Is the album dead?

How we listen to music has changed. I used to love going into town, browsing through the cd’s in HMV, Our Price and Virgin Megastore. Most of the time I didn’t even know what I wanted to buy. I had a tenner in my pocket and it was going to get spent. 

This was the mid nineties, I had recently got into music and my trips to town would also end up taking in the musical instrument shops that were about, Tower Music and Sound Centre. I could, and did, spend hours in these places. It was a big part of my musical education. Just talking to the guys in the shops would give food for thought and I still call on Alan, ex proprietor of Tower Music when I need a little advice. I also have a new drum guru. I have to drive to Manchester, but again, just like being in my mid to late teens, I can spend a few hours down at Drum One, talking to Sam about all things drums and music. The internet just can’t replace being face to face with someone willing and able to impart some knowledge and listen to you in return. Although the internet has taken away a lot of the smaller retailers I would urge anyone who plays an instrument to find a good shop and visit it frequently, even if you’re not buying. You also tend to get the best deals when you get to know people. 

Its not just the fate of musical instrument shops that has been affected by the internet, the way we consume music has completely changed, up to 10 years ago I was still regularly buying CD’s, even after iTunes offered a convenient way to download music without leaving the house I still preferred to go and buy cd’s from the shop but the options of where to go were becoming limited. HMV has struggled and many other retailers have fallen by the wayside. And its only going to get more difficult for them. We are in a new age of consuming music and I have to say, as a music fan, I’m not particularly mourning the past. I have a Spotify subscription, for £10 a month (I could get it for free but I’d rather not have adverts interrupting my listening experience) I can listen to just about any music I dare to think of. Its an absolute bargain. I used to spend at least £10 a week on 1 CD - 2 if there was a sale on - but now for £2.50 a week I have the entire contents of HMV plus a million (major understatement - best go with a squillion) other pieces of music, and I carry it round in my pocket all day every day. 

Even though its easy just to pick an artists best songs on Spotify or even just listen to a curated playlist, I am still a fan of listening to a whole album. I don’t know why, probably because that’s what I’ve done my whole life. I went out and bought albums, very rarely singles, and listened to the entire thing. For better or worse. There are so many albums that haven’t had much of a listen, mostly because they are a couple of hit singles padded out with 10 songs of absolute crap. There are a good number of exceptions, but there are a hell of a lot of really bad albums out there with a couple of great songs on them. 

With the new way of getting music out there, via streaming services, YouTube, Facebook and the like, it seems like releasing music this way is dead and buried. Musicians can no longer afford to pad out a 10 or 12 song album with sub standard material. If using Spotify as a discovery tool, having a poor album track pop up as your first song to listen to could put you off the artist for life. We’re living in a time where we don’t take the time to sift through even a few minutes of trash to get to the gold. We want good music and we want it now. 

How do you feel about the new ways of listening to music? Do you use a streaming service? I am quite happy to move with the times on this one. Its a new age and I hope, if albums are to continue being released then they are thought through better and will be “all killer - no filler”. Either way, I hope you keep listening to and enjoying the music you love.

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