If there is one thing a month-long series of album review posts has taught me in the last thirty days, it’s that the demise of the album is a long way off. Despite falling sales and free streaming of tracks online, etc., most musicians and bands still seem to want to make that extended length statement with their music that an album represents, whether it’s a conceptual piece or just a collection of songs they had on hand.
Listeners may not consume music in full album form much any more, though I think even that’s a bit of an over-analysis and there are plenty of fans of individual artists and bands who do in fact listen to a full long-form release. It’s the casual listeners who now get to skip the deep cuts and such, either by buying just the single on iTunes or streaming the songs they like on Spotify, Youtube, etc…
I think mostly it’s the established artists who benefit the most from the old ‘album every two years’ schedule. The rest of the acts out there need to be more in their fans’ newsfeed than that, which could be accomplished by releasing more but shorter form product more often (see the Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ model this past year of 4 song EPs, released every few months). Imagine if your favorite local band put out a new song every week instead of one CD every 12 to 18 months…you’re more likely to talk about them, retweet and repost the song link (especially if it’s a stream or otherwise free to access one), etc… Artists could then collect those tracks every year or so onto a longform release with bells and whistles you can’t get from a streaming track or download (nice books, lyric sheets, or other souvenir type stuff for fans, or a combo pack of CD/Vinyl/download card for one price, for example).
Until such time as it completely disappears, then, I’ll continue to enjoy the longer artistic statements from musicians and bands that are still called ‘albums’ even though the physical manifestation of that image from the age of 78 rpm discs is long gone.