I used to be one of those people who purchased an album after listening to a single tune, particularly when I was young. I’d say about six or seven out of ten times whenever I did this there was, as usual, the one hit tune and the rest would be mostly filler.
Times have changed and I’m older and most of the music I purchase comes from money I work to earn which means I need to be much more selective about who I choose to support. Then again, artists can’t really get away with releasing an album full of subpar material and just one really good tune, especially when major labels sometimes have to settle with an album selling less than 500,000 copies and achieving gold status.
Today I went on a shopping excursion intending to purchase computer peripherals when I started browsing the shelves of the store that has a red circular logo. Most of the time they have reduced items temporarily on sale, which varies between albums nobody bought to surprising gems, such as when I found Coldplay’s Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends there, which I immediately purchased.
Let me stop for a second by making a contradictory statement: I purchased Coldplay’s latest after listening to “Viva la Vida”. I suppose I did perhaps listen to the free “Violet Hills” tune they were giving away but it was “Viva la Vida” that made me want to purchase the album. The thing about Coldplay however is that they’re one of those established bands where you almost know for a fact that whatever material they decide to release is going to be nothing less than excellent. That is unless you decide to go and do something crazy like Garth Brooks and his questionable “Garth Brooks in….The Life of Chris Gaines” stunt back in 1999.
It’s also worth noting that when I happened to spot Coldplay on sale I was already very well aware of the heaps of critical acclaim the album had received, which also swayed my purchasing decision beyond the temporarily more affordable price of course.
Critical reviews and accolades have also influenced me to purchase an album on a whim as I did so today during this aforementioned shopping excursion. Last night I was reading my May issue of Blender. Every issue they focus on an up and coming artist that happens to be the latest…”musical act of the month”.
May’s issue of Blender focused on Santogold Santigold, an artist that sounded vaguely familiar. Apparently Santigold is something of a slightly easier to digest version of M.I.A., an artist who I also discovered through Blender and is finally (and thankfully) getting the popular recognition she deserved way back when she first released Piracy Funds Terrorism mixtape. After reading that Santigold received Bjork’s seal of approval I figured I’d keep a lookout in case I ever came across her self-titled album which consequently I did and purchased without knowing at all what it sounded like.
Santigold was among four other albums I ended up purchasing on sale, the other ones being Nine Inch Nails — The Slip (copy number 93,485), Sarah Brightman — Symphony, the deluxe version of Maroon 5 — It Won’t Be Soon Before Long and We Started Nothing from The Ting Tings. In the Ting Tings’ case, I heard a remix of “That’s Not My Name” I downloaded for free from Zune Marketplace and I found it a little too catchy.
So ten bucks was all it took to make me renege on my decision not to purchase an album based on a single tune or in Santigold’s case any tune but for that price I figured it was worth helping out some musicians who could use what little royalties they get from album sales these days.
What does it take for you to make an album purchase? The one catchy tune and word of mouth or professionally written accolades from people who “know” what music is all about? I have yet to listen to Santigold nor do I have any clue what The Ting Tings sound like beyond “That’s Not My Name” but if the money is there and the music sounds good, why not help someone trying to make a living by doing what they love?