Views on pop culture through my eyes

Is the Album Dead?

Remember the good old days, when you would buy an album or CD and listen to it all the way through? Now with MP3s, it is easy for you to just purchase the song or songs you want, and leave the album alone. While I like this idea, I wonder if we are losing something by doing so. Do we really know an artist from 1 or 2 hit songs? Or do you have to listen to an artist’s whole album before you really get a sense for them? And what about those artists who don’t have hit singles anymore? Many artists are feeling trapped, they are selling singles, but not albums.

Just before Flo Rida released his third album, almost two million fans purchased the first single “Club Can’t Handle Me,” helping the rapper snag yet another Top 10 hit.

But in its first week out, only 11,000 people bought the 8-song EP – “Only One Flo Part 1” – making its debut measly at No. 107 on the Billboard charts. And in nearly two years, the album has only sold 62,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Flo Rida’s experience in 2010 is being repeated again and again in today’s pop scene. He’s just one of many acts who suffer from an imbalance: They have a multitude of hits, but anemic album sales.

Years ago, a hit song was usually accompanied by a gold or platinum album, and multiple hits meant multiplatinum albums. But times have changed.

“If you used to have a big single, you would sell a million albums, and if you sell a million albums and you’re a band, you can probably not have to work for a couple years. We don’t have that luxury,” said Cobra Starship’s lead singer Gaby Saporta.

Cobra Starship had a top 10 hit with the double platinum dance jam “You Make Me Feel …,” but their latest album debuted at No. 50 and has sold a mere 33,000 units.

Ne-Yo, the Grammy-winning hitmaker who has written smashes for the likes of Beyonce and Rihanna, blames the phenomenon on a lack of personality and originality from the artists.

“I feel like a lot of people are saying that the industry is moving to just being singles driven, and that’s kind of a cop out to me. So it’s like, basically that means that we sign a bunch of disposal artists, you know, as long as we get one hit that’s good? That’s B.S.,” continued Ne-Yo. Ne-Yo added that today’s music executives should be “taking the time and spending the money that it takes to make sure that you’re building icons, not fly-by-night, add water-and-stir artists.”

Tom Corson, the COO and president of RCA Records — the label home of Pitbull and Mike Posner — says that just because an artist doesn’t sell a lot of albums doesn’t make the act a failure. He said record companies determine an album’s success by an artist’s TEA, which stands for track-equivalent-albums. “You have certain artists that sell 300,000 albums, but sell 10 million tracks. That’s the equivalent of 1.3 million albums,” he explained.

Recent albums by Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake may be hits, but not because the album’s are good. There are good songs on both Mars’ “Unorthodox jukebox”  (Locked Out of Heaven, When I Was Your Man, Treasure) and Timberlake’s ‘The 20/20 Experience” (Suit & Tie, Mirrors). Both of these artists could have done better in my opinion. Mars has shown with his live appearances that he is a force to be reckoned with. Same for Timberlake. But at the end of the day, is anyone going to care about the album tracks, when they just wanted the single anyway?Justin Timberlake The 20/20 Experience

The biggest album of the last 2 years has been Adele’s “21.” With an impressive 4 hit singles off it, it was one of those albums that harkened back to the glory days when Michael Jackson had 6 Top Ten singles off of “Bad.” Both are career artists — not just someone who has a hit single or 2. Is anyone going to care about Kesha or One Direction twenty years from now? I doubt it.

I miss having the record stores around. There was an excitement when you went to those places. Wandering around, looking at the album covers. That is something today’s youth is missing out on.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and  Rock the Kilt lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

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Comments on: "Is the Album Dead?" (2)

  1. guy.hubbard@att.net said:

    Excellent blog, Dan. Well thought out and executed. I think Ne-Yo has a point. It’s almost impossible to produce an album filled with hits. How many Michael Jacksons are there? Writing or selecting songs that feature, enhance and further one’s persona in music, likely, will produce more sales. Live performances supply more revenue today for many performers. However, not everyone can be U2, Justin, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Usher, Katy Perry or any of the others who sell millions of tickets to live performances and continue to sell recordings. Working the road to generate positive feelings toward an artist enhances album sales. It is very difficult to earn a living through record sales today. Michael, Janet, Madonna, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, etc., had an easier time of it. They all sold millions of recordings and seats at live concerts. Times were different then, before digital downloading and the ease of sharing music. People were more considerate and respectful of others’ talent and livelihood. There were always exceptions and there always will be. Before the general public began to treat artists the same as their record companies did. Fans kept artists alive. C’est la vie.

  2. Marcelo Castilho Rogedo said:

    Hello Daniel….What’s up? This “guy.hubbard” just took the words from my mouth. He said EVERYTHING! Here it is interesting…I am now a 37 year old guy….Used to buy vynil, and later, CDs….I still buy my CDs….I enjoy the idea of going to a store, to take the CD, open it, play it….I dont know if the album is dead….but I face the idea that somehow, the way music sells is different. Once, something very funny happened: about six months ago, I asked a guy at “Savassi”, a kind of fashion place here that has malls and CD stores….as I didnt show up there for a while, I asked him where could I find a CD store…His reaction? He looked at me as an ET and said “CD store?”…..I felt like I was old..seems he is from this era that people download songs…cellphones and all the stuff…..but yes…why not? Maybe, one day, if the markert really forces me to stop buying them….I will do it. But I still buy CDs and DVDs (people says that bluray didnt work a lot….didnt catch people’s attention…)…but coming back to the point….I still buy CDs and I love it. Going to give my sisters, for example, the Who’s That Girl soundtrack, next Xmas. Well, people says CDs sales are not as good as they used to be….ok…Madonna had more than 20 million Like a Virgin albums sold, GHV2 had around 7 million albums….and as far as I know….Hard Candy had around 5 million…..what can we see, taking a look at these numbers? The sales are getting smaller…but now people download songs, buy it…or I dont know , maybe unautohrised downloads…..Once I read that the recording companies are now, broken….that they dont sell as much as they used in the past…..and that what gives them $, are the world tours…..maybe, one day, if the market really forces me to stop buying CDs and start downloading…I will do it…but as for now…I still buy my CDs and DVDs, open them, play them…….maybe in the future…..

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