March 30, 2007

The End of the Album as We Know It

Awhile ago, Joyfulgirl and I discussed the impact of Mp3s on the record industry. We now have the first glimpse of the future, as the Wall Street Journal reports:

In recent weeks, the music industry has posted some of the weakest sales it has ever recorded.

This year has already seen the two lowest-selling No. 1 albums since Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks music sales, was launched in 1991.
Some artists and record labels have accepted that people will be ripping CDs onto their iPods. The Nytimes reports the second glimpse of the future:
"We're just acknowledging the way our fans like to listen to their music,'' said Dan Cohen, head of marketing for Palm. ''The idea of doing this isn't to say to kids, 'Hey, swap our files.' We're saying: 'Thank you for buying the record. We want to give you something.' Maybe that's saying, 'You'll burn this onto your iPod anyway; well, here -- it's high quality, it's sanctioned by the artist and we're cool with you having it on your player.' And if a few people trade it, well, we're hoping they'll like it enough that they'll go buy it.''
But the biggest thing is another Times report on the end of the Album:
Universal/Republic Records, their label, signed Candy Hill to record two songs, not a complete album.
That is right, the band is not making an album filled with one or two good songs and a whole bunch of crud, they are just making one or two good songs. The music industry is changing.


Throttleback said...

Or changing BACK. In the fifties, the single was king. Artists often just went in and were signed to do one song with a flipside.
The album as art was a relatively late thing. The Beatles mined the territory and they weren't the only ones. But, the advent of Fm radio gave rise to the power of the ALBUM. Because FM radio was desperate to compete with AM, which had a stranglehold, the only way it could do so was to offer something else. An alternative. Deep cuts. Concept albums. Concept programming. Back east it was "headsets" and King Biscuit and the like. And that was the norm. Until the advent of the CD. (Incidentally, roughly every 15 years a new delivery system for music is developed and voraciously devoured by the masses: singles til about 1967, LPs from 67-84, CD's from 85-00, mp3 from 01 - ?? If you include 8-tracks and casettes the timeline is about a decade instead)
The CD was the end all be all. You could shuffle the order, pass tracks easily, make compilation tapes even more easily. But, there was also upwards of 70+ minutes and the labels (and artists) wanted to give the fans reasons to switch over to the system that was cheaper to produce and more expensive to buy. So, CD's were LOADED with stuff. Too much stuff. Gone was the 35-40 minute album (Ramones, Violent Femmes, tons of others). Instead of an average length of 45 minutes for an album, now artists had to pack another 20-25 minutes on there. Imagine if the Beatles had to bring in Sgt. Pepper at 70 mins. Oh, it would have been crap.
Then the advent of MP3's brought us full circle to the single.
I think this could end up being a good thing. At least its interesting.
I, personally, hope to be around when the next system is delivered.

Throttleback said...

One more thing. With CD's boomers decided they needed to replace every single album they had. From Vinyl to Plastic. MP3's make that repurchasing unecessary. So, it's no wonder the labels are losing money. There's no reason to buy stuff you already have. They were counting on this money that eventually would dry up. But they didn't waken to the idea. We knew this back in the 80's when reissues were booming.
Fucking idiots, labels.

Anonymous said...

you can also tranfer your dvds to your ipod. there is a software that does this for you.