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  • Is This the Death of the Album?

    Is this the death of the album?  In this internet age that is a very valid question.

    The video below features an interview with rapper, ‘Nelly’ talking openly about his views on the current state of the music industry.

    The big question asked of him is, “Do you think a record label is necessary these days?”

    Nelly speaks his opinion with regard to labels and uses his limited knowledge of ‘Chief Keef’ as an example of someone that probably would have been better off without a record label.

    The main part of this interview that I found particularly interesting was his suggestion of releasing singles rather than albums.

    It’s not the first time I’ve heard this.

    I still love listening to albums in their entirety (I’m listening to one as I write this very post…) and I myself have recently released a concept album Lord of the Dead.  I have read some interesting criticisms of the singles over albums model from the likes of Meghan Morrison and Moses Avalon.  Nonetheless, we have to admit, it’s not the 90′s anymore and it most certainly is not the 70′s!

    The golden era of the album was perhaps the late 60′s to early 70s where for the first time, an artist could escape the confines of the three-minute pop single and express themselves as never before across the expanded artistic canvas of an album or LP (Long Play).  During that time it was more about creating a cohesive collection of songs that were supposed to be listened to as one full piece.  The album became almost a cash-in on the single rather than the other way around as albums out sold singles in the UK and US.   The LP allowed popular music to become an art form from the artwork adorning gatefold sleeves, to the ideas and concepts that bound the songs together, to the unforgettable music itself.  Legendary groups the likes of Led Zeppelin made it big by refusing to release a single.  Their success relied largely on their musical greatness and the fact that it was only available in one cohesive piece of compiled music.  People were spending more money on albums than any other form of entertainment by the mid-70s.

    It was a great time for musical indulgence and artistic expression.  A time where artistic creativity really did pay like it never had done before.  As both record companies and artists (in a lot of cases) made a huge amount of money from this.  If people wanted to get a single, they would have to spend £10-£15 to get the whole album.  Even if you chose to buy the single from the album individually, it would still set you back around £3.  Compare that to the standard 99p download available today!

    This was of course in the pre-digital download days and even the pre-cassette and music video days.  Releasing an album was the more lucrative option because it was more cost effective to press a record with numerous songs bundled together, rather than spending more cash on a fresh pressing for every individual single.  Added to that, many consumers preferred the album format rather than a single as they could sit and listen to it without having to move the record every few minutes.  If you enjoyed taking drugs, albums were great because they allowed you to get smacked off your tits and mong out at your own leisure from whatever narcotic indulgences tickled your fancy, as the hassle of having to constantly turn the record over, was kept to a minimum.

    Budgets weren’t stretched like they are now.  A record company’s budget for a band could be spent entirely on the creation and pressing of their album.  With the arrival of the 80′s that budget had to be stretched to also fund music videos and so forth.

    Since then the album has had an initially slow, to drastic decline with the arrival of digital downloads.  The costs of recording are drastically lower than it ever has been before.  There’s been an explosion of choice for the consumer.  It’s just as easy to listen to thousands of songs on shuffle as it is to listen to a full concept album.  In fact shuffle could be considered easier with the almost unlimited number of songs to listen to one after the other.  People don’t need to change disc every 12 songs.  They can literally press play and leave their phone to constantly play thousands of songs until the battery dies.  Most people actually like more choice and more customisation.  They don’t want to necessarily be confined to the collection of songs the artist intended them to listen to.  They want what they want, as and when they want it.

    Artistry aside and looking at things from a strictly business perspective, consistent releases of individual singles are likely to be more profitable than albums unlike the golden album era.  Singles bought individually actually pay the owner better at 99p each than releasing an album or collection of songs at £5.  With music being available for free it makes even more sense as it is easier to build a following off of consistent new content being made available.  Building following of people that have your attention is what allows us to make a profitable living nowadays.

    I still feel a since of nostalgia for the golden era of albums despite me being too young to have actually witnessed it.  As I said earlier, I still like to listen to albums in there entirety.  Listening to a disc rather than download, I have a big vinyl and CD collection comprised of many classic albums, both classic in a cult sense and classic in a best selling sense.  I came into DJing and music production through vinyl!  My album Lord of the Dead will eventually come out on vinyl.  I **** love the dusty bastards….  The resurgence of vinyl shows that there are a large number of people that feel the same way as me too.  For that reason I don’t think albums will die out per se.  It will just become even more of a niche consumer choice.  There will still be a market for them because people want choice.  Part of that choice being the ability to listen to albums the old fashioned way.

    All that being said, the market has changed and not necessarily for the worse.  Just because it might turn out to be more profitable to release consistent singles rather than an album doesn’t necessarily mean the death of creativity.  The really important thing is that we as artists are now the ones with the power.  We no longer need any gatekeepers to make a living expressing ourselves.  We can pick ourselves, build our followings and make money on our own.  Of course labels can help but they are no longer the necessity they used to be.  As Napoleon Hill said, “Do not wait, the time will never be just right.  Start where you stand and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”  The great thing is the tools available to us in this day and age are already pretty damn good!

    Watch the interesting interview with Nelly below.

    For those of you that still want to listen to a concept album, you can check out Lord of the Dead available on iTunes, Amazon and my own online store.

    For those that like to listen to individual singles for free first, go check out my Lord of the Dead preview on Lord Lav BitTorrent.

