We’ve got to kill the album.
Actually, it’s already dead. It’s just that the artists and labels don’t know it.
Oh, don’t get your panties in a twist. Just think about it. When cavemen started banging on rocks, was there somebody chewing a primitive cigar saying you’ve got to have TWELVE rhythms, broken down six to a side?
Actually, live performance eventually pervaded, and with concerts longer pieces were required. You ultimately had the classical composers, delivering long suites for paying customers.
But eventually it became about the song, And you had pluggers running around trying to get stars to sing them, to ultimately drive people to buy the sheet music.
Then we hit the era of the single. Which ruled until technology delivered a carrier that could hold more music. Which the Beatles ultimately employed to birth "Sgt. Pepper", the first CONCEPT album. You had something to say, you could stretch it out to a complete side. Which people would listen to while lying on the couch, while reading the paper, while making out. And never forget, THERE WAS NO SINGLE ON SGT. PEPPER!
The album was so successful that an entire radio format was created to service it, AOR. It was about the deep tracks, the deejay was a guide, turning you on to albums that you wanted to buy and play at home.
But then Top Forty came back, the single ruled in an era of longer discs (the CD!) Suddenly, people only wanted the track, because the rest of what was on the album sucked, and there was TOO MUCH OF IT! And once they had a way of ONLY getting the track they wanted, they took it. Yes, labels had discontinued CD singles, forcing consumers to purchase the entire album. But now the public could steal the one and only track it wanted, and eventually buy it, via iTunes and its brethren.
But the real change was the carrier, the playback system.
Used to be you were limited to how much music you could play at once. Maybe you had a changer, but that hurt the records. The goal was to have a turntable, which only played for twenty minutes before you had to get up and change sides. As for taking your music with you, you could carry a modicum of cassettes and CDs, but not your entire library.
But now you can. On the iPod.
And now people no longer listen to albums.
And the only people who don’t know this is the purveyors.
Society is overwhelming. We’ve got 300 TV channels, if not MORE! We’ve got a bunch of new movies EVERY weekend. We’ve got video games. We haven’t got time to sit down and listen to an hour of crap over and over again in order to get hooked. We want something ear-pleasing, NOW! We ONLY want GOOD STUFF!
Shit, that blows your mind.
You’re creating hour long masterpieces that the public must eat like a day locked inside a McDonald’s, but the public only wants some McNuggets and then a taco from Taco Bell, an ice cream from Cold Stone, a donut… THAT’S what iPods are like. They’re MIX AND MATCH!
The goal is to get into the iTunes library. And you don’t do this by releasing ten cuts, but by making ONE GREAT ONE!
Oh, it doesn’t have to be catchy, just GOOD!
This is the labels’ worst nightmare. This is not their paradigm. They pay a big chunk of money to an artist to get an album which they can sell for ten bucks to make their bottom line. They’re not in the SINGLES BUSINESS!
And every act thinks it’s the Beatles, that it’s important, that it’s got a STATEMENT to make.
But the audience doesn’t give a shit about ALL of this. The public just wants quality. Well, something it LIKES!
Yes, the iPod has killed the album. Technology has changed the format once again.
And, since an iPod can contain MORE MUSIC THAN ALMOST EVERYBODY EVER OWNED, there isn’t time for crap. You now have access to too much good stuff, WHY listen to the crap?
The album is OVER!
Start hyping one cut. And if that catches fire, deliver ANOTHER!
Hell, maybe the magic number is four. BECAUSE THAT’S THE QUANTITY MYSPACE ALLOWS YOU TO STREAM!!!
If you like one, you can check out a couple more. Maybe listen to four to find out if that one you like isn’t an anomaly, and the rest are similar enough to your tastes.
This is economic death for the label. Unless it controls EVERY song. Because, after all, people want A LOT!
But the labels keep consolidating, keep releasing fewer records, keep ceding the marketplace to the independent. IMPALA worried about major mergers? That’s like Olivetti worrying about Smith Corona. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, THAT’S JUST THE POINT! These purveyors are HISTORY!
The money is in the aggregation. On a grand scale!
As for the act, the goal is a GREATEST HITS ALBUM!
Yup, release fewer tracks on a more regular basis. THEN maybe sell all your best at one cheap price…as a matter of CONVENIENCE!
I don’t want to hear about economics, I don’t want to hear about art, the album is history, FINITO! That’s not how people listen anymore. And the public is always right. You’ve heard that axiom, HAVEN’T YOU?