Paul McCartney. Garth Brooks. Neil Young. Not a clue among them. They each think they’ve built a better mouse trap, as it pertains to getting digitized music to their fans. They haven’t.
The Walrus has decided to follow Bjork, Lady GaGa and Jay-Z by selling his albums as apps. Never knew about the others? Precisely. How many McCartney fans do you think are going to want to bust out their iThingys to groove to “Frozen Jap”? Not many, I’d wager. And I can think of many more that would rather Macca stop chasing technology and instead concentrate on getting the rest of his remastered catalog out on old-fashioned physical media. The Beatles catalog – arguably much more important and groundbreaking than his solo material – came out all-at-once. Led Zeppelin’s expanded remasters will likely be all out within one year. McCartney’s solo remasters, however, have been trickling out since 2010 at such a glacial pace we’ll probably get Tug of War after either he or his last fan dies.
Garth Brooks recently announced he was coming out of touring/recording retirement – and also dropped the surprise that his catalog would finally become available digitally. But before you run over to iTunes, Amazon or Spotify, you might want to get to the part where he says that garthbrooks.com will be the only place you can find it. Also, it will only be available as full album downloads, not track-by-track, which was the sticking point in his brief negotiations with big, bad, convenient Apple. No word yet if there will be streaming available on his site as well, but if it is I’d bet it’ll be album-only as well, and probably with no fast-forward ability. Wanna hear “The Dance”? Hope you have 10 tracks/33 minutes to spare…Garth’s musical integrity must be left intact!
I’ve already detailed Neil Young’s pre-occupation with starting his own audiophile music delivery service here, so I won’t go into it at this juncture. I only mention it again as yet another example of artists thinking they know what’s better for us – or conjecturing that we don’t know any better.
I feel the listening public has largely spoken, and their preference is clearly for Spotify and YouTube in the streaming game, and iTunes in the dwindling download market. Lossy audio files are evidently not an issue, by and large, and for those that do have an issue there are services like HDTracks and Qobuz that sell better-than-CD quality downloads; there’s the new hi-def flavor of the month: Blu-ray Pure Audio; or, for now, there is still the ever-evaporating CD.
As for artists like Young and Jack White who want to try and school the listening public on how things *should* sound – yeah, good luck with that. Ol’ Garth should realize that millions of folks love his music, but don’t necessarily love ALL of his music, and they shouldn’t have to be force-fed “Alabama Clay” if they just want “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”. And, let’s be frank, there’s no Side 2 of Abbey Road in Brooks’s pantheon – or even McCartney’s solo work, for that matter.
Gentlemen, your collective passion is duly noted. Now, please, just direct that passion toward getting your work available to the masses the way they want to consume it.