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Will digital music kill the album? And is that good?
  • A question for all you music junkies!

    Just wondered how you all listen to your music digitally? I don't mean physically (ipod etc.) I mean how do you choose and play the tracks.

    Apparently the album is dead.

    But what will that mean if we are just bombarded with random tracks or given hours worth of music in not particular order for the forseeable future? And how will it effect how we see artists?

    Some of this question is specifically aimed at people who have grown up with an ipod - the digital generation. As I'm 45 my music listening has been conditioned by the pre digital era of singles, albums and mix tapes. I always find I have to group lose non album tracks into groups (albums) of about 45-80mins. An artist I love at the moment is releasing an EP a month for a year (crazy man!). That's 48 tracks. But how do i listen to all that without it becoming background music playlist! I am already sub dividing it up into listenable groups ordered in mood.

    Playlist's are great but there is no limit on size and thats my problem. It can be 4 songs, it can be 4000 songs. Also as great as the random setting can be, the order will make a difference to the music experience and ordering 100's of songs is time consuming. Most people only have an 1/2 -1 hour max to 'really' to listen to music.

    Maybe I'm conditioned to listening to a CD or a C90 cassettes (2 vinyl albums) worth of music. It has shaped my music listening attention span. But has that now changed for anyone younger?

    Also I wondered if any of you who started your interest of music digitally. i.e. it was fine when you only had a 1000 or so tracks, but now you are older and your collection has expanded you are now finding you are having to categorize stuff. Do you listen in random manner, whatever comes up? ....or are you having to now spend hours filing artist and their music?

    If so how do you do it? An albums worth?

    I have a theory that without the album format our love of an artist will not be the same in future years. As an album defines a time in your life and period in culture and it groups the tracks in a format that fits our attention span. Single tracks don't do that in the same way. For hardcore music fans it was always about the album.

    EDIT: oh ! If people don't mind i'd love to know peoples ages..
    Post edited by tattmaylor at 2014-11-26 06:22:25
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  • you've expressed many of my own thoughts there.
    i'm a big fan of an album. i love getting swept along in a collection of songs and music that while existing separately form a whole. 
    when i first got an iPod i was really excited by having ALL my music in one place in my pocket, and i enjoyed those random moments when you put it on shuffle and you get interesting juxtapositions and little gems that have slipped your mind come back. but as you mention the time aspect is weird, it does sometimes just become noise in the background with no beginning or end. and the last couple of years i've gone back to listening to albums, i brought an iPod shuffle which is more limited to the amount of music that can be stored and makes me think more about what i want to listen to (while also allowing a bit of a mix) and i use that when i'm out walking the dog.
    i have often downloaded single tracks, and there are plenty of artists that i may love one or two tracks of but i've not engaged in any of their other music. 
    it would be sad for me if albums disappeared, i feel they give an artist the opportunity to flex creative muscles in a way that singles don't. take kate bush as an example, the hounds of love is a great collection of beautiful songs, but for me, its the ninth wave that makes it an amazing, wonderful thing that holds me captivated and keeps me going back and finding interest and intrigue after years of listening. without the album format would the ninth wave have happened?

    oh and my iTunes is just a mess, i find it so much easier to look through CD's or vinyl to find something rather than scrolling through that.
  • I chatted with Kate Boy about the subject when I interviewed them.
    (this is a quick translation back to english of that bit, so some quotes might make no sense)

    Hampus: "It's really cool for us to take a step back and see the bigger picture of multiple songs within a certain concept. Of course, many people argue that the album is dead, that there is no one listening to a whole album anymore. I don't think it's a reason not to do it. We just really feel the need to release an album, even though almost no one listens to it as a whole."

    Kate sees it as a gift for the band: "Something we like to look at as a small, personal work of art. Otherwise, it all becomes so fleeting. I'm just really oldschool when it comes to this."

    "It also helps to define your sound," Hampus notes. "Otherwise, you go from one individual song to another individual song without a checkpoint. That's why the concept of an album with specific artwork and a specific sound appeals to us so much. When it is completed you can continue to the next album with perhaps a much different sound."

