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Friday, 25 September 2020

The Lifespan Of An Album


I've seen so many comments on the declining lifespan of an album. General consensus dictates that musicians need to release new content regularly or they get forgotten about and conclusions generally attempt to state that the album is dead. Blame is distributed readily and includes low attention spans, access to individual songs, iTunes followed by Spotify, economic conditions, piracy and reviewers only wanting to review newly released stuff. 

As a writer who largely covers the "new", I can say that this isn't necessarily the case in my experience. Yes there are writers who want to be first and those that will only cover the newly released, but there are many who are not of that persuasion. For me, writing a decent fair review has always been more important than being first. It allows trust in your opinion from readers with similar tastes. I see many copy and paste reviews from PR or even worse, some three line or 30 second "will this do?" reviews from people who want to keep the free stuff coming, but don't actually listen to it. As a writer, earn the respect and don't positively review something you don't like, but listen to the bloody thing. 

There are obvious changes from olden days. Gone are the days when there was a three year gap between releases, particularly under the current live gig restrictions. Releasing an album and then keeping interest peaked by issuing regular singles is also of a bygone age. Radio play is less vital because there are so many internet radio stations, therefore which do you listen to. The national and local radio stations are strictly playlisted and there is a lot more music released. It is great that home recording allows anyone to record, but there is a real quality control issue because of this and so relying on writers or DJ's that you trust becomes more relevant.

There is good and bad news from my experience. An album does last longer than a few weeks, but I also find that the current year matters. So anything that is released in 2020 can get coverage at any time and does. I may review an album released in April in October. But albums released in 2019 are harder to get reviews from unless they are relaunched or an interview accompanies them. Albums also get a second bite with the end of year lists. 

I do despair at artists that release album in late November or December. As well as getting lost in the Christmas melee, the relevant reviewers don't notice the album easily either and are probably already compiling their end of year views. Within a few weeks that album will become last year's album. People like David Bash and I will hold back for latecomers, but we still can't leave it any later than early to mid January to be releasing our thoughts. There is also still the joy of a listener hearing a current album and investigating the back catalogue.

Reviewing singles is another problem, largely due to time. Most writers have real life jobs and with so many album releases, it doesn't necessarily allow time to write about one track and how much can you say about it. The best way I've found of handling this I've seen is from Darrin Lee at Subjangle whose weekly Beat The Delete column offers great insight into largely single track releases in an honest and easily readable format. I offer the fortnightly Audio Extravaganza to highlight great songs and away from that find yourself an internet radio show that relates to your taste. There are half a dozen I can heartily recommend that are not swayed by mediocre nonsense promoted by dollar led pluggers.

I have mentioned Google Analytics in the past. It is incredibly boring to get set up and make worthwhile. It will never be enjoyable, but when you have set it up, you'd be surprised what effect it has. It isn't for the faint hearted or easily bored, but I whoop when I see an album review from 2018 go into the most read this month display. That's because a reader has spotted it on Google and promoted it to his or her followers and lo and behold....................

Finally, social media! Every artist should have their own Facebook page, simply because converted listeners or reviewers have somewhere to direct people. Facebook doesn't carry the value it did due to News Feed changes, but any listener is worth aiming for. I don't prescribe to the view that you should post on every Facebook Group or post the same thing regularly. Those that do say they are trying to reach all, but my own reaction if I see a post 10 times is to switch off. Twitter isn't as vital, but I will say that users who are on it seem more committed and follow the artist more closely. 

I'm quite savvy with Facebook and Twitter, I don't understand Instagram at all. It is just loads of pictures to me that update way too quickly. I don't see the point of it, but there is no doubt at all that if you post an image with a link and a few tags, that provides the most readers of all three choices. I hope this blabbing helps at least one musician. I'd better crack on. I've got reviews to write.


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