Album Sales Aren't Declining; Art Is
An album is something not only personal from the artist, but its a personal possession to the person that has it. No-one today buys an album because they like one song. They used to, in hope that it was what a great album is; a collection of songs that connect to the person as much as the single they fell in love with. You had to buy the album to find that out before the digital age.
The problem is now, no-one thinks like this, we now associate modern albums with filler and waste. This is because artists aren’t making art, mainly as the record labels don’t believe people buy albums anymore, so counter productively for them, aren’t providing the money for artists to make them. But it’s not because of the people, it’s down to the artists and record labels. If the love and care is not put into each and every song and just the single, this is what people then associate with albums. This is made ever more apparent by the rise in sales of compilation albums:
‘The triple-whammy of iTunes, YouTube and Spotify was supposed to kill off the compilation album, but it seems its demise has been greatly exaggerated. Based on new figures from the BPI, officially released next month, compilation sales have grown significantly in the UK for the first time in a decade.’ - The Guardian
This has made the modern consumer only listen to one song by an artist because there is only one that that was ever intended to be listened to. You can now listen to each and every song from an album before you decide whether to part with £10 or so on it. Why would you buy that if you only liked 2 songs when you can buy the songs you do like individually? It’s like looking at a one hit wonder artist of the past, you still had bought their album hoping for something more, only to find out you only liked the single. What happened to those albums? They got put on the side and forgotten about, but you still had bought them. Today you can listen before you make that choice.
The truth is if the labels/artists don’t care about each and every song as much as each other, why should their consumer then care? They won’t. We have to look at the quality of the product, how that has changed and then, and only then, analyse the album sales. In reality its down to the quality and the biggest bands are still selling comparatively to before.
Would you part £10 for a collection of songs where everyone tells a story? You would, and you do. This is why ‘older artists’ are still selling albums. In reality that means the ‘great albums’ from the ‘great artists’ of the past. Those old filler albums aren’t selling now from the past. Its the greats. When people talk of album sales declining, it is shown purely as figures. The business side has forgot music is an art form and without it there is no business.
‘Sales of old albums overtake new releases for the first time in US’ - NME
The modern labels see everything about the single, the advertising deals, the endorsements. They don’t focus on the art, the meaning and the overall message. That is the artist’s duty. And there are no artists, just mimics of a false modern perspective. Instant one hit wonders where fame is more important than what they are doing. The artists today have become like the label; chasing fame and fortune. A cultural shift easily broken by any artist of virtue. Artists today need that.
If an album has 14 singles on it, meaning behind every song, each song compelling, artworks with meaning, videos with depth challenging further with the music, and the actual artists behind it driven by its very being. That’s an album you want to own. Because you want that story in your life, you want that relation, and to spend £10 to have those with you to cherish, isn’t a thing you even think about.
‘What music has done is to put its head in the sand. No wonder nobody cares.’ - FYI Music News
You have one song where that love and depth isn’t cared about, and that artist is not only a failure, but they are a fraud, as the greatest albums were not made by the artist to make money, they were made by belief, love, dedication and going against commercial influences instead the only commodity being passion. And unlike making something for commercial success, passion is the most commercial product that can ever be sold.
Those who worry about it being a commercial success have already failed to make something ironically that they would be prepared to buy. An album is beautiful because it is crafted, like a book, where every chapter is there for a reason. Now we sell sentences, at most chapters, then look at sales and wonder why the new books aren’t selling but the great books of the past still are.
Rory Nash - www.facebook.com/glumband