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.

Comments are closed. If you have something you really want to say, email and we‘ll get it added for you.