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Albums - Are they worth it?


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Truthfully, it's pretty dumb to try to make music your living these days, it's not much different than trying to make winning the lottery your day job. Even those who are mega successful today have a slim-to-nil chance of keeping it going for years to come, as we've all seen what eventually happens to most artists throughout history.

I mean, that can be true, but you say "mega successful" and I mean if we're talking about someone like Justin Timberlake, as long as people like them don't blow all their money on everything existing, they've basically got enough money to last them the rest of their life. Just sayin'.

Being a studio/session musician (whatever you want to call it) still works as a living. My father still does that and while he's not rich or anything, it definitely still works. He produces, drums on, and mixes stuff and although most of the music is unfortunately pretty poopy nowadays compared to like a decade ago or earlier, he still can make a living doing it.

However, trying to make a living being an artist is a lot harder to do. You've got to gain some pretty freaking good success for that to work out for you. Even just being moderately successful is not enough to depend on nowadays. I'm not sure it ever was, but heck, I'm pretty young, I wouldn't know.

Yeah, anyway. That's sort of going off-topic considering my lovely A.D.D.

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I was mostly referring to the artist side of business, there are many sustainable business models in music, but trying to sell yourself as an artist ain't one of them mostly.

Things like selling sample/synth sets, teaching music, playing for a theatre or performing for a company of some kind, live sound tech, theatre tech, mixing/mastering - all that shit brings in better money than artistry ever could for most people.

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It's why art degrees are pretty much worthless these days (and have been for a long while). It's why I'm starting up my master's in software engineering this fall rather than settling with my BS.

Trying to make a crap ton of money, so that I can spend that money (and whatever time I have) making music. Oh yeah, and then maybe spending some time with the wife. :mrgreen:

Edited by Neifion
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I'll buy a cohesive, developed album with 4 or 5 standout tracks (the "singles") for $8-$15 in a heartbeat before I'll buy 4 or 5 singles on their own. By the album format, I'm trusting that the artist really put some time into polishing and creating his work. Of course, if it turns out the rest of the stuff is filler, good luck convincing me to pay again.

So, yeah, throwing an album together from a bunch of random tracks you've done (even if "the best!" ones), is probably a bad idea. Once you have several strong albums out there, that buys you the leeway to experiment a bit. Until then, probably better to build a fanbase with a more consistent style.

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I'll buy a cohesive, developed album with 4 or 5 standout tracks (the "singles") for $8-$15 in a heartbeat before I'll buy 4 or 5 singles on their own. By the album format, I'm trusting that the artist really put some time into polishing and creating his work.

??? To each their own, but I'm not quite following the logic. Wouldn't someone work just as hard if not harder on a song that was intended to be a single than one that was intended to compliment other songs there? That's the point of a single - to stand out.

You could probably just buy the 4 or 5 singles for $4 or $5 and save yourself some money.

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I was mostly referring to the artist side of business, there are many sustainable business models in music, but trying to sell yourself as an artist ain't one of them mostly.

Things like selling sample/synth sets, teaching music, playing for a theatre or performing for a company of some kind, live sound tech, theatre tech, mixing/mastering - all that shit brings in better money than artistry ever could for most people.

Which is kinda pathetic.

You would think the other way around but obviously not, from experience and from knowing people who have had this experience.

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??? To each their own, but I'm not quite following the logic. Wouldn't someone work just as hard if not harder on a song that was intended to be a single than one that was intended to compliment other songs there? That's the point of a single - to stand out.

You could probably just buy the 4 or 5 singles for $4 or $5 and save yourself some money.

You said it yourself---the point of a single, to you, is to stand out. i.e. in the absence of a cohesive whole. The completion of something with cohesion is generally harder to achieve than the mere completion of something. Writing 5 singles IS easier than writing 5 songs for one album, because you can release any 5 songs that you consider good and call them 5 separate singles, but you can't just release 5 unrelated songs as an EP and still call that an EP with purpose.

I agree though that making money on music itself---yeah, pretty hard. Glad to hear that you also think selling sound design patches and mixing/mastering is more practical for rakin' in the cash, 'cause that's pretty much my hobby right now on the side.

Edited by timaeus222
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So for those of you who made an album of your own original stuff, how did it turn out? Was it worth it and why was it worth it?

I think I printed up 100 copies, ended up giving most of them away. Sold some like maybe 10 or less. I'd say it probably isn't worth it unless you have exposure and marketing at your fingertips.

On the other hand, I like having my own album, so that's good. Just print up say 10 copies on kunaki and keep 'em.

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I just meant if you're only going to want 4 or 5 songs out of an album, why not just buy those and call it good?

Purely fueled by aspie curiosity. :)

Well, for one, not wanting only 4 or 5 songs on that album, just those being the standout ones that catch your ear before the rest. As in, those tracks the artist would cycle through Pandora, the tracks you'd show people to say "Check this guy out!", the tracks that probably would sell the most as single downloads on iTunes. The rest of it still good.

Less abstractly, nine times out of ten I'd buy an album from an artist I like before I'd buy even a handful of unrelated singles.

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the thing about physical albums was you just could afford a few as a kid, and listened over and over. on many, my favorite songs changed over the months/years. a few things i considered filler or weird became absolute favs. that's one good thing about less choice in music overall and no option to cherrypick single songs to download - you're forced to be a bit more patient with what you got. people tend to forget that any enjoyment they ever get from anything involves a bit of a learning process.

put chocolate in mouth > benefit! learning process right there. chocolate is an easy pleaser though, some tracks are more like coffee or whiskey.

