The truth is, most music consumers have never preferred the album. Let's go back to the music biz's golden era, in terms of revenue: the '90s. For every music fan who owned 100, 250, 500, 1000 or more CDs then--or if you want to go back to the pre-CD era, vinyl albums--we would venture there were thousands of music consumers who owned less than 10, 15 albums; 25 tops. We don't have the numbers but we have a hunch people who used to buy music on a regular basis still do, if on a much lower scale. It's the casual 10-15 album buying music consumer that the industry has lost.
Speaking of the '90s, you guys know how much we love that era 'round here, but from a music biz standpoint, two of that decade's trends we singularly detested were:
- The more than 12 track album (17 tracks, really? Is it a concept album? No? Are the songs included mostly in the two-minute range? No? Then WTF?!);
- The filler-laden album whose singles were purposely not released to retail, in an effort to sell the equally crappy artist's album. (Smashmouth, anyone?)
But we still believe in the album format and found it to be a wonderful development when it was transformed from a simple, half-assed compilation of current singles and b-sides, to an actual statement and/or moment in time for the artist. Maybe we're just grouchy old farts, but we don't feel it bodes well for music if artists return to thinking in terms of individual songs and not albums. Then again, we're probably already there.
Personally, we only buy individual songs by artists whose catalog we otherwise don't care about. Or if we need a tune for a last-minute DJing gig. If neither of these apply, we're getting the album, with one catch: before digital downloading even existed our main criteria for purchasing an album was liking at least 3 of its songs. Even in these days of readily available single downloads we still try to adhere to that basic premise, so we're obviously 33s and not 45s. How 'bout you?