I work out with my iPhone which, of course, contains an iPod which contains, as of this writing, nearly 600 of my favorite downloaded songs. One of my favorite features of the iPod is the ability to see and flip through the “album covers” of those songs. Albums. Does the latest generation of music consumers – those that typically download songs rather than entire works – even know what the word refers to?
The Grammys as much as anything have kept the word alive. Along with Song of the Year and Record of the Year, there is still the prestigious Album of the Year, which awards artist, producer, engineer and mixer of a complete work of songs. Beyond that, for most, an Album is a grouping of digital photos on Facebook.
Long before the internet, TMZ and concert DVDs, one of the few ways to stay up to date with your favorite artists was to purchase their records – from record stores (another dying breed). Rolling Stone and Creem magazines along with by-mail fan clubs helped some but there was nothing like thumbing through the alphabetized record bins to locate your favorite new “wax”. A fingernail run along the right side of the album cover once home would free the vinyl disk of 10-12 tracks from its clear wrap seal, allowing placement of record on turntable and needle on album. Huge tuners then amplified the music via speakers even larger. Today, this process sounds almost as foreign as placing a film reel on a projector to watch home movies.
Coming in a close second to the pleasure of hearing the new music was enjoying the cardboard encasement. Typically 12.375 inches square (in order to tightly hold a 12″ disk), these “covers” were of an ideal size to accommodate incredible artwork and photography (some suitable for framing) from many of the industry’s finest. Inside, a treasure trove of information including lyrics, photos, writing and musician credits, was easily accessible, without the need for a magnifying glass – gold to a young radio DJ (me), beginning his career in the early 80s.
While the record album is still available on a limited basis, due to nostalgia and its superior sound quality to MP3s, it will forever be the “odd man out”. The music is still out there to be consumed yet the information associated with it must be sought out separately. I’m not so sure that’s progress.