Albums Still Matter

I just read an article from a 2013 issue of Variety that practically said that the album is rapidly dying. Want to make a concept album? Go ahead, but know that it’s not going to reach a large amount of people. Like the dinosaurs, the album is becoming extinct, yet artists still stick to the format. Contrary to the article that Variety published, “physical formats still account for over half of all global revenues (IFPI, 2014)” (Brown and Knox, 2016). But what exactly is an album? Most of us would think of a physical copy of music, whether it be a CD or vinyl record. But it’s much bigger than that.

In tutorial the other week, we were bouncing around ideas about the term ‘album’ and I really liked concept of it as a cultural unifier. Clichéd as it sounds it brings people together. For example, I have Childish Gambino’s 2013 album Because the Internet (which you should all take a listen to). That album alone has a multitude of websites, forums, and entire Tumblr accounts dedicated to it. By having that album, I am now submerged into the culture of the Boy and roscoe’s wetsuit. I have invested countless hours surfing the web reading about the theories and meticulous analyses of each track from BTI. By reading these articles, there’s this invisible bond between all of us avid Gambino listeners.

But if people really think that the album is dying, why do people like me get so excited when they buy a physical copy of their favorite artist(s) work? There’s something about sitting down and listening to an album straight through and digesting the lyrics, instrumentals, and concepts/ideas that the artist raises. According to a study done by North and Oishi (2006)—which focused on why young adults from Japan and the U.K. purchase CDs—found that there were five factors into buying an album:

  1. Friendship- those who “borrowed [an album] from a friend”, “listen[ed] at a friend’s house”, or “liked listening [to it] with a friend” (pg. 3054)
  1. Need to control and be involved with music- those who “liked singing along to the music” or “listening to the music whenever [they] wanted” (pg. 3055)
  1. Music industry- those who “heard it in the record shop”, “favorite artist(s) recommended it”, or they liked “the picture/design of the CD cover/booklet” (pg. 3055)
  1. Need to re-experience the music- “reminder of good times”, “heard it in a film”, or “like listening to different types of music in different situations” (pg. 3055)
  1. Interaction with (particularly visual) media-“the picture/design of the CD cover/booklet” (Pg. 3055)

I can attest to these factors. I’ve definitely mixed and mingled those factors when purchasing an album. But it may be the generation that which you grew up in, the answer to if the album is dying, may differ. Baby boomers might not see the physical album dying, as that’s what they’ve grown up with. “The idea of downloaded ‘product’…was seen to be a more detached, modernist item, having less symbolically ‘magical’ and shared elements than vinyl artifacts…”(McIntyre, 2011 pg.145). Millennias and those of Gen Z might argue that it is and that they only digitally download/stream/pirate their music.

So for my research report, I think that I am going to focus on how cyberculture has affected the way in which music is being distributed. I’m still working out the details, but I’m thinking of breaking my report into sections. Maybe first looking at the vinyl/CD and the importance of the tracklist, the mixtape/playlist relationship, and then possibly end with digital distribution and how some artists will no longer be selling physical copies of their work  *cough, cough…Kanye*

 

Kanye tweets-stop selling phsyical CDs  copy
Via Twitter

 

 

Resources:

Brown, S.C. and Knox, D., 2016. Why buy an album? The motivations behind recorded music purchases. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain26(1), p.79-86.

McIntyre, C., 2011. News from somewhere: The poetics of Baby Boomer and Generation Y music consumers in tracking a retail revolution. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services18(2), pp.141-151.

North, A.C. and Oishi, A., 2006. Music CD purchase decisions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology36(12), pp.3043-3084.

 

 

8 thoughts on “Albums Still Matter

  1. An interesting idea to cover as the new way of listening or distributing music is the way of the internet. A lot of the music I obtain I admit I get from iTunes or Spotify for the pure convenience of having it on my phone. I know CD’s can be put onto the libraries of these and accessed but the ease of access of things like iTunes radio or Spotify Premium basically give you access to any music you can think of at the touch of your screen. In saying this, the factors you’ve described in why people purchase physical copies of their favourite albums, remind me of why I used to. I listen to a lot of albums from my previous years of purchasing but haven’t purchased a singular artist’s physical CD for years! This slightly daunting article (http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2014/09/08/fans-arent-going-pay-music-anymore-thats-ok/) explains the solutions and possible new ways digital distribution addresses why people aren’t physically purchasing their music. I don’t particularly agree with some arguments, but it’s an interesting perspective on the industry as a whole and where a niche’ of followers are getting their information. In terms of the Kanye section at the end, I tend to think a lot of his actions are him trying to pioneer new trends on the music front. He jumps on the bandwagon of the “dying” cd, but I look forward to how you unpack and hopefully argue why we still need these types of music distributions. I hope that the CD makes a grand entrance like the record has done now, and to do that we need companies to continue to make them!

