The Album Blurb: Music Should Be More Like Books

album covers and book covers

I'm a writer, a singer, an avid reader and a music lover. Well, in order to work with The Big Comfy Bookshop, you need to be at least the latter two. I don't think anyone's as much a music lover as Michael is though, and nor are they as hipster.

When it comes to books, I'm very active in my hunt for the next read. I'm very much a fantasy kinda girl, so I scour the genre, looking for elements I love and reading reviews to find the next perfect read. I never look for the author. I don't look for people's favourite authors in a given genre, I look for a story I can fall in love with, and then begin my whirlwind (parasocial) romance with the author.

Music is a very different kettle of fish. It's the artist you look for first. You find artists in your favourite genre (if you have a favourite) and then discover the music from there. And what's more, the genres are so irrelevant. I don't care about the ratio of guitar to bass, or what brass instruments unite this artist to other members of that genre. While that's important - of course it is - there is so much more to music than the musical genre it falls into.

Perhaps it's because, as a singer and writer that the words and the story of a piece moves me more. Or perhaps it's because reading is so much more immersive than listening to music is. Even if it's an artist I know and love, I can't give my sole attention to a new album that I don't know the words to, unless I have a migraine or am having a bath and want ambient music to draw me out of the world. I have to play it in the background and let it submerse itself into my subconscious. It can take me a full year to love a new album from even my favourite musicians. Hence why I don't quite have the energy to keep up with new music or to go on the hunt for as yet undiscovered bands that will speak to my soul; the process is just too damn long.

With books, on the other hand, I'll be perfectly happy to spend weeks hunting for my next book, because I know that once the choosing of the book is complete, it'll only be two more days until it's all over. It may sound counter-intuitive: why go to all that effort for something that will be over in two days? (It takes me a maximum of two days to read a book, with the exception of The Night Circus which took me three, because I was ill and couldn't concentrate for long periods of time). But for two days, that book is my life. I become part of a completely new world that comes with me wherever I go for those two days, and if I love the book then I find more books by that author to consume. If I hate it then I sob that I've wasted two days of reading time, but pick up and move on with the hunt.

While I was waking up from a nap the other day (shush I'm poorly), I was thinking about why I enjoy hunting for books more than I do music, and what could make the experience more inviting. I sat (read: lay) around thinking about how I discover new books and new music, and where the link is.

My book hunting is meticulous, you know that. My music hunting, not so. I love Rod Stewart because my dad always listened to him. I love Pulp because they used to play on Mercia FM a lot when I was a kid. I discovered Bastille because I spent a lot of time in the car with my dad and step-mum who listened to more current radio stations than I do (my radio repertoire consists of one that's stuck in the 60s, one that's in love with BritPop, and one that's German). I discovered Florence + The Machine when I was doing A Level Music and my classmates decided we were going to record a cover of Dog Days, so I had to sing it without having ever heard it before. I discovered Little Sparrow because I was managing the shop and chose to play the album purely because it had a picture of a tree on the front.

This isn't a particularly viable method for discovering music on a regular basis.

Recently I've been using 8tracks a lot, and I love it because the playlists are described by things like "autumn" and "magic" and stuff that on the surface seems completely irrelevant to music, but actually does a very good job of describing the feeling you get when you listen to it. Still, it's not enough for me to actually want to actively discover and listen to new music.

The answer, of course, is a blurb.

Hear me out. Musicians are not very different from writers. They have a story to tell, a soul to express. Their medium is just vastly different from that of a novelist. Still, it doesn't mean they can't market that medium in a similar way. Tell me the theme of your album! Tell me what you sing about! It will instantly grab my attention.

Think about it, had I picked up Bastille's Bad Blood, and instead of just seeing the track listing saw something like:

"Greek and Roman mythology collide with the modern world as Bastille uses the gods of empires past to discuss love, loss, and alcoholism"

I would have picked it up and listened to it fervently straight away. Wouldn't you?

But let's take it a step further. Imagine a music version of Goodreads. A vast database of musicians, albums, and reviewers telling you the story of the album with regular, everyday listeners reviewing it, sharing their interpretations, their connections with the album without the poncy superiority complex that professional music reviewers have. A multi-genre cross-section telling you not only of the musical components the album has, but also telling you whether to expect dragons or magic or politics or love or social commentary.

Tell me you wouldn't love that.

Of course, so much of music is open to interpretation and elements to be discovered. But the same can be said about books. When I picked up N.K. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I was promised a fantastical world of gods and magic and romance. I didn't know I was in for a commentary on religion and racism, or a world of racial and sexual diversity. I didn't know if I was going to get excellent writing or something that rubbed me in just the wrong way (thankfully the latter didn't come to fruition). The same can be offered through the album blurb.

So this is a plea to all musicians - give me a blurb!

#music #books #blurbs