    <div class="signaturecontainer"><a href="http://lordlav.com" target="_blank">Lord Lav</a> is a rapper, producer and creator of the <a href="http://lordlav.com/lord-of-the-dead/" target="_blank">Zombie Apocalypse</a> Rap Album <a href="http://lordlav.com/lord-of-the-dead/" target="_blank">Lord of the Dead</a></div>

  • #2
    That's why I just decided to release a single song every day. People really only want to listen in short bursts... if at all. I've released 35 songs so far this year and it seems to be interesting to a lot of people... I've sold quite a few songs so far! I think constant content is what people demand now. They don't have the attention span for anything else.
    Check out my #365SongChallenge this year! http://mattsams.bandcamp.com and follow me on Twitter @Somnistatic

    Comment


    • Lord Lav
      Lord Lav commented
      Editing a comment

      Thanks awesome Kreatorkind!  I tend to agree, I'm adapting my business model the exact same way.


    • Kreatorkind
      Kreatorkind commented
      Editing a comment

      Lord Lav wrote:

      Thanks awesome Kreatorkind!  I tend to agree, I'm adapting my business model the exact same way.


      Doing a song a day is well, basically insane. But I'm enjoying it. I'd say overall, an EP a month at least is ideal. A song or two a week should cut it. Hell, if you can do that, you'll have 52-104 songs in a year. The real trick is getting people to engage with the music... and hopefully buy it.


  • #3

    I love albums, but I agree we're in an era that is more analogous to the late 1950s in terms of listener's preferred format - at that time, singles were the hot item, while albums were often hastily put-together collections of a couple of hit singles along with a bunch of filler and fluff... which is part of the reason they were far less popular at the time.


    The Beatles and Beach Boys and other 60s artists came along and turned that paradigm on its ear - how? By releasing albums with little to no filler - all-beef records that people WANTED to listen to all the way through.


    Napster (and today, online streaming services like Spotify) allowed people to pick and choose the good stuff while avoiding the stuff they didn't like. IMHO, while the time limitations of today, and the large number of competing technologies vying for everyone's time and attention (videos, multi-channel cable TV, computers and the Internet, etc. etc.) mean that we're not likely to see a huge return to the time-consuming practice of listening to albums as works of art in their own right, I still think we could see some increase in the format's popularity again - but IMO, that will ONLY happen when someone comes along and drops records on us that are all beef, no filler.


    Want to release an album and have it become popular as such? Make sure it's STUNNING - no so-so songs - we want to be KNOCKED OUT! That's the secret IMO...

    **********

    "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

    - George Carlin

    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

    - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

    Comment


    • #4
      A lot of it is the cultural perceptions of what music is all about. The combination of changing technologies and reduced attention spans results in the album having no real place in the lives of most people. Who is going to spend 40 minutes just LISTENING to music in 2014? I don't know that even a new "Rubber Soul" all-killer-no-filler album would matter much to anyone.

      Who would it matter to? Why? Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" album had 6 top 5 singles (8 if you count two singles added to a later version), five of which went to #1. (Only the second album in history to have 5 #1 singles if anyone mistakenlly believes we live in an age where every single gets to be #1 for a day...) Albums aren't going to get much more "all killer no filler" than that one, yet it only managed to sell 2.7 million copies in the US and 6 million worldwide. Twenty years ago, this album certainly would have sold many times that amount.

      Meanwhile, all 8 of those singles sold more than 2 million downloads each. Now before somebody snarkily chimes in that this isn't "quality" music or a good album, it certainly is in the hearts and minds of the intended audience. And again, certainly would have sold many time more copies a couple of decades ago.

      So what's the problem? Is it just that it's a 'collection of singles' rather than a cohesive, single work of art? If Katy had strung them all together in a more artistic format ala Dark Side of The Moon would kids have been compelled to hear it presented that way? I dunno. Certainly "collection of singles" albums like Rumours and Thriller had no problem selling mega-copies in the past, so I'm not sure that's the issue.

      I really think it's about people no longer having the time/inclination to consume long-form music programs. Kids aren't going to sit in front of the stereo listening to the latest release by their favorite artist for 40 minutes like we all did when we were kids. Music is something to be consumed 'on the go'. They listen to it while driving, while working, while dancing and clubbing.

      Yes, it's much like the late 50s/early 60s. And maybe there's really not anything wrong with that. As musicians and artists, it's our job to fit within the confines of the technology and desires of the audience. Mozart wrote chamber music and operas because that's how people heard music. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote songs that told stories that fit into Broadway shows. Pink Floyd wrote more expansive music that neatly fit onto two 20-minute sides. Now it's about what works on iTunes and Spotify and YouTube.

      Maybe someday a new technology will come along that will generate excitement among the public that will renew interest in longer-format listening and a new Beatles will come up with the next Sgt Pepper and revitalize the album format. Or maybe not. Maybe the album will remain a niche means of expression the way the symphony has.
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      • #5
        Agreed as to the fact that technology has fostered the 'short attention span theater of the mind' in the new millenium. It is all about immediacy, all about now, all about, well, disposability, if you will. Excellent point vis a vis the Katy Perry release...the singles far outsold the disc; by the same token, that is exactly what her music is designed to do: sell singles, because yes, the paradigm has shifted, and 'no one' [under forty] plays CDs anymore except maybe in their cars, and even then, the eject button is a finger flick away.
        _"We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminant period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

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        • #6
          They probably said the same thing when they started selling singles on record, or when the radio would only play what was on the top 40 or whatever. I think the album is too engrained in the industry to die completely. However, the art does seem to be dying as a form of connected songs, one flowing into the next like Dark Side of the Moon, especially with alternative methods of distribution like the internet, youtube, etc., and people only picking and choosing what they like.

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