New York Times – March 26, 2007:

Now that the three young women in Candy Hill, a glossy rap and R&B trio, have signed a record contract, they are hoping for stardom. On the schedule: shooting a music video and visiting radio stations to talk up their music.

Acts like Cherry Hill — made up of Vatana Shaw, seated; Casha Darjean, standing left; and Ociris Gomez — face a new music economics.

But the women do not have a CD to promote. Universal/Republic Records, their label, signed Candy Hill to record two songs, not a complete album.

“If we get two songs out, we get a shot,” said Vatana Shaw, 20, who formed the trio four years ago, “Only true fans are buying full albums. Most people don’t really do that anymore.”

To the regret of music labels everywhere, she is right: fans are buying fewer and fewer full albums. In the shift from CDs to digital music, buyers can now pick the individual songs they like without having to pay upward of $10 for an album.

“I think the album is going to die,” said Aram Sinnreich, managing partner at Radar Research, a media consulting firm based in Los Angeles. “Consumers are listening to play lists,” or mixes of single songs from an assortment of different artists. “Consumers who have had iPods since they were in the single digits are going to increasingly gravitate toward artists who embrace that.”

I’m old enough to remember when music stores (we called them record stores back then) sold both albums (we called them LPs) and singles (we called them 45s). Stores had huge shelves of 45s featuring hits spanning decades. You could get nearly any hit single you wanted, but if they didn’t have it in stock, they’d order it and have it in a few days. Back then no one was forced to buy an entire LP to get the hit song they wanted.

The “death” of the album should have been expected to come, if the music industry had any foresight at all. This is the first time in decades music buyers have had a choice. There has always been genres of music that were suited for singles (e.g., disco) and genres that were suited for albums (e.g., opera). It was with the advent of the CD back in the 80s that the music industry attempted to kill off the single and force us to buy entire albums to get the one or two songs we wanted.

I don’t think albums are really going to die. The music that is better suited for temporary mass consumption will continue to thrive as singles while music that is better suited for repeated in depth listenings will thrive as albums.



  1. Don says:

    May the moranic heads of the record labels all go broke and retire to eating tainted pet food.

    When I was a wee lad, I had literally hundreds of 45’s. And I used to custom build my play lists with my little self loading record player. Of course back the you could only put 10 songs in your playlist, but it was great.

    Then the CD came along, and I would buy 1 or 2 every month or so. I was not really into music because it was such a pain in the ass to listen to the 1 or 2 good songs on a CD.

    Then about 7 years ago!!!

    I could rip my CD’s into my computer!!! Yes!!!

    I built a separate computer to be my Juke Box. A couple of years later, I built and still maintain a separate file server in my house mainly so I don’t have to sync music between several computers in my house. Oh yea, it also holds the thousands of digital pictures my wife takes. I feed the output of my computer via digital connection to my stereo.

    And this is killing the F******G heads of the record labels, because they want to make me buy a separate copy of their freaking stupid CD for every device I listen with.

    If they get rid of the DRM on downloaded music, I will buy singles that I can enjoy any way I want. Until then, I will continue to trade and rip CD’s with my friends, and only buy a CD if it has at least a third of the songs as decent want to listen to more than once not just filler crap songs. Downloadig music from the net is a waste as the recording quality varies widely. Better to go to the local library and borrow the CD from there.

    Don

  2. Bruce IV says:

    I happen to like listening to entire albums. I guess that makes me a bit of an anachronism (strange, being an anachronism for being partial to technology that’s a mere decade and a half old, but that’s computers for you). Of course, I only buy albums by artists I really like, and tend to just play something when I want a certain mood (an album full of loud rock for coding, something quieter for reading, ect.). But I digress – this is just a weird contrary opinion (my favorite songs tend to be the “filler tracks” by popular artists). What I’m saying, is an album is, in essence, a pre-made, single artist playlist – so its got a nice unified sound (which works better when you just want background music), and you don’t have to go to the trouble of making up the playlist yourself.

  3. Eideard says:

    You “children” make me chuckle. Because I grew up with record stores that only sold singles. 78rpm platters.

    An “album” really was an album – like, as in a photo album. Heavy covers and a dozen leaves or so inside, each of which held a single 78. A few would show up in the stores at holiday times.

    We’re just getting back to the beginning, folks.

