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Recording an album: Concept or Compilation?

Hey guys. I have been struggling with this question for a bit and was wondering if anyone could give any insight on the subject. My question is should each album have it’s own distinct feel/concept throughout? Or should it be a compilation of your best songs during that period of songwriting?

I am the lead singer in a band and we are getting ready to start recording our first album. All the members of the band come from slightly different angles when approaching the subject of recording. One aspect that we have been discussing is which songs to include on our first album. I’ve read articles that have stated it’s best to have a common feel to an album - almost like when you listen to an album you know what type of period the band was going through at that moment in time. But some of the other members in the band are saying we should include all our good songs, no matter if they are slightly different from the direction we are going in.

I think it’s natural for a band’s sound to progress and change with each album, but what about the songs in the album? We have a bunch of songs that are good songs but I feel they aren’t a true representation of the direction we are going, but people like the songs. So there’s our dilemma…choose songs that all flow together or choose our best songs no matter if they sound the same or different.

If anyone could shed some light on this subject that would be awesome! Thanks!


Amanda Lee Peers is the lead singer of the Swag Rock band The Driftwood Sailors from Rochester, NY. Check out their website at or email at  

Reader Comments (3)

That's a great question, and I was just discussing this with a friend the other day. I have always gone with "concept" albums, but not necessarily because I think it's the "right" way or the "only" way. It's just what feels right to me. I wrote an album while my dad was dying of cancer, so all the songs were pretty much along the same lines. However, my friend felt that it's fine to do an album of various kinds of songs that don't have any common theme, and was encouraging me to do one that way.

So basically, I'm really not telling you to do one over the other, because I think you should do what feels right to you, and what fits you and your style best. To me, an album is a mysterious thing that comes together almost of its own volition, and if you "flow" throughout the process with what feels right, it will come together as it's supposed to. That may sound a little spiritual, and maybe it is, but that's how the process works for me. I'm interested to hear what others think and how others on this site approach albums.

Great question. :)

Ben Travis

August 8 | Registered CommenterBen Travis

Yeah, this is a tough subject. I was a solo artist before starting my band, and a lot of songs we play are from my solo material. They were written at a different time than some other songs that were written with the band. My solo, turned band, songs are great and the band songs are great, but some of them have a different feel. I think it all depends, like you said Ben.

I'm interested to hear what other musicians are doing. I guess it doesn't matter all that much as long as each song can stand on its own. Each song should standout. As long as you go by that, I don' think it matters much. That's the conclusion I'm sort of coming to.

Other opinions welcome!

Amanda Lee Peers

August 10 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Lee Peers

Quote: My question is should each album have it’s own distinct feel/concept throughout? Or should it be a compilation of your best songs during that period of songwriting?

I'm an artist and lead producer of my record label Am I MBK Music and every project we have released was dedicated to a concept. The concept itself was either very specific for a specific audience or very broad concepts that pertained to broad topics (love lost, love found, etc.)

Our first three projects were albums that were dedicated to the fans that related to the life of street hustlers from low income households. They had pretty good success but it limited our fan reach because not everyone could relate to the music.

So in 2010 I released a mixtape titled "Lost In Thought". It was a "broader" compilation of my best songs. One song was for the street hustlers, another was a purely pop record, another was strictly disco, three songs were love songs, two songs were about our inner most thoughts and darkest hours, I even had a rock record thrown in for the outro! The flow of the mixtape was "sporatic" and not a "timeline" based project, and the concept of the entire project was "random thoughts" that turned into great records.

The response was amazing. I gained many fans and got a sense of what direction I can take my music (along with some business insight on how to properly promote and market to specific fan interests). Don't be afraid to take a new direction, sometimes the fear can hinder some great results.

The good songs are not necessarily good for "albums" or "compilations" if they are not put in for "good reason". Sometimes I like to throw in an entire set of my not so good songs (to keep my fans wanting more) and throw in a great record that I've recorded back in 2007 that was never released. That way I always get the heads up from my fans of what they like and don't like (and still be relevant in today's sounds). You can try that as well and see if it works for you!

The only limit you have yourself. If you feel it difficult to come to an agreement during the creative process imagine how the outcome of the album will be (or even if you get to that part!) Remember that songwriting is always the key ingredient in music, and therefore as an artist you are always either trying to recreate yourself or expand what you already know how to do. The fans who support your old type of music will definitely support your new sound because those are always your core fans. They will follow you, you just have to lead the way!!

Hope this helps some!!


August 10 | Unregistered CommenterBeezy

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