The Forgotten Album

Fans don’t want albums

There isn’t a lot that makes me feel old faster than when a discussion about what current fans really want comes up. Today, for instance, I was reading an article on Forbes.com by Bobby Owsinski. Today’s fans want singles, not full albums, he says.

I nearly broke into tears as I laid my forehead down on top of my copy of Mad World.(if you don’t know what that is, you need to go see their website right now, and we even have it linked here on the blog to go BUY!) Albums are what made my world go-round when I was young, and even today – I listen to full albums.

That doesn’t mean I don’t buy the occasional single. Of course I do. That’s what I have on my iPhone or in mp3. I buy singles. Songs I like by bands and people that I think are OK, but are not necessarily worthy of the full-album investment. If I get a song or three and decide I like them, I might end up buying the whole CD…or even the whole album on iTunes, but more often than not, it’s a single. However, I wiped my tears, opened my mind, and read the article.

There is a case for making albums

It is true that for the lions share, singles are king. However, as the article I read indicates, labels and artists still go for recording entire albums. In my opinion, it is not just about dollars and cents as the article tends to lean. There is this natural need to create an entire album. I suppose it’s very similar to writing in that authors don’t typically just write chapters of material and put it out there. They write complete manuscripts.  A single, in my head and likely in those of the bands and artists out there, is just that – a single chapter.  However, the article, in it’s sort of nonsensical business-sort of way suggests that the real reason behind music in an album format is that there was once money to be made in music being sold (and purchased) in bulk. Fans would buy an entire album in order to hear the two or three songs they really wanted. I do remember those days, and it is true to some extent. But I tend to lean more emotionally when it comes to music, and while yes, there were times when I would only end up listening to the front side of an album or cassette tape because the other side didn’t have what I wanted…there were also plenty of times when I would end up delightfully surprised and find myself listening to the entire album over and over again, purely because one gem of a single coaxed me to buy the whole album.

Unfortunately, my description above stopped really happening once about 2003 hit and mp3’s became the way of the world. Why pay for more than you want? Album sales began to slow, and last year album sales dropped another 11%, and not due to pirating as labels might have everyone believe, but simply because no one wants to buy them. Perhaps whole albums are the wrong way to go about recording in this world where no one wants to spend the time to listen to a full album, but I still think it’s natural to want to tell an entire story rather than condense it to a single. Maybe that’s my age talking, and the idea of that really stings.

streaming serves up singles

In today’s world, we stream. Streaming relies on singles, not full-albums. Unlike me, people listen to a single song by an artist, and move on to something else. The attention span is way short…and music streaming relies on that. New music streaming services seem to be announced on a monthly basis, not many of them really gaining traction, and I argue that many bands/artists don’t really even understand how to USE them. Sure, upload singles. They get played. Brilliant. How does that really make money then? Yes, the royalties happen – if the service is good about paying them (I hear not so much), but how does any of this really translate into anything viable for the long term?

the case of the diehards

Those who have followed us from Daily Duranie already know that Amanda and I are diehard Duranies, so the title “Diehards” is familiar. I can’t speak for all Duran fans out there, but the fact is, regardless of whether we’re talking about Duran Duran, The Beatles, Visage, The Cure, etc. etc. etc, I don’t know diehard fans that only buy a single or two from their favorites. In fact, they want the entire album…and several different versions at that. It makes no sense to only buy a single because that’s just a snippet. A chaser. We want the whole story in paperback, hardback, and even on Kindle!  This article though, says that the full-album purchase is still a bit of a struggle. Diehard fans don’t always want to buy the “what if”.  So how does that even begin to factor into a world built on singles??

Bobby Owsinski explains the downfall of most streaming services in the article.

One of the downsides of a $9.95 streaming music subscription is the fact that for all its convenience, it doesn’t provide an opportunity for that uber-fan to purchase additional products even if he wants to. 61% of the market, according to Midia Research, is willing to spend more on their favorite artist but are no longer given the opportunity because there’s just not another product to sell in the digital music economy. There’s cash left on the table that we’re walking away from.

So that’s when the idea of Music 360°, a pay-to-play service that is currently in development stages. For $1.00 a month paid directly to the artist, fans are given access to a mini-app that gives exclusive music content, a social community, and additional goodies like pictures and videos. It isn’t without licensing issues (AKA “lots of red-tape), but it’s an interesting idea, even for the old people amongst us….

missing the point of community

Overall, it doesn’t sound like a horrible idea to me, despite the paying part. The fact is, I currently pay $35.00 a year to be a member of duranduranmusic.com, which is a paid fan community and gives exclusive access to presales, interviews, message boards and other content. This idea could easily be added to the site and would serve to bridge a much needed gap between something like Facebook or even Twitter and the fan community. Even in my own experience, I have seen where the community aspect of being a fan has fallen to the way side now that social media sites have become the place to gather. There is no where “central” for a band’s fan community to be. You find private groups on Facebook, a paid-fan community here or there, but the community aspect is not encouraged – and if anyone is asking ME (which they’re not, but they should!), that’s where the money lies. Get fans involved. Create a real community for them. That cultivates loyalty. Loyalty is wealth. Wealth translates to dollars and cents. I hear bands and like like those.

 

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