There’s Still A Place Where Albums Outsell Singles

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 gBroken recordreater 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.

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  1. Yeah, as a user of bandcamp I can attest to its awesomeness for artists. I just started using, and I’m still in the process of uploading all the audio, but their embeddable player is great, doesn’t have the same level of branding of other companies and they have a plethora of audio options for downloads.
    Last but not least, you can check out your play stats, and then use them to play a game of “defender” based off the arcade classic 😉
    and you can check out the way the player embeds here

  2. Indeed, these days it is harder to find the real gems amongst the new music that has come out, because most music doesn’t get a lot of exposure. But the real gems eventually will stick out amongst the rubbish, it only takes longer – too long in fact to make the year-end best-of lists of the critics and blog critics.
    A great album is still a great album, even if it’s two years old. But most listeners, who unlike me, refuse to be their own A&R people, are not accustomed to the fact yet that in the current climate, great albums can go under the radar for as long as least a year or two. So the singles that the majors release basically do benefit from them being quicker to build up momentum for a single with their big budgets, which enables them to present something as “the latest” (even if it was recorded 3 years ago), whereas for indie artists, it takes time to build up momentum and gain exposure, so that when they finally score a hit single, they might already have worked the album for 3 years, beginning with its digital-only release, then regional club gigs, then placement of songs in films and advertising, then a CD self-release, and if that does well, a video and a national tour to follow.
    So the “single release complex” is still working, but the major labels have outsourced the distribution chain to the consumer. That’s a cost cutting measure that makes perfect business sense, but I as a customer would like to have the physical single back because of sound quality. And the singles market surely has benefitted from the fact that customers don’t need to buy 2 good songs for the price of 10 anymore.
    Clearly, it looks like the labels have tried making this cost-cutting measure work for albums as well, but the CD is not dead yet and won’t die because it has benefits over digital albums (which not only to this listener are an inferior product) and customers know that.
    So I’m somewhat partial to industry people proclaiming the “death of the CD release complex” because they might have an agenda that goes at the cost of the customer who is then offered inferior product, like downloads at a bitrate of 128k, DRM or DangerMouse’s blank CDs.

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