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The Death Of The Record Album

Gone But Not forgotten

Gone But Not forgotten

The album feels like a dead issue. 5 Seconds OF Summer failing to release an album last week (the EP is in at # 2) seems like a pulling away from a major musical currency. 5S are managed by Modest Management m, they guys behind everyone from One Direction to Little Mix to Olly Murs, and the decision not to herald their coming of age with a major album release from 5S , even if one is forthcoming later, seems like admitting that the album is dead.

I am not discussing art form here, obviously the 80 minute CD changed the album back in the 1980s. Not only was the two sided album dead, but the sheer 80 minutes of space forced musicians to make overlong albums and weakened the structure. Psychologically, 15 minutes of music, get up, take a break, flip the side, another fifteen minutes of music is perfect for the popular recorded long player.

The CD killed the great album but it didn’t kill the album as such. It demanded too much product, it was too tempting to fill the entire 80 minutes while as even a double like Exile On Main Street barely reached an hour in length. Plus, the old adage remained, doubles that would have made great single LPs were the order of the day.

But the beginning of the end of the album was ITunes. Though not OVER over, people tended to buy songs off albums instead of the albums themselves, for the most part, except for fanatics. Listeners would test run a couple of tracks and then decide whether to buy the album or not.

Still it was streaming that killed off the album. The “all you can eat” has lead directly to “sampling”. If you were at a buffet, what you would do is try a little of everything instead of one large portion. You’d play with your palette.

That’s what has happened to albums. With 20-30 albums a week available to you with a click, you tend to sample each album and then move on. The perfect example is the change between Katy Perry’s last two albums, Teenage Dream and Prism, both of them are single ridden, but TD functioned as an album and Prism isn’t and the proof is “Dark Horse” hasn’t pushed Prism back to the top of the charts.

I’ve been noting about the astoundingly short shelf life an album has on Billboard all year, rare is the album that lasts more than a couple of weeks on the top ten. In contradistinction, once a single hits the charts it remains for weeks on end.

In the real world, what everyone from 1D to Marshall Crenshaw has discovered is that they can sell more by breaking up the album into shorted more frequent releases. The single song or four song EP, with a quarterly presence, is a more effective way to sell product.

That being the case, why wait till you’ve recorded an album to release some songs? And that also being the case how can you maintain a concept over an entire album, when there isn’t really an album to speak of?

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