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Is the Album Dead?

While scanning Blabbermouth last night, I came across a post about Ian Astbury of the Cult saying the album is a "dead" format.

I think he's right. 

Here's his comment, extracted from the Blabbermouth post:

"It's a dead format; we don't have the attention span for albums. The idea of going into a studio and spending a year-and-a-half creating a body of work which you put out as a body of work is pointless. By the time you put it out, it's already been leaked. … It's a year-and-a-half worth's of work down the fucking tubes. We need to put out bite-sized chunks."

Now, don't get me wrong: I love albums! I want my favorite bands - most of which have been around at least 20 years - to keep making new music. I do agree, however, that the experience is often ruined because of the Internet. People think it's fun to swipe the songs, trade them and share online and then the excitement of "album release day" is ruined for a lot of people. I don't illegally listen to albums before they are released because I don't steal music and I want to wait. Waiting is half the fun.

Remember when Guns n' Roses released the Use Your Illusion records? There was footage on MTV of people sleeping out all night to be first in the store to grab those albums. Such a thing will never happen again because it isn't necessary. It's no reason artists randomly release singles and record special tracks for games like Rock Band. Anything to stay current and productive.

I'm not a professional musician and I've never recorded an album - but I've interviewed enough artists to know that the recording process is often long and frustrating. Maybe it just isn't worth it anymore. 

Is Ian Astbury correct? Are albums dead - or not? Share your thoughts.

Reader Comments (14)

I think expecting to make a living selling your records is dead overall, because of thieves on the internet. However, I don't think the album format is especially dead. Other advances in technology mean you don't need a studio and can record an album in ways that make it very odd for it to leak. And real fans will buy albums, as they always have. If the bands I like started to release 2 track singles for $10, instead of 12 track albums for $30, I'd be pretty annoyed.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristian
Whilst Ian moans about change, other musicians have embraced it and found increased success as a result. He needs to chill out and have a pint with the guys from Radiohead.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPat
The album is not dead yet, but it is dying, and leaking on the internet has nothing to do with it. Nine Inch Nails released an album earlier this year that didn't leak, Trent gave it away for free on his website. The Internet is a great tool for releasing albums.

However, with ITunes and You Tube and Videos on Demand, the younger generation doesn't care about full albums. They only want to hear this song or that song. They don't have the patience to sit through an entire album. It's a product of today's "instant gratification" world we live in.

OK, I sound like a grumpy old man now, but it's true. Ask the kids how many albums they've listened to this week vs. how many single songs they've listened to.

Ryo Vie
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRyo Vie
I always find it a bit strange that people bemoan the loss of a distribution method, which is all an album is. It was a way for record companies to force customers to buy a whole bunch of songs instead of the one or two that they actually wanted. Not to mention that the concept of an album (12 songs, 65 minutes) is not relevant in the age of unlimited iPod & hard drive capacity.

IMO, the fact that customers just want to buy individual songs now is not a reflection our lack of patience in an online world; it's a reflection of what most music fans have wanted but have not been able to get.

I LOVE the fact that I can easily buy single songs that I like and I have absolutely no desire to buy entire albums from most bands.

There are some things that I'll miss. Like Allyson, I enjoy the anticipation of waiting for a new album from my favorite bands, and I used to like reading through the liner notes and lyrics, although I stopped that years ago. I also get nostalgic for the days of ripping the shrink wrap off an an LP and listening to it while lying on my bedroom floor, but that's probably more of a nice childhood-memory thing, and doesn't really have anything to do with the fact that it was an album.

It will take some time, but I think bands will start figuring out that an "album" can be whatever they want. If they want to record and release single songs at a time, they can. If they have a larger concept or a bunch of songs built up, they can release them as a collection.

