Stephan Jenkins, lead singer of the band Third Eye Blind, digital music fan, and former beau of Charlize Theron, wants to clear up a few things. He wants people to know that contrary to what some have been saying about him, he doesn't hate the album format.
On Monday, Jenkins gave the keynote address at the SanFran MusicTech Summit. He said he was in favor of releasing singles and suggested that this would help avoid "album filler," the term used to describe the placing of so-so tracks on albums in order to meet the required number of songs.
"I don't think (the album) is necessary or useful," Jenkins told the audience. "The album is an arbitrary concept. It's not something that has to exist."
A few days ago, Jenkins said in an e-mail that he wants an opportunity to expand on his comments.
"Albums are the most vital and compelling art form," Jenkins said in his e-mail. "I spent my childhood with headphones and liner notes, finding my identity through albums, and I have invested my adult life making them." But Jenkins didn't back down from his earlier statements. "Albums were also created so that record executives could make cash."
Last week, AC/DC members said iTunes could potentially kill the music industry while explaining why they refused to sell individual songs at such sites. I disagreed and wrote that it was wrong for the music industry to force consumers to buy albums. That was what they did before digital technology armed consumers with the power to buy only the songs they liked. Like Jenkins, I'm not an album hater.
I'm opposed to being forced to buy an album when all I want is one or two songs. When it comes to music, isn't that one of the most important benefits of the digital revolution?
Here's another thing I thought was interesting about what Jenkins said: He believes that an act's Web site can supply the cohesive artistic package that albums once delivered: "All I am saying is the Web site can now be your album," Jenkins wrote, "an ongoing ever-changing one that grows and changes and reflects your creative impulses as you have them. Grab the moment of a song and share it the night you finished it."
Below is Jenkins message in its entirety.
First, to the person putting me down for having a speech impediment: I spent six years in special (education) trying to learn to talk while people like you scalded me. Do you know what a drag it is to be named Stephan when you can't pronounce the letter "S?" You are just mean. I bet you watch Fox News! Onto albums: to me, albums are the most vital and compelling art form. I spent my childhood with headphones and liner notes, finding my identity through albums, and I have invested my adult life making them. My whole identity is invested in the art form of the album.
I still buy albums and I still intend to continue making albums. I prefer them to singles and mix tapes and playlists. I still put vinyl on my turntable and freak out about how good icky thump sounds on 16 track tape heads. However, the album was created by the limitations of vinyl--about 45 minutes and then expanded to the CD--about 80 minutes. Artists like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Pink Floyd made cohesive pieces of art from these limitations. Great! Albums were also created so that record executives could make cash.(Credit: Greg Sandoval/CNET Networks)
Albums require huge time commitments and budgets and then lots of promotion and album cycles and of course key tracks and hit singles, and payola, and getting signed and getting dropped, and 360 deals, and a very few people at the top of corporations who are interested in quarterly statements and ameliorate risk and who know what's best for your band. All I am saying is the Web site can now be your album, an ongoing ever-changing one that grows and changes and reflects your creative impulses as you have them. Grab the moment of a song and share it the night you finished it. Make art that you have for it and post it, then go play some shows and record some more.
How fluid and creatively freeing? And the best part is, you don't have to get permission form a boss in order to do it. Yay! This all seems so much more democratic to me. Fewer people will become billionaires this way, but more people will make a living making music. The good old days are here.
And while we are at it I think the hit single is arcane as well. The songs that have resonated the longest with 3EB's audience sometimes haven't even been on our albums (see "slow motion"). Oil paintings require oil paint in order to exist, it's true. Music can exist and thrive in all kinds of formats--not just albums or singles. Maybe your best canvas is a Web site. Maybe an album, per se, is not necessary or even useful for you. Just a thought. Still friends?
Finally, this is not an us against them argument. Majors continue to support hugely entertaining albums and I have worked with a lot of people at majors (like WEA) who care passionately about music. They are not going away and neither is the album. I'm saying that choices are exploding. Albums are not the only way and perhaps not even the most creative and effective way. Then again, they may be the way for you. I hope you have the choice and I hope you continue to find yourselves and each other through music.