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Ah - I like that answer. :) You'll have to forgive me, I've been picky about music and songs since birth, and I've almost always hated filler in between the good ones.

That's fair, I think. I personally would make (and am making) an album where every single song is a "labor of love", as people say, and it can reach out to as big of an audience as possible. Clean, flowing arrangements, crisp production, and just maximum effort all across the board in both of those respects. I think filler songs are OK, but I also think that they shouldn't take a backseat in attention from the artist in making a good album; i.e. even if the song is, let's say, a 1 minute "intro" or "segue" or "bridge" or "interlude", it doesn't make much sense to slack off on it, throw on a bunch of pads, put in some drum loops (okay, pretty exaggerated here, but you get the point), and say "oh yeah, it's not even a major portion of the album, so if you don't want to listen to it, just skip ahead to the actual album". I think of albums as an immersion, so you can really experience the effort the artist put into the album to make a set of related songs that make sense together, could be enjoyable, could be memorable, and is something you might recommend to someone else or might pay more than the default price for.

So what do you think? If you're writing an album, would you prefer to keep in a track that you don't feel entirely good about but you think still fits the theme? Do you want all the tracks to be the result of similar magnitude and depth of effort? I mean, I'd be happy if someone on Bandcamp picked a song they considered their favorite, but if one single song on an album never shows up as a favorite, then what about it? What happened? Did you need to just put more effort in your "not-favorited" songs to bring them "up to par" with the rest that everyone picked out, or was it just a relatively inaccessible genre/atmosphere/style, or something else?

For example, I find it really weird that I'm the only one who picked Memory as my favorite song off of Identity Sequence. Seriously, if you look at the reviews it got, no one else picked it. :whatevaa:

Edited by timaeus222
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Not sure if you're directing those questions to me or in general, but I'll bounce on them. :)

For me, most of the time I could care less about whether a song FITS where it's supposed to go, I care more about whether its GOOD or not. What good is consistency if listeners can easily skip the song on the format anyway? When you're fighting media-imposed ADD (lol, did I really just write that?), you're fighting for listener attention every second of the track. I also find that songs that seem overly epic or catchy in places where they aren't really supposed to be are some of the most memorable music experiences ever, BECAUSE they don't fit in, BECAUSE they stick out and jar and surprise listeners.

That's why the pause music in NES Battletoads is so popular, for example.

I listened to Identity Sequence a few times, but I only ended up purchasing one song from it (Arms Wide Open). One reason for that being that it was EXACTLY what I expected it would be, with no real surprises that I recall. Focused so much more on having the highest quality production on it as Zircon could manage than the composition of the songs.

By contrast, Zircon's World Circuits is a continuing example I've tried to emulate for at least a couple projects I've done and it's one of my favorite albums of the last 5 years or so. The main reasons being that it focuses more on composition, each track has its own identity instead of trying to melt together, and for some infuriating reason, Zircon decided to only make the tracks no longer than 3 minutes! Irritates the living hell out of me, but it's very effective at keeping me listening to it, wanting more. Played me on a psychological level and I still buy it hook, line and sinker.

Same reason "Without Regrets" is my favorite song from Antigravity and Zircon's catalogue in general. WHY WOULD YOU MAKE SUCH AN EXCELLENT COMPOSITION SO SHORT AND UNDEVELOPED UNLESS YOU WERE BAITING ME FOR MORE ANDY!? :P

So I don't think it's a question of being consistent or making an overall experience for listeners, it's about finding BALANCE and putting something interesting between songs on an album to keep listeners wanting to explore it. An album with one song at 23 minutes long and one little 42 second min-yoo-ett will be more interesting for a listener than 8 songs about the same length. There are lots of tricks you can do to keep a listener going on a full album, and consistency and filler aren't really the best ones.

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People who put filler tracks on an album suck. Why would you do that? Why would you let me listen to "not-your-best"?

Being naive on purpose here, because the only answers to those questions are terrible: lazy, rushed, money, etc. Leave that crap to the Radio City producers. Put your best into every song. If I want filler I'll go buy some lettuce.

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Why rush it ? Filler tracks or the thought of em sadden me. Especially now that albums are soo short.. Not all songs are gonna be received equal, but to say filler track I'm like, where's your soul. What can you be thinking while doing that lol (where's the inspiration).

What I have been thinking lately is Physical VS Digital copies.. how does that affect your wallet, etc. I feel like digital is the way to go 100%

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I wasn't pointing to you or anyone in particular. I just think people who put out filler are ripping off their fans. Saying "I'll only put my heart and soul into 3 or 4 tracks but that's not enough for an album. So I'll half-ass the rest, and that way I can charge $9.99." Versus someone who puts everything they have into each and every song and charges the same amount. Again, I'm not saying this is you or anyone here, just in general.

Radio City is just a nickname for the big studios over in Hollywood (and New York).

Well, I HAD to rush my flawed first album out, as I put too much time and energy and money on it to start over. If I quit there, I would've quit music entirely as it just wasn't worth it at that point.

What are Radio City Producers?

Edited by Neifion
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I see it more from the artist's perspective: "track they didn't put very much effort in".

I've always had a problem with the term"filler tracks". isn't filler track shorthand for "track I personally don't like". as opposed to objectively bad tracks from the artist.
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I see it more from the artist's perspective: "track they didn't put very much effort in".

pfft, effort. i think it's a pretty common thing that an artist's quick lazy track gets lots of recognition while another one he considers his recent masterpiece gets little.

and it's not even necessarily wrong - a lot of really brilliant tunes were written in half an hour. the muse is elusive; polishing can be good but turd polishing is useless.

Edited by Nase
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