So the al­bum’s dy­ing? Not as an art form, it isn’t

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

It’s the meme that re­fuses to go away. Ev­ery so of­ten, a mu­sic busi­ness pun­dit sticks his or her head above the para­pet and de­clares that the death of the al­bum is nigh.

This time, it’s for­mer Warner Mu­sic Group tech leader Ethan Ka­plan who is pre­dict­ing the death of the for­mat.

Writ­ing on Hype­bot about REM (Ka­plan runs the band’s fan­site, Mur­murs), Ka­plan pre­dicted that their new al­bum Col­lapse Into Now would be “the last ‘Al­bum’ they will re­lease” and that “2011 is the last year of the Al­bum (cap­i­tal A).” Ka­plan be­lieves the al­bum has be­come out­dated in what he calls “a post-al­bum uni­verse”.

“Some bands might choose to keep the al­bum as an atomic en­tity (ie Ra­dio­head), but to me it al­most seems anachro­nis­tic. My view is that bands need to take the con­cept of an al­bum and move to­ward the con­cept of a Re­lease, in the soft­ware sense.”

Of course, there are oth­ers who will re­fute this. Speak­ing dur­ing a panel at SXSW, Si­mon Wheeler from the Beg­gars Group (the en­tity be­hind XL, Mata­dor, 4AD and Rough Trade), said that 60 per cent of the group’s dig­i­tal in­come comes from dig­i­tal al­bums. He also pointed out that it was

much harder to get at­ten­tion for a track than for an al­bum.

Then there are the artists them­selves. Bands still talk in terms of al­bums. It’s still the goal of ev­ery new­bie act start­ing out in a garage to record and re­lease an al­bum.

It may be “anachro­nis­tic” to many in the in­dus­try look­ing at rev­enue pro­jec­tions and bot­tom lines, but it’s what the artists who cre­ate the mu­sic in the first place want to do.

And maybe we need a re­minder that mu­sic is still as much about art as it is about com­merce.

Heads up: could REM’s cur­rent al­bum, Col­lapse Into Now, be their last?

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