  4. ChrisMac says:

    looks a bit like my handwriting on that SoD backup

  5. Named says:

    Don’t forget the concept album! How could you listen to Breathe without listing to Time without listening to Breathe Reprise etc. And then the Wall? Animals? Pink Floyd was the master of the concept album, but I have to give some props to Bowie too. And Zappa. But those albums could not be cut into pieces and that’s probably why radio play was limited for them during their prime. That and payola.

    Of course, what should be noted here is that mainstream crap rock and crap pop are best served in 3 minutes slices. Nothing more. True artists need the whole 72 minutes +. So, yes, Britney Spears, when she finds her head will have to switch to a method similar to Asian markets. You don’t sell albums, you sell performances and advertising.

  6. Greg Allen says:

    I’m a fan of the album, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased a full album for a hit song and than ended up preferring one of the other tracks better.

    I was also a fan of the old 45 RPM singles I bought them for twenty years. The ones with pictures sleeves were an especially good deal — you got a hit song; you got an — often cooler — B side; and you got some cover art. I think they were $.50 when I started buying them and not much over $2 for my last one.

    I normally buy from eMusic but recently I got a gift certificate from Buy.com.

    Their policy TOTALLY DISCOURAGES whole album sales. Often it is cheaper to by the physical CD than to download the whole collection.

    If they cared about the album format — they should give you a 40% discount if you buy the whole album.

    What all of this is missing is “value added” items which used to be an important aspect of physical music sales. The album package was often a work of art — sometimes a masterpiece in commercial art. We could “bootleg” back then — with audio cassettes — but then we missed out on the great album art.

    Where is the “value added” in downloading? All they have now is a “stick” to discourage piracy but no carrots!

  7. Air Phloo says:

    The EP should make a resurgence too. 4-7 decent songs is about what most bands are really capable of. Let’s encourage newbies to focus on singles and EPs and then work them up to a full album once they have proven themselves.

  8. Greg Allen says:

    That “whoa cowboy” thing is DRIVING ME CRAZY!

    It triggers even if I haven’t posted for hours.

    Can’t it be fixed?

  9. RonD says:

    My favorites are Simon & Garfunkel when they were together. The songs on their cd’s were all “keepers”. Plus you can understand the lyrics because they aren’t drowned out by the musical instruments. Of course, Paul Simon played acoustical guitar. There are two kinds of guitars – acoustic and electric. To play one takes talent, the other only needs electricity.

  10. Cursor_ says:

    The single never went away. It IS called a CD-Single, very popular overseas, especially Asia. I have a number of them and the EP version of CD’s as well. (Aka a Maxi-Single)

    The trouble is that music STORES rarely sell them as they have no desire to pay for a huge retail space just to suit the singles, maxi or enhanced CD rare crowd. There is no money in it, so most people don’t even KNOW it exists. But it does. I’m holding onto a Maxi now from Paul VanDyk right now.

    Cursor_

  11. ChrisMac says:

    the whoa cowboy thing can be avoided by waiting a few secs between finishing your msg and clicking on “say it”

    especially if you use backspace or delete to correct your grammar/sp

  12. John S says:

    Being a Led Zeppelin fan I am aware that they preferred to sell albums and not singles. The record companies wanted to sell singles and forced through a couple of singles without the consent of Led Zeppelin. There were other groups that did not like single sales such as I believe the afformentioned Pink Floyd. I am not sure that the problem has to do with singles vs. albums as much as by record companies looking for a quick profit. They want to through a constant flow of one hit wonders at us that burn out to be quickly replaced by someone else.

    John S

  13. Peter Jakobs says:

    There were those who had a few “hits” and made an album full of “fillers” and there were those who thought about how to create more than just a “pre made single artist playlist” as someone above put it. You can listen to Pink Floyd single tracks, but they usually don’t make much sense without the album.
    So what we’re seeing here is not the death of a medium, it’s just the failure of the idea that anyone could make an album.

    Now, on the other side, this might lead to even more of a fast food comsumer mentality. Everyone has heard “the Wall” (the single track) but what about the other versions on the album, what about all the other songs? There is works where the single track needs to be viewed in the larger context. Buying just the single track won’t do them justice.

    pj

  14. Peter Rodwell says:

    I have over 1,000 CDs (all legally purchased) that I’m slowly ripping to a computer. I’ve resisted putting a computer in the living room for years but I finally gave in when my 15 year old hi-fi system (well, mid-fi, really) started to die. The next step will be to add a top-range sound system to the computer.

