Spasmodic Death Throes

Does anyone think that the record industry’s tactic of repackaging albums with newly-added material signals anything other than short-sighted desperation? Perhaps the idea will come into sharper focus if we peer into an executive’s imagination: “Let’s see, some consumers still reliably buy their recordings on physical media, despite all the drawbacks attendant upon that mode of production and transmission. If fewer and fewer people still buy our product, what shall we do? I know! Render physical-album releases obsolescent even faster! That’ll build the market, increase consumer goodwill, and stave off the digital media revolution!”

Nate and I have talked before about the demise of the “album” as an intelligible unit of artistic expression; doesn’t this development underline and accelerate that decline? What sense does it make for The Artist to say, “Tasty Dog Biscuits belongs together as an integrated song cycle, reflecting our lyrical expression of the superiority of liberal democracy over planned economies,” when six months later the record label rereleases Biscuits with six other tracks, a supplementary video, and two mash-ups and remixes of The Artist’s big hit [single] from the album? Where did the integrated artistic whole go?

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