Do we not want albums anymore?
Are music fans no longer interested in listening to complete albums or do we need just make them better?
I often hear about the ‘great shame’ that technology has brought upon the way we listen to music in that very few people are interested in listening to complete albums. Have our attitudes towards music really changed, or is it just that we now have a choice?
The most common way for a teenager to listen to music 20 years ago would have been on Walkman via cassette. Problems with this format aside from the tape wearing out, getting jammed etc… was that the listener was compelled to listen to the tracks in the order that was on the cassette. You could fast forward and rewind, but initially with very little accuracy. Later on AMS (Automatic Music Search) was introduced. However, this depended on there being sufficient silence between tracks for the system to recognise a new track had begun. In the case of an album where two tracks segue, or if it was your compilation of music from different albums the technology failed. In many ways, listening to your less favourite songs was easier than faffing around with fast forward!
So when mp3 players came on the market, giving us the choice at the touch of a button as to whether we endure our less favourite songs or skip, it seems like an obvious decision.
The response from most record labels has been to ‘front load’ albums, putting the strongest songs/singles at the front. However, if the reason for this is because they are worried that people won’t listen past the first few songs, then doesn’t the choice brought by mp3 players make it easier than ever to skip to the song you like?
What’s the answer? Music has to be better than ever before! It is hard to write a good song and even harder to write a good album, one that sticks around for ages and that people will want to put on again and again, like a journey from beginning to end.
Technology is the future, it gives us the choice to watch what we want when we want – and if you’re not enjoying a programme then you’re not limited to 4 channels in a pre-determined order like the old days so you can choose. Music is the same. We are lucky, we no longer have to listen to music we don’t get any thing from. Technology has raised the bar of albums, if you want people to listen from beginning to end, I would argue that a lot of the responsibility lies with the artist regardless of if you’re signed. Perhaps the demise of people buying albums is more due to the fact that they didn’t find enough enjoyment from the albums they previously bought?!
Here are some albums new and old that I’ve been enjoying both for many years and recently:
Radiohaed – Ok Computer
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Nosaj Thing – Home
John Mayer – Continuum