One Day… Albums As Single Unbreakable Files

Fans are cherry-picking your songs. You hate it, hate it, hate it. Artists make albums, not songs. If only there were a way to make fans consume your vision as you saw fit. In Wired UK’s edition, Russell Davies poses an interesting question:

image from www.mediabistro.com "MP3s, Napster and iTunes have turned the natural unit of music consumption into the song… [they] are not completely separate entities, not isolated fragments. They’re linked by sound, by the mood and ideas of the musicians, by the time and place of the recording. They’re connected — and sometimes it makes sense for them to keep that connection… We very rarely sit and listen to a single song, unless it’s that first moment of fan devotion… How long before bands decide that they’re only going to make albums available as single unbreakable files?

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  1. Sorry, but that’s not possible. Even if you make it one file, it’s still audio. Users can take that file and dice it up into as many files as they like.
    Look at some CDs of classical music. Often one piece of form music will be divided into tracks by movement.
    You can record music however you want, but users can also choose to listen to it however they want.

  2. @cary and I see that 45 minute track is preserved in Spotify, not broken up.
    Most of our music devices aren’t made for single-track albums neither (though Spotify doesn’t do gapless playback which is annoying for albums that seamlessly mix between tracks.) The only “long form” music tracks I listen to are electronica mixes. Very much mood pieces. I don’t get the same feel from albums from Kings of Leon or Mumford or others.

  3. There’s tons of bands that do this too:
    Boris’ Feedbacker and Flood
    Sleep’s Dopesmoker
    Fantomas’ Delirium Cordia
    Between The Buried and Me’s Colors*+
    Mastodon’s Crack The Skye*+
    Russian Circle’s Enter*
    *Note: This CDs actually have selectable songs but they’re flow right into each other making it sound like a huge hour long song
    +Note: Both of these bands had tours where they played the album from beginning to end

  4. Cary beat me to it. Though the UK version was released tracked, there wasn’t much people could do about having a single-track Lovesexy for many years.
    Still, the artist with a single, unbreakable file is obviously concerned that the fans listen to their entire vision (in one sitting?).
    If actively fighting listeners’ single-song habits is what you need to do, the problem is obviously with your fan base. Or rather, the people you’re promoting your music to. A band like The Mars Volta creates sprawling albums that are a total, whole experience from start to finish. Fans dig TMV for that reason, that experience. They know what the band is going for, and don’t need to be forced into experiencing it.
    Prince made Lovesexy one track because he wanted to make sure listeners heard the whole story. Battling Spooky Electric and such. A journey. But if you didn’t feel like holding fast-forward for 5 minutes just to hear I Wish U Heaven, you wouldn’t bother listening.
    Locking out fans from hearing what they want will only make you lose listeners. Sure, I love every track on DSOTM. But some days I really DON’T want to listen to The Great Gig in the Sky. Other days, I just want to hear Money. Should we be punished for that? If DSOTM was one continuous track, and fast-forwarding was not an option, I’d be more inclined to just not listen at all.
    Burn your favorite album to disc as one track. See what happens.
    An artist releases a song or an album as a representation of their creativity. It’s up to the fans to decide how they want to listen to it.

  5. The concept of the song doesn’t date from the mp3 it dates from the early days of vinyl when all that would fit on a side was about 3:30 of music before it had to be broken up – this is a 50+ year part of the business.
    Yes, later LPs made full albums the norm and artists embraced it by making more complex works of art – CDs consolidated them but the pop-song concept was already established for the majority of the industry.
    This concept of one-file, only available as an album is not new at all and as previous comments point out dates back to before music became available as purely digital files on computers.
    Many of the music industry’s problems exist because labels and artists try to do things that the fans don’t want and force people into certain activities and habits against their nature. Instead, why not listen to and embrace what your fans want – more choices, more customization of their experience, more premium choices and ways to experience, touch and be a part of the music rather than just listen to it.
    To me, the concept of releasing one single file is tired. Artists who want to make albums that you can listen to from beginning to end as an experience should make albums that you WANT to listen to as an experience beginning to end. Let the fans make their choice on how they experience the work.

  6. bands will start selling more single-track albums when they decide they want to kiss about 95% of their sales goodbye. artist vision is one thing, but commercial suicide is a distinct possibility here. might be better to make the track-album a free download.
    but like joe pointed out, this has been done in isolated cases. it helps if you’re a band like sleep (that’s a great album, by the way) or fantomas and have fans who are flexible about these kinds of things.
    lcd soundsystem and aesop rock released 45-minute mixes (single track) for nike. crystal method, too, if i recall correctly. those are legit releases. lots of single-track, non-commercial dj mixes available online. tons. those are different from a proper album being one song, of course.

  7. This is just silly.
    Artists can release their music anyway they like.
    Also, fans can choose to buy your music or not if they decide they like what you are offering.
    If you as an artist decide that you don’t want to release music in the form that fans want… well you can, but I hope you enjoy obscurity.
    Don’t care about mass appeal? Great! Release your next album etched only onto wooden sticks! No-one is stopping you.

  8. I guess even radical deniers of downloads could be convinced to buy a download if it contains an *.iso file of the album in full CD quality (uncompressed) and printable artwork. You could always offer single tracks as mp3s, too.
    Even Microsoft distributes their Service Pack updates as *.iso files for download now. They surely know how to provide their users with proper software distribution that is easy for backing up safety copies. I think this is something the music industry could learn from the computer industry.
    Hasn’t it been iTunes who adopted the notion from Napster that every song should be a single?

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