April 19, 2024

On the album and holistic craft

I’ve always wanted to make an album. I’m not a musical talent (although I did play trombone for 8 years), but I’ve grown to deeply respect the craft and diversity of skillset that goes into making a great album.

Each song is carefully crafted from the lyrics to the instrumental to the feelings they draw. The tracklist is often ordered in such a way to deliver a story or message to listeners. The album art plays into that as well. And then you have distribution: concerts, interviews, music videos, merch, and more, each acting as a building block of the album’s lore.

Making an album is a unique creative act. When I asked Farcaster what the non-musical equivalent was, folks mentioned filmmaking, art exhibits, and broadway productions. LGHT even pointed me to a project of his own where his goal was to create a “body of work”: thematic visual art, curated Spotify playlist, VR gallery, WIP media assets, etc.

Still, there’s something about music…

I think the only medium with more cultural influence than the album is long-form writing. Of course, more people listen to music regularly than read books or essays, but a great book or essay can alter the fabric of society, introducing new words, ideas, characters, and memes into the zeitgeist in a way that nothing else can. Movies, TikToks, podcasts, art… it’s often all downstream of great long-form writing.

Most professional writers are too snobbish to make the same kind of impact on the culture that a musician can. Just as Jack Butcher helped pioneer the role of “internet artist,” bridging the gap between the digital and traditional art worlds by blurring the lines between content, experience, and art, we need internet-native writers that take themselves seriously from a cultural perspective without being pretentious about their work.

That’s the key: an album is a holistic creative act, and a great one requires a balance of seriousness and relatability. Today’s writers have the serious part down, but they lack cultural relatability or a holistic approach to the creation and manipulation of media.

Newsletters, blogs, tweets, casts, magazines, etc. – all of these forms serve to keep the writer in a box. The next great writer will take a holistic approach to their work, with words underlying a larger act of world and lore crafting.

What will the writer’s album look like?