The Album’s Place In A Streaming World
You wouldn’t know it to earwig most modern label conversations, but physical album sales alone actually accounted for 53% of 2014’s total sales/on-demand streaming cash haul. It’s therefore something of a worry to consider the shabby treatment the LP is currently being subjected to around these parts – and the recklessness with which the language and mathematics of streaming are being imposed upon it.
First we must recognise that streaming will claim the majority of music consumption in the future. But that doesn’t prevent us from asking a vital question: What do all of streaming’s measurements of success – its billions of plays, its viral playlists and its carefully-branded ‘memberships’ – actually mean in the context of traditional, unit sales-based album successes?
The truth is, we have no idea… and we probably never will.
There’s some valid food for thought in this kinda snarky piece, and the author is right to point out that physical sales remain (comparitively) strong. That’s certainly not gleaned from all the ink and fanfare given to the streaming economy. And I share the writer’s frustration with those in the music industry who try to contextualize and measure new technologies through traditional formats.
Regardless, I’m not beholden to the ‘album’ … I feel that as that concept loosens the artist has a lot more room to creatively play with how his / her music is presented to the listener. Don’t get me wrong – great albums are great. But so are are series of EPs, or ten single songs each released weekly, or any other permutation that’s possible now. How, and with what frequency, an act’s music gets released can now be part of the game, rather than just being expected to have a sixty minute set of songs ready each year or so. As a (sometimes) recording artist, I find that inspiring.