There’s no doubting the fact that the Internet has had a big impact on the music industry – it’s just how much of an impact, and whether it’s a good or bad thing that’s argued. But is it the case that the Internet is responsible for the death of the album?
The record companies and some of the more educationally stilted artists will argue until they’re blue in the face that the Internet has been a terrible invention, ruining their business. While other bands, especially smaller, less well-known ones will argue that the Internet has enabled them to get a foothold on the rung of success that didn’t exist before the Web.
The Internet has certainly forced a change in business strategies and people’s music buying habits. A writer at Mashable actually hypothesizes that the Internet has killed the album for good, and welcomes the passing in to history of the long-player.
His argument centres around the idea that before the Internet gave consumers the choice to pick and choose to buy individual songs from any album they wanted, the record companies forced albums down our throats despite the majority of tracks on them being terrible. We basically bought them, and propped up the record companies huge profits, because we had no other choice.
Then along came iTunes and changed all that. We can now buy any album track we want and unless we’re music fascists wholly committed to a particular artist, and lapping up every single thing they produce, are in charge of what we listen to.
It’s very true, and I would add the emergence of mp3 players in to the mix. While Walkmans and CD players still required us to buy a full album and listen to the bad as well as the good, an mp3 player gives you the ultimate choice in leaving off any track you dislike. If you hate track four on a certain album, then just don’t transfer it. Simple.
Some artists still make brilliant albums, with the collection of songs sitting together as a whole rather than one song standing out, but the majority of artists in this day and age are likely to be capable of producing one or two brilliant songs and completing the album with filler.
Don’t expect albums to disappear any time soon, as they are still the basis for most recording contracts. But given time, and the capacity of the record companies to catch up with the emergence of the new technology, albums will die a peaceful death to be born again in the form of downloadable bite size chunks.