The Death of Rise, the Death of the Album?

A sad day will soon befall the students of Warwick University. A gem residing in our campus is soon to be taken away. ‘Rise’, the music shop located in Warwick Arts Centre is due for closure in March 2011. This store opened its doors to us in March 2008 and since then has offered an extensive musical selection of CDs, DVDs, LPs, Books, BluRay discs and a wide variety of merchandise aimed at the student market, and all at affordable prices. The grand majority of you, however, I predict will scarcely even bat an eyelid with regards to this sad loss. This is in fact an even bigger shame.

‘Rise’ has established itself as perhaps one of the only retail stores on campus which fully accommodates student needs. Not only are they fully up-to-date with the music scene, consistently offering new releases from all genres and carrying a substantial backlog of older music to please and accommodate all music fans, but more importantly they have never deterred from the ‘student prices’ of these products. Currently two albums recognised as ‘Albums of the Year’ are sold for just £3 in store – a noticeable difference to the common prices amongst high-street retail stores, which these days range from £10-£15.

Moreover, ‘Rise’ has just been recognised as the UK’s Best Independent Music Retailer, an award which was presented to them at this year’s Music Week Awards ceremony. It is a crying shame that this renowned shop was not constantly swarming with music-loving Warwick students. Instead, it is no secret that many students did not take full advantage of the store while it was still in existence. It is this indisputable fact that perhaps explains its demise.
The current manager at ‘Rise’ was unable to comment on its closure at this time, which suggests numerous possibilities for its inability to continue trading. Primarily, it could be a simple lack of publicity which has impacted the shop’s sales and made them unable to sustain itself. This, however, seems unlikely: most students walk past the shop on a daily basis. The managers of ‘Rise’ have, between them, over 40 years’ worth of experience in the business, suggesting marketing and promotion should not have been an issue.

What, then, is to blame? One can only blame the world’s current apathy and lack of interest in purchasing an album or a film in its intended form. In our current technology-consumed society, the greater portion of music fans prefer to illegally download, showing complete disrespect for the artists they seem to care so much about. Very few people seem to appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that most respectable musicians still put into the art they produce. Time is taken over tracking an album so that songs run smoothly into one another. Considerable thought is also involved when it comes to the artwork, in order to produce accompanying images that fit the music or film best. Instead, what so-called music fans now do is simply extract the songs, almost like taking the necessary organs from a body, instead of appreciating the beauty in its entirety.

Music fans now no longer even have the patience to wait for an album’s planned release date. With so much leaking of music on the internet, the way artists aimed to release their record becomes distorted to the point where albums are simply a collection of songs rather than a masterpiece of musicianship. In order to keep the attention of music fans in a world where everything is handed to them on a plate through the internet, artists must strive to find new ways of making themselves current, which appears to be, unfortunately, resulting in the death of the album. Ash, for example, have just finished their ‘A-Z’ series which saw them release one song every fortnight for a year, resulting in a collection of songs over two volumes. Radiohead infamously released the decide-your-price album, where fans could decide exactly how much they wanted to pay (this was coincidentally their highest grossing album ever). This demonstrates that in order to remain contemporary in a fast-changing world, most bands and artists must ignore the simplicity of releasing an album. The album is no longer enough to interest the music fans of modern society.

In fact, new, emerging bands trying to make it into music have gone so far as to release free downloads of their singles, simply to acquire a fan base. This will result in artists generally having less money to promote themselves and produce the music which the public is so ready to seize. I believe this will inevitably result in a smaller music industry where only the elite artists will prevail. We are headed down the wrong path, where some artists may rise to the occasion, but most will inevitably fall by the wayside.

Does the death of ‘Rise’ signify the death of the album? Is the death of the album a signifier that the music industry is headed towards a cataclysmic implosion, or is this just the development of history?

Only time will tell.


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