I still remember the first album I ever bought. When I brought home my own copy of Motley Crue's "Theatre of Pain" I couldn't wait to pop that cassette into the tape player and crank it up for the whole neighborhood to hear. Ask me what my first vinyl record was, and it brings back memories of listening back to Alice Cooper's "Poison" on a quiet Saturday night at home. My first compact disc? Jeff Healey's "Hell to Pay" - a Christmas gift from my sister. Each one of those albums (and many, many more) I owned with pride. It was a personal collection of the bands I followed, the music I grew up on, and listened to over and over again. I'll never forget one gal I knew in high school who followed her favorite band to an admirable (although questionably to a stalker level) and owned every composition of that band on vinyl, cassette, and CD, along with some hard sought after SWAG that even the band members pointed her out to each other in awe when she sat front row attending ANOTHER concert they performed.
The memories I collected when it came to not just listening to or buying the albums, but just being in the record store. HOURS were spent just mindlessly browsing through the collection of albums, checking out the new releases, and anxiously awaiting for them when they arrived. Yes, I admit it. I skipped school to buy Guns n Roses "Use Your Illusion" albums. Couldn't decide on whether to get Volume one or Volume two, so I ended up buying both, and walked almost ten clicks home that day because I couldn't afford bus fare. Priorities...
Ask me what the first track I downloaded however... my mind becomes blank. Why is that, you might ask? I thought that very question after some time, and then it occurred to me. The memories of actually getting or receiving that album. The feel of that composition in your hands. Looking at the album cover or flipping through the booklet as you listen to the tracks. It's almost magical. There is no comparison to finding the track online and clicking "download" - add to your library and look for the next track while the one you just got downloaded.
As music becomes more and more digitized over the years, the convenience to obtaining your favorite tracks via the internet become the normal process. "Who needs all the tracks on the album, all I want is the one that became a hit!" becomes the thought process, and all the "B-rated" material gets pushed aside. Had that train of thought been the norm 50 years ago, we may never have got the pleasure to hear classic tunes like "You Can't Always Get What you Want" (Rolling Stones), "Revolution" (Beatles) or even the song Seinfeld made even more famous "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" (Green Day) - Instead, we would be thinking "Honky Tonk Woman", "Hey Jude" and "Brain Stew" were the go to songs for those bands, missing out on some truly otherwise hidden gems from the albums.
Albums represent so much more than the songs they write. For some, they tell a tale of how the song was written, the inspiration that drove the band to put that track on the album, and the memories not only for the listener who purchased the album, but also for the band who put it together. Looking back when my former band mates and I were recording our three song EP, I laugh to myself the trials and tribulations we endured. Between the numerous takes we had to get our parts right, to calling in an old buddy of the lead singer's at the last minute to record the lead solos, then producing the material over the weekend and finding tracks not lining up properly, couldn't get the right sound on certain effects... the list goes on, but long story short we were getting fed up with each other, ready to quit or fire others from the band, the whining, complaining, drinking, swearing... ahh, what a weekend it was...
In the end, we got it done in time for a live interview to discuss our progress and how excited we were to release our material for the world to be heard. Looking back at it with the boys in the band, I know we'd still have some curse words to mutter, probably call each other out on our faults throughout the process (along with a few derogatory terms) and still end up in an argument or two, but it made us go from band mates to brothers, and I'll never forget the effort we all put into the project from auditions to the final jam.
There are artists nowadays that can buy their music from a programmer, slap a few words to it, and throw it out to the digital world for the world to hear. And of those artists, there are some who turn a profit doing so. Of those profitable ones, there might even be a couple that end up being recognized for their talents. If it works for you, then all the power to you. But I find it difficult to believe without putting your tracks to an album - a physical piece of plastic/vinyl/magnetic powder with album artwork - You can't say you're giving your listeners the full experience of truly enjoying not just the hits, but the highs and lows of the compositions you created, mastered, and worked so hard on.
As a listener, if you've never had the opportunity to sit and just listen to the artist's compositions - not just the couple songs you've heard on the radio, but the entire album front to back - DO IT. And while you're listening, if you haven't got the album cover to analyze, of the jacket cover to read through and explore, then do nothing but google them online. Understand the pain and heartache in the ballad. Feel the thrill and excitement in their music. Read about what it took to get to that point in their life, or how they recorded their stuff. Twenty or thirty years from now, when the song is heard once more, you'll remember.