Is it really a waste of time putting out albums?

The ongoing and evolving discussions with regard to recording 'albums' in todays music marketplace.

If you scour a number of video and music editorials, you will at some point come across the sincere opinion that it's a waste of time for songwriters and bands to create and publish complete 'albums' of music.

The story goes that because todays listeners get their kicks from playlists and streaming, they no longer have the need - and perhaps no longer the capacity - to sit down and negotiate an 8 to 12 track chunk of music - or an album to you and me. We are told that user data shows listeners are grazers and would much rather isolate a few songs and pop them into a playlist for later wash-rinse-repeat consumption, than dedicate some of their time digging around for past musical references.  

I get this, but I disagree on a number of levels, because this is just feeding into the narrative of digital marketing speak and promo processes - which is after all important, but only half the story.

The Feeding Frenzy

The strategy of releasing individual tracks works well if you're the type of artist who needs to put out lots of bits and pieces to keep your profile topped up and running with new content. In the world of musical fishtanks you are attracting the top feeders and will need to keep them bobbing up near the surface to feed often.

The 'bobbies' aren't necessarily a good catch for some artists though. They can be fickle consumers and, like fish, have the memory span of... a goldfish. So you need to be constantly feeding not only the fish, but also the system (fish tank) which are all those digital social outlets you exist on.

But what if you produce longer pieces of music or interconnected story pieces, where the sum of the parts makes the whole thing work? Do you want your 20 minutes of journey torn into smaller chunks of easily digested fish meal? The digitised version of many prog type music doesn't work well in chunks (check out Topographic Oceans by Yes on streams versus vinyl or CD versions for a comparison).

The Vinyl Surge

And it's a little bit of an ironic statement too when so many people are now wanting to get hold of more vinyl. You know, that thing which binds a whole set of songs to itself, without giving you the choice of breaking off bits you don't much like. Oh and also it's that medium where you can actually read the lyrics and feel the print.

I hear that vinyl sales have overtaken CD sales in 2021 - the first time for over 30 years. Is this just a retro fashion desire or something else?

My guess is that folks still like the older 'regressive' style of physical music products (although the cassette tape fashion thing drives me crazy - as a long-time tape recording user, that's just dumb). And those who have a deeper interest in music don't just buy singles. They will also buy an artist's back catalogue and tend to be album collectors and buyers.

Of course you can still digitise any of the vinyl tracks when you get them home, but why bother when you can just select a few choice digi tracks online and stream them anytime you wish?

The Quick Hit

The ugly truth is there's just simply too much music out there, and much of it is of the throwaway variety. What gets consumed avidly in the digital social feeding frenzy, quickly disappears to be excreted out the other end, where it eventually settles to the bottom. It is then to be filtered out of the waters of the search algorithms by time, further musical deposits descending from above, and a waning popularity. Music may be quickly produced and fresh but much of it has a shorter shelf life.


The bottom line: Don't let anyone tell you how best you should produce, wrap up, publish, or market your music. And if they do, pick what you feel is right for you and carry on doing what you want with your creation.

It's not a one-size-fits-all world, even though some would like to see it that way (flocks are so much easier to manage than packs and lone wolves), but this just isn't the case.

Diversify your choices my little keyboard wobblers and string pushers - diversify.