Wednesday 2 October 2013

Anderson: app or album?

Jon Anderson is a visionary. You can't be a Yes fan and dismiss Anderson's central role as an ideas man in the band. So if Anderson has some seemingly crazy idea for how to do things, I think it's worth stopping and thinking about what he's proposing.

Much of what Anderson has been proposing recently has been a move away from albums. This goes back to when he was last in Yes. After disappointing sales for Magnification, Anderson talked of leaving the album format and presenting new music in other forms. Back then, he talked of doing that live and then in DVDs, as he did with his own music and the "Tour of the Universe" DVD.

But in recent years, he's focused on new media. There were ideas for a Zamran video game. And now, Anderson talks about releasing new music in an app that allows you to explore a virtual world.

So, it's an idea. Hard to know exactly what it would mean until we see and hear it. But I'm unconvinced so far. I'm a fan of the music and what technology has done is made it easier and more convenient to hear music. Making the music only available through an app goes against that trend. It makes it harder to access the music, constraining how you can hear it. However, I wondered what you all think, and so I ran a poll on the Where Are They Now? site, asking, "Jon Anderson has discussed various ways of releasing new music. Which would you prefer he do..."

(Physical) album releases: 88 (77%)
Individual pieces of music released digitally: 11 (10%)
New material included in live DVDs: 6 (5%)
Release regular new music as part of an app where you interact with a virtual world: 5 (4%)
Other: 4 (4%)

(The 'others' included one suggestion for high resolution digital releases, and three comments about the music rather than the format.)

As I suspected, us fans are a conservative bunch when it comes to formats. Three quarters want old fashioned album releases (as would be my preference too). The app idea got a mere 4% support. Maybe we'd all be wowed by whatever app Anderson can come up with, but it doesn't look like a strong marketing position to start by annoying 95% of your consumers. Do an app, but stick the material on a CD while you're at it, please...?


  1. I think Anderson picked up on that during his collaborations with Mike Oldfield in the '80s; Mike actually released Tubular Bells as a C64 program, was doing longform music videos as far back as the mid-'70s, and his single with Anderson, "Shine", was part of some other multimedia product. Several of his albums were interactive CD-ROMs or DVDs, too.

    The thing is, as far as I can tell, none of them was especially successful financially or critically. Maybe Anderson doesn't care about that, but the zigs and zags of his solo oeuvre suggest to me that he very much does.

  2. It seems to me that Anderson has given up on CD's and basically any format than can be copied or pirated. Unfortunately, this was always a problem. I'm sure "Open" had low download sales because all it takes is one person to post on the internet. Really he should think backward and release new stuff on vinyl. not that it still can be copied but it may be more difficult in some ways. Most of his fan base is from the 70's and 80's and that generation may still have an old record player collecting dust somewhere. With a new Roger Dean cover for his record it would be at least a collectible. I remember one interview in Tampa 1988 he said that Yes were looking in hologram 3D images for future concert shows. Well that never happened and I doubt the app will either.