    Like

  2. This a great topic that I have deliberated quite a bit myself. I think it’s great that musicians are continuing to create albums as complete works of art despite the streaming services available that promote and focus on singular tracks. When music consisted of purely records, CD’s and tapes, the craft of creating an album from start to finish with the intent of it to be listened in that exact manner I feel was much more refined. It seems it is now more about creating a ‘banger’ and get those #1 spots on the charts (generalisation).
    It would be interesting to look at platforms such as Youtube and Soundcloud that upload entire albums (for free listening!) and comparing the views with the single tracks.
    Not only this but peer to peer (P2P) music sharing has made a huge difference in way we listen to music. This journal article looks at album placement on the notable charts and the impacts P2P sharing has on such statistics. http://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/mnsc.1070.0699

    Look forward to your research!

    Like

  3. Super interesting! However, I believe this relates to the same conversation surrounding books, print mail and all physical, tangible items which were “digitalised”. Books are still being published, and you’re still receiving mail in your letterbox. Sure the amount you are receiving is much less due to technological advances – however, finding the balance between these two realms is so difficult. Our CDs are no longer stored in CD Racks and our Vinyl Records are no longer being stacked horizontally on Shelves, but rather they are being stacked in a hard drive, and 90% of our Music & Big Data is being organised everywhere. It’s disassembled, there is no order, unless you meticulously arrange it that way from the beginning. And 3-4 years down the track you face the need to update your slow-AF computer (by buying a new one or updating the internal hardware). And begin collecting these laptops, desktop computers and backup portable hard-drives as if they were a library of your own. In the back of your mind, you say “I’ll use these again for sure!” – and then never do… so it continues to sit and collect dust, just as your CDs and Vinyl Records do.

    I agree though – Albums still matter, period. The bigger problem is the act of collecting/buying/storing and then never using, because you:

    1. Don’t have the time to listen to a whole Album on a Physical Medium.
    2. Don’t have the correct Audio Hi Fi System, cabling or any technical ability to stop you from listening.

    Sometimes, it is just convenient to stream and download (illegally or legally) and listen from a pair of bluetooth speakers, or through your Smartphone or any medium which is portable and allows you to listen anywhere you like…

    However, the energy and overall enlightening you get when placing a Vinyl Record on a turntable is something different. Vinyl Records claim to sound better than any other physical or digital medium, however the hipsters are in it for the class and status. Sonically, a non-remastered Beatles album will sound “technically” exactly the same, regardless if it was a Digital MP3 or a Vinyl Record. However, the big difference is Vinyl Records have this mystical power to take you from beginning to end – no skipping, no “oh I don’t like this song”, no “I’m over this song” like MP3s have been known to make us do. Ask yourself, when was the last time you ever sat down and listened to an entire album from beginning to end?

    Like

  4. Intriguing stuff, I’m always dragged into stuff about music culture because I’m obsessed with music – Dad would have 1000’s of albums on his cd cabinet, from Led Zeppelin, to Free, to Hilltop Hoods and Jack Johnson. So many, I’ve been brought up by my father treating album’s with some sentimentality, and I have to say having a hard copy of a CD which you froth is so much more satisfying than scrolling Spotify or Apple Music and picking an album. The Long Tail effect has begun to dominate the music industry, which has led to a fairly niche market in vinyl’s and CD’s. Although, everything is digitised musically in the modern world, I’m still of the belief that CD’s will never die, or something just as authentic will take over. As album’s such as “Psychic Warfare”by Clutch still have some exclusivity to them, as they’re not digitised yet.

    Like

  5. Love your ideas presented here, they are refreshingly optimistic. Before I get into my comment, I’d like to mention that I am an avid CD collector; for various reasons, including the physicality of the item, the artistic aspect (which can be beyond just the album cover, but also get into the structure of the case itself and so on so forth… I’m a graphic designer, so don’t hate me for loving nice design hahah), and the ease of use within the car. Although I still have an iPod, I’m much more likely to utilise a CD to play my songs. Anywho, that’s just a bit about me, and where I’m coming from in my comment.