Ultimately, it's about good music, not distribution format.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
Ryo vie is so right on the money here. Blaming the Internet for the death of the album is such a simplistic, and frankly, narrow-minded assessment that I'm surprised that an intelligent person like allyson would hold such a view. Any time a game-changing technology comes along, the industry always complains that it will kill their business: Records would stop people from attending live performances, radio would stop people from buying records, recordable cassettes would stop people from buying records, the VCR would kill the movie industry, bla bla bla bla bla.

Remember allyson, that the Internet which you demonize in your post, is the very same Internet that gives you an instant forum to communicate with all of us. further, it allows people to legitimately buy music. People still preorder plenty of albums on, (the modern day equivalent of camping out in front of a record store.) also, plenty of people use the Internet to buy albums in digital format which is what I do now. Let's face it, a CD which can only hold up to 80 minutes of music is an inefficient method of distributing music. I can go to Amazon's MP3 store, buy a bunch of digital albums, then load all of those albums onto my Mp3 player which I can then listen to in the car, or wherever I want.

If anything, the explosion of the Internet and digital music formats has made people more interested in listening to music than anything else in recent memory. The way that people listen to music is different now. Most people will shuffle their whole digital music collection instead of listening to one album after another straight through. does that mean that bands should stop producing albums? I don't think so. I say that because, if a band releases two or three songs per year instead of 10 or 12 as would appear on an album, all they're doing is giving their fans less new music to listen to, and thus, less opportunities to come up in a shuffled playlist, making it that much easier for their fans to forget about them.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBob
It might help Ian and the Cult if their last album wasnt such a turd.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
Think about a time where only artists relased singles every so often...

September 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMotleyCrue666
im a fifteen year old kid and i enjoy buying albums i like finding new songs i havent heard. usually those songs end up being my favorite ones.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercrüe düde
Now even Ian Astbury is on the "records as we knew them are dead" Is that a completely true statement? NO. Just as AC/DC who have sold MORE cds than since 2001 than they did their whole career. It comes down to how you market, who you market to, and the CONTENT of the music. You put out shit, it sells like shit. You put out good music and it will sell...just ask Journey, The Eagles, AC/DC, Taylor Swift, Toby Keith, Kid Rock and soon...KISS. GnR would have done it, IF it was marketed more than just flooding the bins full of discs. These aren't just old farts with zero computer savvy purchasing these cds either. There are still people like some of us here that want a "physical" copy, but it needs to be WORTH the purchase price. If a disc only has one or two can't wait tunes then of course iTunes, etc will be the way to go, but put a disc out with all the meat and no filler, you're gonna move some serious discs. Will it work for the average newcomer or a non established artist? Probably not, but it ain't dead, its just being treated that way....
September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Lou
Among rockers over 30 (who grew up in a time before iTunes and such) the album form will still be appreciated for a long time.
Why the hell would a band need 18 months in a studio anyway? That's just ridiculous.
September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSnoot
I think back to the days of the "concept" record..records like "Pink Floyd" The Wall..or Queensryche "Operation Mindcrime". records like that were very exciting..but I do think the climate we are in right now works against that idea, but I don't think the album is dead. I still look forward to hearing ALL THE SONGS from my favorite artists when they release new material..not just picking one or two of my I'll still be getting their new records regardless of the form it comes in
September 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGene
i disagree with ian also i think most bands if they put out a decent cd would sell more who wants to pay $20 for a shit cd with 1 or 2 good songs, put out a godd cd and the record companys should sell cds for no more than $10 plus tax they would sell tons more theres no reason why bands like tesla and dokken etc aare costind $25 or more for a cd i still buy cds but wont pay a crazy amount so both are at fault
September 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterglamrockerarchie
i think downloading and the internet for free leaking is bullshit, i wait till the album is released, cos you get the artwork, sometimes stickers, patches, posters, etc. i buy vinyl and if not available cd. if its dead, ill bring it back
April 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDevin
the thing is there is way to many fucking bands out, releasing singles and singles that sound the same. back in the day theree wasnt so many, and they did albums, i buy albums, i want to bring that concept back, there is still a lot of people that buy them, and i am there the day they come out,
May 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdj

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