Death of the album

How music entered the digital age

By Ken Narita, Staff writer

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Image from Pixabay.com

Everyone throughout the existence of mankind has enjoyed music. It has also has taken many forms since its early beginnings. From the Neanderthal banging on drum to Beethoven’s “Symphony No.5,” music has undergone a great deal of change. While preference in music may differ from person to person the way it is consumed stays fairly uniform.

When MP3s first came out MP3 players such as the iPod were used to store files. In 2007 the iPhone took the world by storm and soon smartphones became the way to consume music. This made music more readily accessible. The only requirement to buy a new song was 99 cents and a Wi-Fi connection. No longer were consumers forced to purchase an entire album from an artist for the one or two songs desired from it.

The culture of music consumption has never been the same since then.

According to statistics provided by Nielsen, Music CD album sales amounted over $700 million in 2000. By 2016 this figure has decreased to little more than $100 million. Digital albums sales were at $5.5 million in 2005 and in 2016 at $82 million. Meanwhile digital singles rose from around $140 million in 2004 to over 1 billion dollars between 2008 to 2014.

What do these statistics mean?

It is clear that albums are on the way out. Why would anyone buy a whole album for $15 when a single song can be purchased for 99 cents? Why waste time listening to songs purely out of the sense of responsibility rather than enjoy only the songs wanted in the first place?

While the digital age has been positive in many ways when it comes to music the loss of the album has been one of the major downfalls.

Albums have been an avenue to convey deeper messages than what is possible in a single song. Artists like Kendrick Lamar and The Notorious B.I.G. have used albums to tell whole stories. Each song acting like one scene in a movie, all coming together to make up a single narrative. When one scene is taken out of the whole it can still be enjoyed but lacks the depth it deserves.

Other times albums are compiled in such a way that each song compliments the next. Albums are meant to sound like a carefully constructed playlist, not an iPod on shuffle. Song placement is hardly ever a random act; time goes into where each and every song fits best.

In a lot of cases artists try to capture a particular feeling in an album. Kanye West is a prime example. Each one of his albums have a unique sound and influence to them, yet all of his albums differ from one another.

When only one or two songs are consumed from an entire album. The artist’s intentions with that project become muddled. With digital downloads music fans lost much of their understanding and appreciation for music. Technology may have found a way to save albums from becoming irrelevant.

Streaming services have boomed since first introduced around 2010. The best part of being subscribed to a streaming service is the limitless songs available with a standard monthly payment. It is just as convenient to save a whole album for later as it is saving a single song in a library. The purpose of an album still remains, but it is up to the consumers whether or not it will stay relevant.