Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yield - Pearl Jam

Yield is a great album, not only because the music is really good, but also because it is the quintessential example of how music used to be done in the late 1990s. Internet was on its infancy, so the idea of issuing one single song and sell millions of copies on your website or Itunes was unthinkable. Music companies had a great leverage on artists, which was probably a bad deal for the bands as far as profit-sharing is concerned, but guaranteed some quality in terms of production: companies used to invest millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours in studio recording and in creating an art concept around the album, because they knew that profits would come from record sales. Few bands considered going to markets like Mexico or Brazil on a regular basis, partly because these countries lacked the infrastructure to hold decent concerts, but mainly because the so-called emerging markets lacked a sizable middle class, so going tho these countries was not profitable.

The "traditional" way to do music back then was to spend months in a fancy studio recording between 10 and 13 tracks, issue a video of track number 7 (or 3), have your company distribute your album around the World, and tour the United States, Europe, and sometimes Japan. An album was considered average if three tracks were distinguishable from the rest, and was considered a success if each song brought something different and new to the public. Compare that to today: an average guy can record his song in his studio, mix it on his Ipad, upload it on his website (sometimes for sale), and tour in your state. A musician is considered successful if he can charge any money on his music.

For Yield, Pearl Jam spent around one year in studio. The art of the album is decent (all the pages of the booklet have a Yield sign hidden, kind of like Wheres Wally), and the video of "Do the Evolution" was co-directed by Kevin Altieri and Todd McFarlane, a hero in the world of comic books.

The way popular music is created has become more democratic, but we have definitely lost in terms of quality assurance and we might be exposed to an over-supply of music: music companies used to filter bands for us; now, we have to do that ourselves.

Its just evolution, babes!

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