    I don’t think you’ve really made it clear what an album is; are you restricting your idea to only the physical item, or does it extend into the digital realm as well, because the album as a unifier could really extend across multiple platforms, therefore although focusing on the physical album itself is a great place to start, I think thought also needs to be given to the digital album. These days you are able to access a large amount of the information that the physical album offers: iTunes downloads come with the album cover, some even send through PDF copies of the cover booklet, and furthermore, I believe Digital cover booklets which are aimed at those on a digital platform, are becoming a thing (https://wcpmuk.wordpress.com/albums-digital-booklets/). The digital realm has such a big influence that some bands are even hiring coders to create sites which showcases their musical and artistic style (http://wearebydesign.co/).

    Perhaps it would also be worth looking into the idea of fan funded albums, where bands utilise Kickstarter to raise the funds for production, then release albums for free; a model which although not used by many, is possible through the interaction with the internet. Furthermore, the idea of ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ is something which could be worth exploring. I follow a contemporary, orchestral composer called Walt Ribeiro, whose payment policy is “pay what you can” because he knows that there have been times where he couldn’t afford things in the past, and he’s now making enough money to support this model. I personally pay twice what his original asking price was (used to be about $5-10 depending on how many tracks in each album; which I thought was such a low price considering the time it takes to compose a full orchestral score).

    Personally, I think the musical aspect of the album is an artform in itself. The tracks aren’t just shoved into any random order, there is thought and deliberation about what goes where. Sometimes it is to make sure that the songs don’t sound too similar running into each other, that is to say, lots of slow songs in a row need to be broken up with some more upbeat beats. Other times, the album is deliberately organised to tell a story (http://www.nme.com/reviews/my-chemical-romance/8050).

    Like

  6. This is defiantly an interesting topic, that could explore a lot of different ideas and concepts around streaming and the music industry in general. Only last week I heard that streaming is now the biggest source of income for the music industry, sitting at around 30%. I’m guilty of streaming music and also downloading it using torrents. The one advantage with streaming is that you can search an artist that you haven’t listened to for you years and within an instant you have access to their entire catalogue. CD’s doesn’t allow you to do that. With a CD’s you are only restricted to what you own. That being said, I’m a big believer of supporting my favourite bands and in doing that I will always pay for their music, mostly in the form of a CD. There is something special about holding a CD in your hand and reading through the lyrics that you don’t get with streaming.

    Below is an article that reveals how musicians have released that streaming is where the music industry is headed (Has already arrived at) and to survive they have to adapt to this new trend. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-cm-streaming-vs-cds-notebook-20150809-column.html

    Like

  7. This is an awesome topic, i would try to argue that the album isn’t dyeing! I believe that thanks to streaming music like apple music and Spotify we can now listen to a whole album instead of just purchasing the one song that we like! Before streaming it would be a big decision for me to actually purchase a whole album. I would never listen to an artist i hadn’t heard of or only knew one song on the album, I would take less risks. But now if theres a song i find that i like I go and stream the rest of the album to properly appreciate the artwork that the artist has pieced together. Artists make albums not songs, they make a collective of works, it would be like going to see an artists photography series at a gallery and only seeing one photo. I think incorporating streaming music as part of cyberculuture and the advancement of the internet would be a cool component of your research.

    Like

  8. A friend of mine gave me an album recently to listen to. Its still in my car, I’m streaming it from my phone, because I don’t have a CD player. I listen to albums – start to finish – online. I’ve only ever bought one physical album, and I don’t know where it exists now. The discussion around Albums and CDs often revolve around the narratives we tell about them. Most of the comments include a personal connection to the CD. You’re not cliche in recognising that physical Albums “bring people together” due to our experiences with them.

    Your focus is on the value of an album as a physical device – but you should be looking at how the album translates onto digital platforms. How are users consuming music differently now and how are artists modifying an album to appeal to online audiences. How are artists replicating the album-artform online? The transition to digital music is no different to the transition to cloud computing: USBs and CDs are outdated because of the accessibility of content.

    So, my interest is why is it still economically viable to sell CDs? Is it because they are valued higher than digital content – and if so, how do we replicate the same feeling of albums to digital. To draw from your points from North and Oishi (2006), the only difference between digital and physical albums is the tangibility of the Album and how we discover music. A conceptual issue that you touched upon is how do we define an album – does it mean something other that a collection of songs? If an album was defined by its length and limit due to storage space, why do artists still form them the same way online?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s