Where Would We Be Without Albums?
Nashville Super Pickers Live from Austin City Limits. Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon. Blues Brothers Briefcase Full of Blues. Iron Maiden The Number of the Beast. Peter Frampton Frampton Comes Alive. Eagles Hotel California.
Those are just a few of my favorite albums...and according to a Forbes Magazine article (from March 10), the chances of us--and future generations--every being able to have a "favorite" album (or even an album we hate) are dwindling.
According to the article's author, Bobby Owsinski (Forbes Media & Entertainment contributor), "the music album is dead, but not everyone's accepted it yet."
I'm not here to argue with Bobby...I guess I'm here to mourn the loss of a great form of art.
Now, I'm coming at this from purely a fan's point of view here. We always here of nightmare stories from artists on the business side, but that's not where I'm coming from here.
Bobby opens his article by stating, "To many music artists and bands, making an album has always been the epitome of their art. This group of songs was a statement to their voice and current state of mind, not to mention a reflection of their social and physical environment. It was thought to be the highest form of recorded experience the artist could offer...The trouble is, too many artists fail to recognize that the album is quickly becoming a relic of the past and even detrimental to their success."
He's right. albums were a journey. You could put on Harvest by Neil Young and get lost in the ten songs on that album that were a mixture of country rock smash hits and lonely ballads. It was an album that, as Neil himself said, allowed him to"get away from the middle of the road and head for the ditch."
And it wasn't just music. Remember turning off the lights, putting on headphones, dropping the needle on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon--which was really an "aural collage" as much as it was a "straightforward art-rock treasure." It was a 43 minute album we could disappear into, with its speaking voices, effects--and who could forget Clare Torry's vocals on The Great Gig in The Sky?!?! That voice soared as much as David Gilmour's black Strat did!
But, the Forbes article says, "we live in a singles world today. No longer does anyone consistently sit down for 40 or 50 consecutive minutes to listen to an album from front to back like they used to." Like WE used to. And still do.
Here's the financial reality. The Forbes article states that "album sales were down by another 17.7 percent to 169.15 million copies sold last year according to Nielsen Music. This includes all forms of the album including CDs, digital albums, vinyl LPs, and cassettes. Compare that to 1999, when 939.9 million CDs alone were sold, according to the RIAA."
It's sad. Well, at least it is to me. I can't imagine the music I would have missed out on if it weren't for albums. The guys in AC/DC always said that they never wrote "singles," that they only released singles to make the labels happy, and that the best music on their albums wasn't the singles that radio played. Yes, even their classic Back In Black album.
I feel sorry for the generations that won't have the sheer joy of camping out in front of a record store to be the first to buy the new album from _________________. Me? I'm quite happy to listen to artists who have made their careers releasing albums, and who stubbornly continue to do so. You can keep your happy/sad/boyfriend or girlfriend dumped me/chill/party playlists on the streaming services. I'll keep the music I've bought and paid for over the years. I'll keep my albums...if only to keep reminding myself that the best "B-side" of an album ever produced was Abbey Road by The Beatles; and understanding that Here Comes The Sun, Because, Medley (You Never Give Me Your Money, Sun King, Mean Mr Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, The End), and Her Majesty are all great because they all work together.
I guess that those of us who mourn the end of the album are just Dinosaurs, and as Hank Jr said on his 1980 album, Habits Old and New:
'Cause you see I'm a dinosaur
Should have died out a long time before
There's a whole lot of dinosaurs
So give us our hats, excuse me man, but where's the door
You can read the whole sorry truth of the situation here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobbyowsinski/2018/03/10/album-dead/#4db44afd6986