    Post edited by Dreeke at 2014-11-26 07:15:49
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  • I have an iPod and never listen to it on anything but shuffle.  Trying to pick out particular tracks on it is a pain in the bottom.  Also, shuffle brings up things I haven't played for too long, and creates some weird juxtapositions.

    All of that said, the only time I listen to my iPod is when I make above ground railway journeys -- which isn't all that often.  (Trains make too much noise in tunnels for me to hear the music.)

    When I listen to music at home, which is most of my music listening, I always put on an album.  If I'm listening in the bath, for example, I play the whole album.  If I'm attending to some task, I usually play just the beginning of the album.  I might be washing the dishes, for instance, which task is completed much quicker than the usual duration of a 40+ minutes album.  Although I often stop an album before the end, I very rarely skip tracks.  Often the effect is that I listen, on CD, to what is side one of the vinyl album.  I rather wish that CDs had an easy means to play what would be side two... put a 'skip to side two' button on CD players.  That would be good, but how would the device know where side two is supposed to start?  *Sigh*

    Oh, and I don't mind your knowing my age -- it's 68.
    Post edited by Pet at 2014-11-26 09:33:26
  • I feel like vinyl records are more popular than CDs these days, and that really says something.

  • I'm a fan of Spotify at the moment, simply because I don't have time / opportunity ( or a wish) to listen to the radio and discover new music. I like that Spotify finds artists I may like based on existing preferences and I've discovered a lot of good stuff recently. I do kind of miss the old cassette days though. There was something gratifying about turning it over and playing the Second side, made you feel like you were a Real Fan!! And the nice little gatefold books in them. The fact that they snapped was not so good.
  • When I was a teenager it used to irk me senseless that my dad would never let me take a record out of its sleeve and put it on, but he would let my brother!! Used to piss me off so much. I think it was a sexist thing..or maybe he just spotted my ruddy clumsiness before I even did!
  • This does resonate in a way with the thread about vinyl. In the 'good ol days', you had to buy an artists whole album, the whole 'concept' as the artist invisaged it, usually prompted by a single release. Sometime, albums were all fab, sometimes, a complete Turkey (both quite rare occurrences). Usually, an album was 3 or 4 great tracks, 2 or 3 reasonable, a couple passable (fillers) and 1 that was just there to fill the grooves. With vinyl though, you had to have the whole package, warts and all. Then CD's came along. Same story, except skipping tracks you didn't care for was easier on a CD, especially with a remote. With IPod's, and especially digital downloads, none of that matters. We have all become good time junkies, just downloading the cream of an artists endeavours. Trouble is, the cream is rare from many artists, so people spending 79p to download a couple of tracks from a whole album is just not enough to sustain an artists career. Iggy Pop explained this very well in his recent John Peel lecture. He said that if he had to rely on the money he made from currently selling his music, he would be tending bar between sets ! This is why U2 can give their latest album away. They will make a few quid from selling it ( I bought the White vinyl album - that wasn't free) but their last gigs, the 360 degree tour, made them $450 million. That is where the money now is in music for the majority of artists, especially the big draw artists.
    I still try to buy physical CD's over downloads, or vinyl where I can. I'm an old fashioned boy and like to physically own something. With ITunes, I feel I am renting the right to listern to the music. I'm the same age as Mr Gregory by the way.
    Post edited by Urban_Tribesman at 2014-11-26 17:37:02
    The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ.
    Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit.
    Shall lure it back to cancal half a line,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
  • Some of those 'fillers' are great by the way. When Black Sabbath recorded the album Paranoid, they got to the end and the engineer said, 'we've got about 4 minutes left and we still do not have a single' (probably in a broad Brummie accent). The band returned from the pub and in 20 minutes wrote the track 'Paranoid'.
    The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ.
    Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit.
    Shall lure it back to cancal half a line,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

  • This is why U2 can give their latest album away. They will make a few quid from selling it ( I bought the White vinyl album - that wasn't free) but their last gigs, the 360 degree tour, made them $450 million.

