Many say that the album is dead and they have the proof. According to Nielsen SoundScan, sales of individual digital tracks led digital album sales by 16 to 1 (1.07 billion to 65 million) in 2008.
But there ares still places where the album reins supreme. Digital delivery and marketing platform Bandcamp says that their albums outsell tracks 2 to 1. 66% of paid downloads on Bandcamp are for albums, compared to only about 6% for the greater Nielsen reporting world. They postulate that a number of factors contribute to the stunning difference in album interest:
- Most Bandcamp artists are indie and attract fans more interested in complete works than the average Hannah Montana/Lady Gaga flavor of the moment consumer
- You can listen before you buy via Bandcamp. Not just 30 second samples, but rather the whole album.
- iTunes and others price most CD's at $10. Bandcamp artists have found that name your own price with a $5 minimum is a real sweet spot.
- iTunes and others encourage single track purchases with page layouts, buy buttons and featured tracks
But even on Bandcamp what constitutes an album is evolving.
"Rather than treating albums as immutable collections of tracks, many treat albums as open containers," says Bandcamp's Ethan Diamond. "Containers for song-a-day/week projects, explorations of particular musical styles, or just general works-in-progress." To encourage the trend, the site just added RSS feeds at both the artist and album level. Fans can subscribe to everything an artist produces or just one particular album, whatever that happens to represent.
And Bandcamp is not alone in realizing that the committed fans want more than single tracks. Topspin Meida empowers direct to fans sales of bundled products that include a digital or physical album alongside other goodies ranging from t-shirts to books and vinyl at a variety of price points.
Both Bandcamp and Topspin preach the gospel of artist empowerment. Forget about Soundscan and what the old school music industry says you should do. Find your fans. Engage, communicate, listen and offer quality and value at prices that make sense. Chances are they'll be willing to pay more thn $.99 cents for it.