Music Business

Vinyl May Be Up, But The Album Is Dying

Album-sales-300x200Although vinyl has seen a slight bump, the album format overall is in a steady and rapid decline, something which artists and the music industry as a whole need to take steps to embrace, rather than continuing to create a product which is irrelevant to modern audiences.


Guest Post by Bobby Owsinski on Music 3.0

The music business was once all about the single song, transitioned to the album, and looks to be transitioning back again, as album sales sink lower and lower. While the writing may be on the wall that the concept of an album may be as outmoded as a buggy whip, artists, bands and record labels continue to hang on to the idea rather than looking at the data before them. Like it or not, the album is clearly dying.

According to Billboard quoting the Nielsen Music mid-year report, album sales have fallen by 16.9% so far this year, but even more worrisome is the fact that albums by current artists aren’t catching on, falling by more than 20%. Digital album sales and CD sales continue to fall like a rock, with only vinyl sales increasing (although the growth has slowed to 11.4% with just 6.2 million sales – hardly enough to write home about in the grand scheme of things).

The fact of the matter is that in this Music 4.0 world we now live in, is there even a reason for an artist to automatically make an album without considering some other alternatives first?

Albums are expensive and time consuming to make and, for the most part, amount to a lot of wasted effort as consumers only listen to one or two songs (the singles) anyway even if they buy the album. Most people that get their music from a streaming service will end up cherry-picking the most visible songs (again, the singles), and will never experience the rest of the album cuts anyway. Even if they do, chances are they’ll only listen to each a few times at most, and in most cases, not at all. That’s a lot of wasted effort for so little in return.

The Album In The Age Of Digital
The album concept may actually have been over for a lot longer than it seems, since the sales numbers have been propped up artificially since the beginning of the digital age. Track equivalent-albums, where 10 downloads equal one album sale, never really represented a true album of 10 songs. Most of the time one or two songs that happen to be from the latest album release were downloaded over and over again, but to label bean counters, that somehow amounted to a purchase of a real album. Move ahead in time to the present and stream-equivalent albums (or SEA, where 1,500 streams equal one album sale) presents the same dilemma.

While this might have made a convenient apples sort-of to apples data point that made a balance sheet look good, the problem is that it doesn’t reflect the reality of 80 to 90% wasted resources, since most of the songs of an album are ignored both internally by the label’s marketing department, and by potential listeners. Still artists and labels insist on making a product that’s increasingly becoming irrelevant to current audiences. [Read more on Forbes…}

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  1. Let’s just skip around the maypole of idiots and make the case for dumbing down art. Whether it’s the film business over-run with comic movies or programmers and coders scamming the music business with money losing businesses taking down the artist along with their ill conceived eternal ‘start-ups”.
    After all isn’t Spotify a start-up until they can turn a profit?
    Perhaps we can get books down to a chapter, so readers can run around taking selfies of themselves holding up their e-readers and not have to waste their time reading.

  2. The topic of this post is in the heart and the future of the music business and music distribution.

    Your post Bobby accurately describes the troubled shape of today’s music business and its difficulties in finding profitable avenues to distribute music by
    means that would benefit us all. Benefit not only listeners but the musicians, creators, artists, performers and the whole supporting chain within the

    There is indeed a serious problem with great concerns as to where are we heading to, and what could be done to revive this business.

    However, I totally disagree with your “Modern Release Strategyand your ideas over the proposed album concept “ as more of a compilation of singles, instead of the end-all event itself”.

    There are many reasons for my disagreement with you on this, and they could host a complete detailed article by itself, but my main reason for disagreement
    is this:

    In today’s reality where almost everything gets exposure over the web, you repeatedly hear this one idea or mantra that repeats over and over again and
    again: the idea that “content is king” or that you can only have an impact and make notice with “high value content”.

    How does this connect to our topic and the album concept?

    The music album as a form of art that is preferably to be played in a complete session, and a form of music distribution, has been proven in countless
    music sessions as the ultimate form of musical art and distribution. The various tracks on the album matching one with another combine into a theme that
    creates a unique experience, greater than the sum of its components. Break them apart and you lose the magic, or you practically “kill the album concept”.

    A musician and an artist, as any other individual seeking to perform at his best, can only showcase his work in a complete album, meaning a proper studio
    album with a theme, and a story to it. That’s his identity, his resume, his work, and his soul.

    And that’s high value content – not just best of.

    At the end of the long road, value makes an impact, where deals are forgotten.

    Quality overrules quantity. Can any one question that?

    “Best of” albums are collections of sparks but they never shine as the “studio album”.

    How many “Best albums” do you have in your collection opposed to your regular studio recordings?

    And how many times do you listen to “Best of” compared to studio?

    And how many times did you or anybody else enjoy a sensational session of “best of” compared to the magic that is experienced listening to studio albums?

    I don’t remember myself listening to a “Best of” album in ages, and definitely don’t remember myself listening a “Best of” from beginning to end, and
    definitely not in a “deep concentrated session”.

    And believe me, I have listened in my lifetime a hell of a lot of music.

    Not just hearing, but listening.

    I listen to studio albums.

    I barely hear “best of”’s…

    I find your title to this article: “The Album Is Dying– And Good Riddance” not just very disturbing and screaming murder, but hearing this from someone
    who has been inside the music business sounds to me as an act of treason.

    And I hope I have not shocked you as much as I have been shocked to read these ideas.

    Oh and please Bobby, my words are all in the context of the future of the music business and definitely not personal – but this is a great opportunity to
    voice our opinions.

    I fully respect your thoughts, but professionally I totally disagree with the ones you have shared here.

    Music is alive and kicking.

    Sure there are problems.

    This whole world has always been troubled, but problems have always sparked in brilliant answers, and so shall we find the way to better our music.

    But killing the album concept is not the best solution to this crisis.

    Breaking up the album concept will not do any good to anybody:

    neither to us nor to the audience, and definitely not do any good to the music business.

    Long Live the Studio Album – with some mercy to the “Best of”.

    Nissim Elias

    Founder @ EARs |

    Music Rating System©

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