    And don't forget Apple 'donated' a large sum of money ($100m?) to U2 to help them invade all iTunes-accounts...
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    "I think it is our job to dream"
  • Another way to make money for artists nowadays is having their songs on soundtracks for commercials, games, movies and TV-series.

    I'm an old fashioned collector of physical media as well btw.
    I mostly like to buy my stuff directly from the artist or at my local record-store.
    I'd like to think in doing so I'm supporting both the best way I can.
    I'm 43.
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    "I think it is our job to dream"
  • Urban_Tribesman said:We have all become good time junkies, just downloading the cream of an artists endeavours. 

    We haven't
    all become this.  I don't download music.  If I can't buy music on disc, I don't buy it at all.  I have a lot of music on disc (more than I have time to listen to) and am (I think) quite sparing in what I add to the collection.  It isn't a forgone conclusion that I'll buy the next Goldfrapp album.

    When it comes to new music, the goddess seems to bring to my attention the things to which I should listen.  I have faith in that process, and am content with the music that comes my way.  Some of it reaches me in what seem to me bizarre ways.

    My iPod contains material I downloaded (or is it uploaded?) from CDs.  Its contents haven't changed for years; it contains nothing I've discovered in recent times -- just old favourites.  I never connect the device to iTunes, using a charger instead.
  • Thanks for posts. Funny hearing about kids starting to buying vinyl on radio6 this morning. Makes me think the Album is actaully not dead at all.

    Dreeke: Good to hear that quote form Kate Boy. Surprised Royksopp are saying the album is dead. Ash stopped doing albums a few years ago just releasing tracks and they dropped off the radar.

    I just think, even if we only select odd tracks when downloading (in the old days i would always often omit tracks/change order when I made a tape of the album anyway), artists need to offer us a group of tracks rather than drip feeding.

    I think with Iamamiwhoami have got a bit lost woth this drip feeding of tracks. I have kind of lost interest. in getting the latest album. It's much easier to break down the goldfrap sound via the albums.

    Post edited by tattmaylor at 2014-11-27 05:47:31
  • Read a lot chat about music formats of late and I'm totally on board with Album / possession / collection thing. I personally don't have an issue with downloading as most of my listening occurs on my 1hr, each way, train journey to Liverpool Street. What I do find difficult is buying single tracks. I've bought many albums in the past on the back of one track and ended up liking others more as you digest the content. Single track downloading could be a missed opportunity. For instance (and I could be castigated and beaten to death with a theremin for saying this) I can't say I fell in love with 7th Tree or ToU on the first listen, it took time and this whole experience would have been lost had I just downloaded one track. 
    What if the Hokey Cokey is what it's all about?
  •  Albums , mmm.... I can see that they`re an anachronism in some ways , in others , they`re the slim rope holding patience, love and depth of music away from the fiery abyss of streaming . The launch of "Spotify" and "All-You-Can-Eat" music streaming services have unarguably started to make music a commodity like baked beans in their attempts at making money by ripping up the old models . I despise Spotify for this & avoid it - as much as I dislike Taylor Swifts music , her comeback at why she stopped allowing her music being available on Spotify is sound and spirited (putting other issues aside) .

     But , larger issues aside , albums on cassette were my youth , you knew the album well enough to know the fading chords of the last track on a side before the click of the end of the tape and reaching out to turn it over - no one button to skip tracks . 

     I use mp3s a lot , a 32gb usb stick sits in my cars audio player - I still play albums through it and single tracks are arranged in 12 track max. folders - that`s more of an ocd thing than it being effective as the player just goes to the next folder . I have a 30-60minute drives each day and with the tunes , it`s no chore - as long as I resist the dark side telling me to press the "mix" button , everything is alright . I tend to think of music as - the majority of fans like the singles and each fan has different favourites from the album tracks , this makes me always listen to albums in whole , in context with each other . 

     I`d guess that Royksopp are looking at the numbers , big enough that releasing EP`s is a more cost effective method than an album or brings in a greater return per pound spent . Each artist obv. has a different fanbase and a different set of logistical/geographical issues .    
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