    It certainly is more convenient to be able to put together a playlist of favorite tracks but ripping all those CDs is very boring!

    I won’t stop buying CDs – but as soon as I get them home I’ll rip them and put the CD away in a bax.

  15. YeahRight says:

    To me the music industry forces us to buy stuff on their terms. Yes, you could buy a single ( 45 RPM , CD, even cassettes ). But you did not pay for 1 song … oh nonono.. you had to pay for the “cooler” song on the other side. I know the cost of manufacturing and distribution.. but now nothing matters, you can buy just the song you want! Superb!

    Albums…They are some that I love, but they are so few and far between…

    And the fact that I have to “rebuy” the same albums over and over from the record companies… make me hate them even more…Love and respect the artists but never the labels.

  16. Floyd says:

    Lately, I’ve been checking out used CD stores. The prices are often half of a new CD, but if you buy from a dealer that stands by his goods you can get bargains.

    The CDs I buy, new or used, are mostly ones that stand together as albums, or are “best of” albums. Though I have an iPod I don’t buy singles from iTunes or anyone else.

  17. faustus says:

    ya the 45’s and lp’s point is valid. a music act didn’t release a lp until they had several hit 45’s back in the day. you’ll probably see the industry go back to that. but i think we are going to start seeing better stuff coming out…. the next bob dylan will no doubt be using an apple computer and some film and music editting software then releasing his stuff on youtube cutting out the middleman and giving new meaning to the term “basement tapes”.

  18. OhForTheLoveOf says:

    #9 – “Plus you can understand the lyrics ”

    Are you gonna shake your fist at me and tell me to keep off the lawn too? 🙂

    (I’m teasing)

    However folks… There is truly brilliant music out there today. Some of the best pop/rock ever made has been made in the past 5 years… …with absolutely zero thanks to the music industry, from the labels to Clearchannel.

    The music industry, for reasons that cannot be fathomed, do not want you to hear Of Montreal, The Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio, or Thievery Corporation just to name a paltry few. They hate the idea that something fresh, original, or just plain good might creep into the mainstream.

    I could, I suppose, lament that the early days of Elvis Costello are gone, but instead I choose to celebrate the fact that Ryan Adams is young and vital.

    I could go on about how Pink Floyd is long gone, but I’d rather get lost in the rapture of Radiohead.

    You can choose to get arrested in the romaticized memory of the music that provided the soundtrack of your youth. Or, you can choose to remain young and bask in the glow of today’s best and brightest.

    Of course, you can’t do it with a radio, sadly… But if you do your own listening, your own footwork, you will discover that greatness is alive and well.

  19. excalipoor says:

    How about the way japan makes their music? They sell singles first and if they have enough hits, they put those singles into an album. They’ve been doing this for a long time.

  20. qsabe says:

    As one who can remember when bands were and singers could, I say thump thump trash today requires a screwed up mentality brought on by to much noise in the 70’s progressing to the sordid state of noise today. So who cares if you can now buy only one track of the absurd. But a shining star is on the horizon. For those who care about real music and are not afraid to spend the dollars required to reproduce it, vinyl records are still being pressed for the highest quality in good music.

  21. OhForTheLoveOf says:

    #21 – What does that mean?

    Most music listeners from the year 1920 wouldn’t get it either. Pop music tends to be reasonably specific to its time…

    I think I understand The Wall. Is the point that Roger Waters is a whinier bitch than most other rock stars?

    I remember Vera Lynn.

  22. BubbaRay says:

    This might date me, but I’ve an old 1960 Teac 15ips reel to reel recorder (oh my gracious, it has tubes) and I’ve also gasp! a turntable. Bet my albums would sound better on one of these babies if only I could afford the $70K…

    http://www.audiofederation.com/catalog/turntables/index.htm

    Check out the Rockport (scroll down just a bit on the page).

    One of the southwest’s oldest and finest record stores went out of biz some months ago, acres of vinyl and knowledgeable help. (Now crying in beer).

    6, 19 Thanks for the tips on purchasing records online. Guess I’ll have to start somewhere now that I can’t shop, sample and touch ’em.

    Boy, there sure are a bunch of geezers in this thread. 🙂

  23. tallwookie says:

    I feel really sorry for those people who actually purchase music – doods, ever heard of the Internet? lol, if you’re still spending money on music, I’d guess not

  24. Lauren the Ghoti says:

    BubbaRay –

    Think about this – the Library of Congress has 3 Rockport Sirius tables!


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