Another Soundscan report is in and once again, album sales in the United States have slipped, this time from 235 million to 227 million compared to the same period last year. This is actually nothing new, since the format has been in a major decline since 2000, when sales were at an all-time high of 785 million.
Just to be clear, 227 million of anything is still a lot of units, and it should be noted that these are only the sales that can be counted. With so much of an artist’s income coming through DIY methods these days, there are millions of CD and vinyl sales made on artist websites and at gigs that go unreported.
That said, its clear that the trend in music is away from the album format, even when its digital, as streaming becomes the norm for music consumption everywhere. It wasn’t always that way, though, as there was a lot of reasons why the big 10 inch caught on in the first place.
A Case For Albums
One of the things that albums in vinyl record form required of the listener was an increased attention span longer than what was needed for a single, at least for the length of one side of the record, or about 20 to 25 minutes. This time limit was imposed by the limitations of the vinyl itself, as a longer running time would result in increased noise and a lower output because of the shallower grooves that were required in order to fit them into the same vinyl area.
The one thing this did do, however, was divide the album into an easily consumable block of time; one that was long enough to get a sense of what the artist was trying to say. It was also a way of discovering songs that appealed to the public ear on a level that might not have been anticipated by either the artist or the record label. So many of the classic hits we’ve come to know and love through the years fall into this category, like Marvin Gaye’s version of “Heard It Through The Grapevine,” Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” and Eric Clapton’s (actually Derek and the Dominos) “Layla,” just to name a few. Plus, the artist was able to make a statement with the album as a whole, as evidenced by the big hits of day like The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper, Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, and Greenday’s American Idiot. Read more on Forbes.
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