Singles vs. Albums

Posted: January 19, 2013 in Music Industry
Tags: , , , , ,
I came across an article the other day entitled Breakthrough Trends in the Music Industry. Author Jay Frank goes on to discuss several topics with fancy charts, graphs and stats. Out of everything he discussed, what stood out the most was the power of singles: they sell more than albums themselves. How did that happen?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Music listeners now have options. It used to be that leading up to the release of an album, singles would be dropped first. Radio stations and music television would get access and that’s how you heard new music. From time to time, singles would also be available: meaning a four track CD with several versions of that one song. The idea would be to create hype for the album, have people anticipate it so that by the time the album would be for sale, fans would be rushing the music stores to get a copy. We’d rip the plastic off and immediately play it, absorb it and study it. We’d pay attention to the order of the songs which were carefully selected. We’d try and memorize every lyric, especially to songs that hit you most.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              For days, weeks and months at a time, we’d drown ourselves in it. Of course not every track was brilliant, but listening to the whole album was part of the experience of the music. It’s how we got to know a band’s sound, see where they thrived and where they fell short. It’s how you discovered songs that were never officially released as singles, but were so much more relevant to your life. At the end of the process, we could really talk about the album; we could compare it to past and then future albums; we could honestly say why you liked or didn’t like a band. One could argue that we were forced to buy the entire album, and maybe you were disappointed and felt jipped a time or two. But it was about getting to know the whole package, flaws and all.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Nowadays, singles are still released prior to the entire album but with the advances in access to music, there are so many ways to obtain only that track. There’s digital downloading (ie iTunes) which has become so popular that Billboard now has a Digital Download chart; illegal downloading, even playing a track on YouTube. Not to mention the notion that people are constantly connected: through phones, social media (ie Facebook, Twitter), even blogs. Information is at our fingertips and everything happens simultaneously (who doesn’t multitask??), that it has to have affected the length of our attention span. As a result, we can get exactly what we want exactly when we want it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If singles are earning more than albums, it means people are getting the one or two tracks they want  and forgetting about the rest of album (guaranteed they don’t even know the name of album.) It means people no longer take the time to step back, take everything in and really appreciate the work. It means musicians these days will take advantage of this trend and release mediocre albums with a couple of hit songs and it won’t make a difference. Just keep this in mind: when something is so easily attainable, it loses value quickly. Instant gratification leads to just temporary happiness, so if you’re looking for something more long term, put your phone away and listen to an entire album.
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