Michael Jackson turned 50 this weekend, and I can't help but feel a certain irony there.
You see, as much as the Michael Jackson of 1983 symbolized everything about a music industry riding the crest of a perfect wave way back then, the arrogance of the way he called the last album he put out Invincible (despite circumstances proving otherwise at the time), epitomizes how and why that same industry finds itself barely on life support now.
There is a definite parallel there.
The record business Jackson's album Thriller did so much to revitalize in the early eighties is as dead in 2008 as Jackson's career. At least in the sense of the old school model that revolved around getting your song played on the radio or MTV, and having your album sold at an independently owned record store — or even a hip retail chain like Tower Records once did.
No big revelation there, right? The signs have been all around us for at least a decade if not more, so this is hardly front page news. You already knew that.
The fact is, we could analyze what brought the once "invincible" record biz to its current somewhat sorry state (and in fact we will probably do at least a little bit of that here just to put things into proper context) until we turn blue in the face. We could also debate to death the various arguments as to the merits and curses of retail exclusivity deals.
Ditto for the wisdom (or lack thereof) behind how and why the business once again became driven by the single song (thanks to MP3s, iPODs, and the like), as opposed to the full length album for the first time since at least the early sixties.
But rather than content ourselves with merely repeating a long laundry list of the causes which many of you reading this already know all too well, I'd like to open this up a little. Since we've already got a pretty good idea of what got us here, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at where we could be headed next.
There is a very interesting article in the current issue of Rolling Stone that once read between the lines, actually offers clues to both questions (what brought us here and where we may ultimately be going).
On the surface, the article is about the lineup of big releases that the labels will be rolling out this fall. To that end, get ready for new albums by Metallica, AC/DC, U2, Eminem, Beyonce, and maybe even that ten years in the making Axl Rose album being pimped out as a new Guns N' Roses release.