Why We Need to Rethink the Concept of the Album in 2017

Before 1965, outside of Broadway cast recordings, classical recordings and jazz, we lived in a singles world. It was all about The Song and just The Song. But as the music industry grew up (and as consumers embraced things like sophisticated stereo systems and FM radio), the idea of the album–a collection of songs released together on a specified day–became dominant.

Since them, albums have morphed into retail events, something to be marketed until the day of its release into the marketplace. Singles, issued like drugs in an IV drip, are designed to push the sale of the album.  This concept worked so well that the music industry effectively stopped selling singles by the end of the 1990s. You want that song? Then fork over for the full album, sonny.

The music industry is still addicted to selling albums. But for how much longer? We began moving back towards a single-oriented marketplace the moment iTunes offered a la carte selection for 99 cents a track. And the deeper we get into the 21st century, the more apparent the divisions between various groups of music consumers become. Music Industry Blog takes a look at this phenomenon.

One size stopped fitting all long ago, but now there are clearly two broad groups of music audiences which must be addressed in entirely different ways, across different channels and with different tactics. At the most base level this is a case of youth versus grey, of digital native versus digital immigrant, of playlist versus album, of sales versus consumption. But it is also more complex and nuanced than that. There are overlaps and cross pollination. They may be relatively thin on the ground right now, but like some long-lost treasure map, they may point to how bridges can be built across these two worlds. If no such links can be made then ultimately this will be a story of one world hurtling to oblivion while the other booms.

It’s thought-provoking stuff. Read the entire report here

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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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