Have music industry sales come full circle?

by Dj Double Gee


In my opinion, the music industry record sales have come full circle since the boom of recorded music in the 1950s. Record sales have gone from writing that one popular single, to creating a full length album, back to the single. This debate could go on forever, and feel free to weigh your opinion below, but let me debate my point.

When recorded music first became popular, the music album didn’t exist. One reason was the format onto which the music was being recorded to. You could only fit a 3 minute song on a record. This is one of the reasons, still to this day, that the typical song format is 3-4 minutes long. The other reason was radio. The way for an artist to become popular was through AM radio play of their singles.

Paul McCartney with the Beatles conceived the first true album that was more than just a collection of singles, with the creation of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. Sgt. Pepper’s was the first time a band created an artistic performance of songs that told a story and was sold as a whole album. It lead the way for bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Yes to  artistically express themselves by way of the album. No need to bother with singles. The album, with all it’s artwork and pictures, that you listened to from start to finish, was the big seller. This evolution also paralleled the LP (Long Play) vinyl record, then cassette, and later with the CD. Artists could sell their full albums on one piece of media. Artists like Pink Floyd with Dark Side of the Moon in 1973, AC/DC  with Back in Black in 1980, and Michael Jackson with Thriller in 1982, perfected this full album sale. Huge full length album sales of 20+ million copies continued into the 90s and 2000s. Remember Nirvana’s Nevermind in 1991, or Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill in 1995. This was when people bought albums and bought them by the millions. Yes, there were a few “one hit wonders” along the way, where we were forced to buy the album and only listen to one song, but the music album dominated the charts.

With the evolution of media over to digital, the music industry’s record sales have come full circle back to the single. You no long buy the album, put it in your CD player and listen to it start to finish. You buy the hit single, just like you did back in the 50s and 60s, and instead of adding it to your vinyl record collection, you add it to your custom digital playlist. Nowadays iTunes is largest music store and singles outsell albums 11-1.

Will the album ever gain popularity and sell like it use to in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s? In my opinion, no. Is this a good thing or bad thing?

3 Responses to Have music industry sales come full circle?

  1. dougjq says:

    I think there’s a place for albums that really are all tied together, but by and large you bring up an interesting point. As a music consumer, it’s easier for me to commit to a single than to an entire album.

    If any musicians are out there thinking they should only produce singles, though, I’d say, “create what you want to create.” If you can tell a story over the course of 40 minutes, go for it. The popularity of singles is going to make you stand out and get attention.

  2. Brian Bahia says:

    Definitely raises some interesting points, I think you made your case too, ’cause your right – album sales are nothing compared to what they used to be. But is it the generation y youth being so pre-occupied with digital technology they can’t pay attention to a full album, or is it the songwriters that haven’t been as ambitious to deliver the “concept album”?

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