Are Albums the Problem with the Music Industry?

As much as I love albums, I fear for their future. Ever since iTunes started offering songs a la carte, people have been slowly gravitating away from buying these collections of songs towards picking just individual tracks. The good news is that you only get the songs you want. The bad news is that we’re not getting the full musical experience that the artist intended for us.

The Boston Globe has a look at albums from the perspective that they might be hurting the music industry.

My respect for the sanctity of albums has always been on shaky ground; partly because I was weaned on the statement-free indie rock of the ’90s (when albums seemed more like casual scrapbooks), and partly because I’m just generally more partial to a strong hook than a saggy arc.

But it also has to do with the expanded parameters and conveniences of the Internet.

Streaming services like iTunes and Spotify may host albums, but they traffic in tracks; any platter can now be consumed as an la carte offering. And those services have experienced a recent boom, up 42 percent from just last year.

The forms we consume have always been sculpted by the media we have at our disposal — our cave walls gave rise to paintings, our pages gave us poems, our books gave us novels, and our records gave us what we know as albums (well, once we slowed down from 78 to 33 r.p.m.). Our cassettes bestowed portability beyond the hi-fi to our albums before CDs expanded their floor plans. But now that the physical limits of the album are a non-issue, is the form itself a necessary constraint?

It’s worth reading the whole thing. Go here.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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