Just a quick look at album sales will tell you that increasingly we live in a music world where the single song is king and the album is feeling more and more unnecessary. According to the RIAA, album sales fell 11% last year after falling about the same amount the year before, and there’s no signs of a turnaround on the horizon.
The trend actually had its seeds way back in 1998 with the introduction of the MP3, then caught fire in 2003 with the launch of iTunes, as a fans everywhere rebelled against high-priced CD albums that were perceived to contain lots of filler material. After all, why pay for 10 songs when there’s only one that you want anyway?
Yet the album won’t die in the minds of artists, bands and record labels as we see more, not fewer, released every year, with the vast majority having virtually zero chance of ever being heard outside of the artist’s immediate circle of fans and friends. To many in the music business, you’re not a legit artist unless you’ve released an album, despite increasing evidence that the format is fast turning into a historical relic.
That said, just about every artist on the planet is also aware that to gain any traction in the music world at all, your music has to be on one or all of the streaming services, and that means you’re serving up singles, not albums.
And that’s the struggle for the music business in general, knowing full well that the audience has moved on yet not being conceptually able to let go of a format that’s been passed by, at least from an artistic standpoint.
Art aside, there was a practical feature to the album which was responsible for the good time cash cow days that began to ebb in 2003. The beauty for artist and label alike from a business standpoint is that they could sell music in bulk. The consumer paid for a lot of music that she may never use since only one or two songs may be of interest, yet they still got paid for the other songs attached to the album as well. Is there any wonder that the consumer wanted to unbundle the songs from the album format? Why pay for something that you’re not going to use, especially if the cost for the ones you don’t like is the same as for your favorites? Read more on Forbes.
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