Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What Happened to the album format?" Is "The Album" dead?

I recently played keyboards and sang on some songs with some old college-era bandmates.

We had a conversation about which songs should be on the album and which wouldn't. An email thread started on the subject.

Eventually, I e-interjected with a "Guys, seriously, nobody listens to albums by unknown bands anymore."

Then we discussed releasing songs on the internet, and then releasing an album later.

I've begun to feel like albums are kind of pointless when you're a minor musician. I don't think I'd ever release an album unless I was Kanye or Radiohead.

I came up with a timeline of the history of the album. It made me realize what a short history the recorded album has had. It made me wonder if it has a future at all. I really don't know if it does, but, in any case, I thought it'd be fun to look back on the lifetime of the medium.

1950: Hey, we can get a bunch of songs at once!
1965: I liked that single... I hope the album will be as good.

1968: I love this band, you should totally check out their album.
1975: Now, even soul and funk artists concentrate on producing full albums instead of singles. Thanks, disco DJ's (who are about to dis-employ tons of musicians).
1983: Albums can be even longer and are also the same size as 45's. Long live the long-player.
1999: If I only like one song, I can download it for free!
2000: Shit, I'll download the whole album for free.
2001: I can pay for it if I want. Thanks, iTunes. Good to know you're looking out for us [muffled laughter].
2005: Now I can only download full albums as torrents, and single songs are nearly impossible to find in that form. Paying for single songs that download really quickly doesn't seem so bad anymore. Thanks, iTunes.
2006: ...or I can stream that one song on Myspace or Youtube. 
2009: I love this band. Have you checked out their Myspace page?

2010: So that Myspace band just released an album. That's crazy. That's like, what Kanye and Radiohead do.

I know, The Album, that you're only 60 years old, (ie 18 years younger than Peter O'Toole), but I hope you're not offended if I give you a Lifetime Achievement Award.


  1. hahaha, it's true. Great timeline. I still buy albums on iTunes, though, or download free mixtapes if the artist offers them.

  2. soo I'd like to know which Backstreet Boys song you liked enough to download. I owned the entire CD so obviously no judgment.

    Also, I also still download albums on itunes. But usually only from artists I've known for a while.

  3. I really hope the album isn't dead. I almost exclusively listen to whole albums at a time. I just like the format so much better. It's like book v. blogs. Sometimes I want just a little bit, but somethings I want to see the entire vision.

  4. @theTsaritsa- Thanks! And good to know your keeping it going on iTunes... the most I do is occasionally buy records that come with iTunes coupons

    @Mary - I actually just used it b/c it was the most recognizable album from that year. I'm pretty sure that in '99 I downloaded Limp Bizkit and Korn. But, if I had downloaded a song from Millenium, it definitely, would have been "I Want it That Way"- no question about it. :-)

    @Christopher - Now I'm imagining a world where books are just greatest hits compilations released by successful bloggers. Let's try not to let that happen. I also usually listen to whole albums. But I used to do it a lot more back when I owned a CD player.


I just talked about myself. Now talk about yourself.