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Monday, March 26, 2007

Apple and the Death of the Album

posted by on March 26 at 13:11 PM

There’s this great story in the business section of today’s New York Times about how Apple and its iTunes store has changed the way people buy music, and the new ways music company’s are trying to deal with it. Namely by signing new acts to deals where they only produce “singles.”

Labels have signed new performers to singles deals before, typically to release what they viewed as ephemeral or novelty hits. Now, executives at Universal say, such arrangements will become more common for even quality acts because the single itself is the end product.

Ron Shapiro, an artist manager and former president of Atlantic Records, asked, “What are the Las Vegas odds of constantly having a ‘Bad Day?’ ” — referring to a tune by the singer Daniel Powter that sold more than two million copies after it was used on “American Idol.”

Is the cherry-picking of the consumer-at-large on iTunes really going to destroy “albums” as we’ve come to know them?

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heres the thing: the concept of the "album" as an encompassing work of art is only 40 years old. prior to rock bands composing 50 minutes worth of music--enough to fill an LP--the music industry was all about cranking out singles. theres nothing wrong w a single-dominated marketplace and the LP will never go out of style for more artistic-minded bands.

Posted by jz | March 26, 2007 1:53 PM

Real albums meant to be listened to from beginning-to-end started with some of Sinatra's "concept" albums and soundtracks to musicals. As far as rock, until Zappa released "Freak Out", about the same time that the Beatles released the UK version of Rubber Soul, LPs were just a collection of singles with some filler.

I do like the convenience of being able to buy a single song from an album that would be a waste of money, but there are some albums that must be listened to from start to finish.

Posted by elswinger | March 26, 2007 2:30 PM

I agree that buying a single song is nice for those guilty pleasure instances when you can't justify purchasing an entire album, but I think the single-buying craze is further evidence that fewer and fewer things can hold our attention for more than 4 minutes.

Posted by jamballs | March 26, 2007 3:03 PM

just to chime back in....

i remember when singles were being phased out a few years ago, nobody was releasing actual "singles" anymore, in a bid to get the tech savvy kids to "buy more albums", that backfired. so i'm quite pleased at the thought of my purchasing a single song on iTunes as being thought of as buying a "single".

(though i do love the feel of a good old fashioned 45!)

Posted by terry miller | March 26, 2007 4:12 PM


i think the point the article was making is that the big record companies are no longer interested in letting bands make "albums" when people still cherry pick their favorite songs off iTuens from them. many bands in the future will not even get the chance to make an "album". no matter how artistic-minded they are.

case in point - those girls in the article (although something tells me i probably wouldn't be buying any of their stuff anyway).

I don't know why i'm using this as an example (probably because of all the writing of late on them, but...) but i could have used less of the previous modest mouse album, and been just fine with about 4 of the tracks from it total, instead of the whole cd.

so i see where they're coming from, but i would be sad to see the album go.

Posted by terry miller | March 26, 2007 4:47 PM

Except for "concept" albums like Genesis "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" and The Afghan Whigs "Gentlemen" the only albums I seem to listen to all the way through are live shows.

Posted by elswinger | March 27, 2007 1:12 PM

There's just something so nice about the construction of an album, the packaging, the sequencing, etc.; it's like the band actually CARES about what they're releasing rather than the money. And I like to think that sometimes, music isn't about the money. It's about the art.

Posted by Jeff | March 28, 2007 1:45 PM

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