night you finished it. Make art that you have for it and post it.
Then go play some shows and record some more. Physical and digital releases can interconnect and enhance each other.
The album cycle is endless; the connection between band and audience is unbroken. How fluid and creatively freeing. And the best part is you don't have to get permission form a boss in order to do it. Yay!
This all seems so much more democratic to me.
Fewer people at the top will become billionaires this way, but more people will make a living making music.
More bands that must be heard but couldn’t make a physical album have a chance. More music is available to kids like I was whose very identity depends on finding it. These are the days!
And while we are at it, I think the hit single is arcane as well. The songs that have resonated the longest with 3EB's audience sometimes haven't even been on our albums (see "Slow Motion").
Oil paintings require oil paint in order to exist, it's true. Music can exist and thrive in all kinds of formats--not just albums or singles. Maybe your best canvas is a website. Still friends?
I know that 3EB is launching a new website soon and we are giving it a lot of creative attention. It will be a device to engage our music, find, and share with others around music. We see it as one big digital album that will also go with our physical albums.
Finally, this is not an "us against them" argument. Majors continue to support hugely entertaining albums and I have worked with a lot of people at majors (like WEA) who care passionately about music. They are not going away and neither is the album.
I'm saying that choices are exploding. Albums are not the only way, and perhaps not even the most creative and effective way. Then again, they may be the way for you. Third Eye Blind is going to keep making records because we like them.
But we are also going to put up songs like the three we are putting out on Nov 18th for download.
We might also in the future post a song when we record it and then maybe put out the album later.
WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE DOING! We don’t think anyone else does either and we love it. We consider these to be exciting times to be lost in. I hope you have the choice and I hope you continue to find yourselves and each other through music.