The Concept Album

March 12, 2010 at 8:24 am | Posted in art, music | 1 Comment
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This post is inspired by an article about Pink Floyd’s recent victory over EMI. They have successfully asserted their right to distribute their earlier 1970’s so called concept albums only in their entirety. That is, they don’t want to sell singles from these albums; if you want to buy, say, their song Money, you have to buy all of the album, Dark Side of the Moon.

The comments on the story discussed other great concept albums of the time. Pink Floyd has certainly had their share: DSotM, Wish You Were Here, Animals and, of course, The Wall. Then there’s Jethro Tull’s Thick As a Brick, Songs From the Wood, and Aqualung; Yes had Close to the Edge; Styx had Paradise Theater. What’s your favorite?

Some comments went in another direction. Is Pink Floyd being backward or out of touch by insisting in an outdated mode of music distribution? The album might be going by the wayside; everything seems to be about the single nowadays. And singles are only a buck. Why make someone spend $10 or more for the one song they want?

It could also be said that they are unreasonable, that they are dictating to the consumer how they should get their music, they they are effectively building their own “wall” between themselves and people who would enjoy their music. (Thanks for the turn of phrase, Irene.)

I say Pink Floyd certainly has the right to distribute their art in whatever way they please, and I’m glad the courts saw it that way, too. Full disclosure: I am a fan of the concept album. I used to listen to those albums all the way through. (Wow, that sounds positively luxurious!) Granted, it was 15 years or so after the heyday of the concept album, but there is quite a bit of nostalgia for me there. Maybe that is influencing my view, but I am 100% behind Pink Floyd in this.

What do you think?

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1 Comment »

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  1. I’m pleased to see that Floyd actually holds their own copyrights and can therefore make EMI fall into line. I thought almost all major-label content was owned by the label, which would make the band unable to force the label’s hand through the legal system (although they can certainly use public pressure, if they choose.)

    Ultimately, all distribution decisions are up to the copyright holder, whether that is the writer, performer, publisher, promoter or anyone else.

    As for arguments about what they “should” do, it’s a non-issue for me. While I’d always prefer to have the choice to buy an album or a song, it would be an incredible act of hubris for me, a customer, to demand that a content creator conform to my personal preference. Customers vote with their dollars – that’s how it was before internet distribution and I see no reason why that should change today.


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