Ever since digital music reared its giant, fire-breathing behemoth head, music fans have been able to cherry pick the music they listen to and create playlist upon playlist to their hearts’ content. Gone were the days of carefully recording a mixtape cassette or burning a CD for a friend. Sharing your music list is as simple as copying a web link. With the ability to make playlists came the slow decline in album sales.
Discussions on the internet inevitably boil down to anecdotes about getting sick of paying for a whole album of music when you only want a couple of the tracks, but it’s always going to be more complicated than that. Singles are cheaper, and make more money, for starters.
Some news has been doing the rounds recently talking about just how bad music sales have gotten, but the biggest piece of news is how badly album sales in the US have become:
In 2014, not a single artist’s album has gone platinum. Not one has managed to cross that million sales mark.
In fact, album sales this year are so bad, you have to look all the way down to number four on the list of best-sellers to even find something that was released in 2014. […]”
So far this year, the only album to break the 1 million mark wasn’t even an artist album… or released this year! The soundtrack to Disney’s animated hit Frozen came out last year, has continued to be a massive hit well after cinema release, and has sold 3.2 million copies since it came out. And according to Forbes (and the data), it’s only when you get to number four do you actually have an album released in 2014…
For me at least, the last artist album I really enjoyed from start to finish was Henry Saiz’s Reality Is For Those Who Are Not Strong Enough To Confront Their Dreams, and even then, there were a couple of tracks I didn’t care for. And before that, it’s been so long that I can’t even remember… But the whole point of the album has been about the artist’s vision (or hearing) being made available to the audience. You listen to their music in their chosen order, with their chosen tracklist. I’ve also personally bought more vinyl this year than the last five put together. Including the very weird LP of Aphex Twin’s latest, Syro.
But I think the reality is that the bulk of us don’t want that anymore. We want to be our own curators. We want to be our own DJs.
What was the last album you bought? Do you think they’re still relevant?