Music fans have feared “the death of the album” for decades. In 2001, Itunes allowed for purchasing of individual songs, and this fundamentally changed the way people listened to music. Listeners no longer had to purchase the whole record, cassette, or CD, and skip to their desired track. Since people began buying more songs and less albums, musicians were financially motivated to just write one hit song. This resulted in albums that weren’t wholistic experiences, but just a collection of songs.
Now that music streaming has overthrown Itunes, The Album has become even less commercially necessary. Streaming allows listeners to cherry pick songs and reorganize them however they want. Now listeners are more likely to discover music from a curated playlist than the album it came from.
Playlists are now so prevalent that artists have tried to reclaim them for themselves. Several popular acts have experimented with releasing their own music as a “playlist”. The most famous example of this is ultramega star Drake, who described his hour and 21 minute record, More Life, as a playlist. With upwards of two hours of mismatched songs, Drake and others are blatantly attempting the shotgun approach to finding a hit.
With the future of the album being uncertain, there’s one man to remind everyone of their importance. Marc Sirdoreus, other wise known as his recording name, Marc with a C, loves The Album so much that he started to record a podcast about it. In an interview, when I asked him talk more about Discography and to share his love of the medium. Marc’s answers revealed that he’s thought a lot about these questions before.
“The very word ‘record’ says so much: a record of an artist’s headspace at a specific point in time. You simply can’t get closer. An album can give you so many feelings, peaks, valleys, and places where you can lose yourself.” He views each album as it’s own complete thought – like each song being its own scene in a movie.
Marc’s love of The Album is what motivated him to record Discography. As Marc recounts on the first episode, Frank Zappa once said that all of his albums – consisting of around 100 releases – was actually just “one big song”. Upon hearing that quote, Marc decided to write a novel-length review of every Frank Zappa album as one large composition. Once completed, Marc shopped that book around to multiple publishers, until he came in contact with the entertainment journalists at Consequence of Sound.
They initially discussed publishing his writing, but Consequence Podcast Network producer Cap Blackard had other ideas. Marc and Cap had worked together on other podcasts for the Nerdy Show Network, so “eventually enough worlds collided and some light bulbs went off over some heads, and it was realized that it could instead be recited to be a potentially more engrossing project.”
Recording his long form review as a podcast certainly worked in Marc’s favor. According to him, “the first season struck a chord, and before [he] knew it, [they] were off to the races.” It struck a chord for a variety of reasons, the most apparent being Marc’s ability to play song clips on the podcast, which allow his listeners to share along in the musical moments being discussed. The flexibility of the format also lets Marc intuitively alter the format of the show from episode to episode. If he put his thoughts into a print all at once, he wouldn’t of gained the attention of – or subsequently been able to interview – the likes of documentarian Alex Winter, musician Weird Al Yankovic, or Zappa collaborator Mike Keneally.
The show may have began with Zappa, but since completing his discography, Marc has expanded the show to cover other musicians as well. Most recently he’s covered The Who, but most surprisingly season 2 featured the completed works of Janet Jackson. Because of his eclectic combination of genres, I asked Marc about his process for selecting musicians to cover. According to him, the main consideration for coverage is timing. Discography is meant to be a retrospective of an artist’s work. He aims to look back an artist’s career and understand it as a whole, which why Marc was blindsided when, “halfway through our season on Janet Jackson, she announced that she’d be releasing something new literally days before the season ended.”
Something that you might not expect is that Marc chose to cover Janet Jackson not as a megafan, but as a curiosity. Despite his initial indifference, Marc told me that his perspective changed over the course of recording the show: “Well, I liked Janet just fine, but I was not a megafan by any stretch – but the more I learned? I became very, very passionate about her work.” By researching and tapping into the passion of Janet’s fans, he eventually began to see “why the records are magical for the listeners.” After finishing her season, Marc now considers himself a “broken glass, hardcore fan of Janet Jackson’s records.”
If you couldn’t tell already, Marc takes Discography very seriously. He’s a recording artist himself, so his time is already stretched, but he’s dedicated to giving each artist the time and attention they deserve. Because of this, Marc says that time management is consistently the hardest part of making the show. Despite this difficulty, Marc says that the show is, “a joy to make” and views his massive effort as integral to the show’s success: “without that time, I really don’t have much business attempting to speak publicly about the creation in question with any level of authority, do I?”
When I asked Marc about the future of the show, he said that he’s excited to continue broadening his listeners horizons, as “[he’s] not a person that subscribes to siding towards or away from any particular genres.” Even just three seasons in, Marc says that he’s already seeing his audience break down the same artificial barriers. “Kicking off with Frank Zappa and seeing a large swath of those listeners stick around to learn about Janet Jackson was really cool.”
Marc already enthralled with his show’s impact, but his ultimate goal is even more ambitious.
“To me, the best case scenario for this show is that it can educate people on great music, but also possibly help with breaking down the walls of genres – even if only in the tiniest ways. Good music will always be good music, no matter what section you file it under. My dream record store would simply file every artist from A to Z, and maybe, just maybe, Discography can bring us closer. It’s a bit “pie in the sky”, but I’d love for all of us to lose our preconceived notions about what music is, was, and can be, and just listen to artists for what they are: people making magic, no matter how it is sliced.”
So if you’re already passionate about any of the show’s musicians, or just looking for a historical odyssey, give Discography a shot and rate the show on Podchaser.
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