So the album’s dying? Not as an art form, it isn’t
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 Kaplan believes the album has become outdated in what he calls “a post-album universe”.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?