Music has a rich history of classic albums from great artists who transcended their era. Whether it was Sgt. Pepper by the Beetles, Purple Rain by Prince, Michael Jackson making Thriller, U2 with The Joshua Tree, Lauren Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauren Hill, Metallica’s Black Album, or Jay-Z’s Black Album the music industry has produced full records that have set the standard in each of their respective genres. But, those days are over now. The decline of musicianship, the explosion of technological advances, and piracy have forever changed the way albums are being made. The era of the great album is gone.
One of the most detrimental occurrences to music in the entertainment industry today is the lack of actual musicians in the industry. The people who make music now are not musicians. They are marginally talented amateurs who are given opportunities because their handlers believe that they can be sold as an entertainment commodity. The performers in the music industry today do not make music because they do not understand music. The artists of eras past were classically trained in music composition, music theory, and vocals. They learned to play real instruments from one of the five classifications of instrumentation (brass, woodwind, strings, percussion, and keys), practiced their trade, and then were given the opportunity to record music. And even then, they were not recording their own albums. In order for a star from years past to step on stage as a solo artist, there were multiple different stages that those artists had to endure and several factors that played a role. First, they had to actually learn how to read music from a music teacher, so that they could choose an instrument to play. Next, they practiced their instrument and took vocal lessons to hone their skills and voices. The people who were chosen to sing lead for a band trained at an academy where they were classically trained in music. There they played classical music, learned song structure, and learned how to compose a song. New artists do not know the techniques behind building a song because they have never had the instruction. Songs are complex artistic creations. Even the simplest good songs are well built and technically sound. They have both good lyrical content and layered instrumentation with varied tempos throughout the song. Like a well-written essay, a good and technically sound song has a clear introduction, a bridge that leads into a multiple layered body, and then another bridge that rolls into the conclusion. The conclusion in both an essay and a song should bring their audience back to the intro and give some sort of resolve. And, the best songs allow the instrumentation to relate to emotions of the lyrics. New artists have no training in classical or contemporary song composition, so they could not fathom the amount of thought and dedication that is put into any song. And, great albums are constituted of a compilation of well-written songs that are organized in order to tell a story. Songs about different subject matter with different tempos are all working towards a central theme in a great album. There is no real content in records now and no story being told, because now there is no real musicianship.
But, the lack of musicians does not pose the only problem to great albums being made. Technology itself is causing the demise of the great album. iTunes and other forms of social media cause entertainers to release material earlier than desired. The culture of America has changed because the prevalence of smart phones, social media, and video cameras has made the world more accessible to everyone. People want their music, entertainment, and news almost instantly. And thus, artists are more concerned with getting a hit out on the radio rather than making a great song. And, higher singles sales on iTunes is more lucrative than creating a great collection of songs for an album. The right pop hit will get you fame and money. Conversely, some albums never get the notoriety that they deserve because people no longer go to record stores to buy music. The newest hits are on sale on the internet. Plus, the fans get what they want without having to buy the album, which further exacerbates the problem.
And then, the accessibility of music over the internet presents another problem to the music business and the making of great albums. People who refuse to use media outlets or go to stores to attain their music usually steal it from peer-sharing sites or torrent sites. The constant piracy of music kills any chance that there could be another great album in the near future. Once any music from a good album has been leaked, it either forces the album to be rushed out. Either the artist has to record and present more material too quickly to replace the stolen song, or it forces poor production from the people behind the scenes which directly affects the sound quality of album. Either way, the quality of the project becomes compromised, because the quality of the content declines excessively. Then, management changes how the album is being put together by adding or subtracting songs from an album. If they are unsuccessful with altering the content of a leaked album, then they will scrap a project altogether because they are losing money on it. A superior collection of complex and entertaining music can not be built properly because people steal the songs that are detrimental to the creation of the great album. Piracy contributes greatly to the demise of the perfect album.
There are many separate factors that have caused a decline in the numbers of legendary albums that are being produced. The lack of formal training to entertainers, the accessibility of music through technological advances, and the prevalence of piracy are among the most significant reasons that sales and consequently the production of full albums has been greatly reduced. Without better artists, less leaked music, and a solution to file sharing on the internet, the quality of music may never be the same. The great albums will cease to exist without a great change.