“This is a new song,” Natalie Merchant announced onstage at the Hiro Ballroom on Friday night, at her first full New York City concert in four years. “Try to absorb it here, now, ’cause I don’t know when I’ll make a record.”
Ms. Merchant, who sold millions of albums in the 1990s, has an adoring audience and no record label behind her. She’s not alone. As contracts end, more and more well-known musicians are trying to reinvent their careers for the era of mass downloading and plunging album sales.
NY Times - Jan.7th, '08
Meanwhile, with a Tuesday Christmas adding one more last-minute gift-shopping day than we had in the comparable frame of 2006, the last week of 2007 manages to be the only one of the year where album sales show an uptick over the same week of the prior year. Aside from gift shopping, the growth is fed by album downloads gobbled up by consumers who found MP3 players under their Christmas trees.
Under most circumstances, a 2.4 percent improvement in comparable-week sales would seem meager, but in the landscape of 2007, that bump looms as large as Mount Rushmore.
Compare that to this description of music listener's in the 60's and 70's, from Patrick Humphrey's biography of Nick Drake:
"Music was probably never more important than at that time, when pop was changing into rock and the single was being elbowed out by the LP. The liberating power of music was felt across the board, in folk, jazz, blues, and rock 'n' roll."
Ian MacDonald: 'Everyone took music much more seriously than we do these days. You'd gather together, sometimes people would be floating in and out of a particular room where people were smoking, they'd be playing records all day and people would come in and just sit, listening quite seriously all the way through The Beatles' White Album, and then drift off.'
I was there, and can attest that this is pretty much how it was.