Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is the Album on the Way Out?

Albums aim to contain three hit singles. The rest of the album is usually filler songs whose purpose is to attempt to justify a hefty album price. With the rise of iTunes and similar digital distributors, people are buying fewer albums and more single songs. That behavior is completely rational: why pay $13 for three songs you enjoy plus filler music when you can buy your favorite songs individually for about $1 each. By empowering the consumer with the ability to purchase single songs (and not just the ones the music labels selected to be put on a "single" CD), and allowing consumers to preview songs before they purchase, the concept of the album might fade away. This would be exacerbated if storefront distributors like Wal-Mart stop selling CDs and instead have Kiosks that allow you to basically browse music and burn a CD (or even plug in your MP3 player and download the files).

If consumers have the choice to stop buying filler music, and exercise that choice, it should follow that the economic incentive for recording labels to force artists to record filler songs will be considerably lower. At the very least, the number of filler songs recorded should diminish. Time will tell.

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