Downloading Threatens the Concept of The Album

By Deane Barker on December 7, 2003

Downloading squeezes the art out of the album: Fascinating theory here.

The album, music’s dominant creative framework for the past 40 years, is dying under the wheels of an accelerating revolution.

The digital age, driven by single-song downloads, threatens to eradicate the multiple-track album, whether on compact disc, cassette or old-fashioned vinyl. […] The very concept of songs integrated into a whole faces extinction.

I was just reading the Album of the Year Grammy nominees the other day, and I realized that I had no idea who made them or what songs were on them. If they hadn’t told me the name of the artist, I never could have picked it. When I hear a cool song, I no longer consider it in the context of a group of songs. It stands by itself.



  1. Actually, albums as envisioned by the artists themselves are a fairly recent development in recorded music, and I would hazard a guess that very few artists truly have the power to determine which songs go on which albums in which order.

    All that aside, I recently purchased my first full album off of iTunes (Jars of Clay: Who We Are Instead, highly recommended), so it ain’t dead yet.

  2. Well, let’s throw some blame at the concentration of media ownership in the hands of the few. I also blame the lack of choice of music stations to listen to for this; if I can find alternatives, I only hear the singles (er, the songs record execs think will sell the album).

    See also for a nice discussion of how the evidence suggests otherwise, i.e. that downloading music hasn’t hurt the concept of “album.” This appears to be especially true in terms of back-stock sales, which the record industry refuses to believe has been helped by downloading music.

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