Tinie Tempah and George Ergatoudis, the head of music at Radio 1 have declared the album is dead. No more hefty slabs of coherent artistry for them, not in this modern age of track streaming and curated playlists.
Are they right though? Are we really hearing the swan song of the LP, as it shuffles off to take it's place next to the 8-Track in the charity shops of the future?
No, they're not. Sort of.
Tinie Tempah lives in a world apart from that which we at Echoes & Dust inhabit. In pop, the album was always a side note to the main event of the number one single. Albums were nothing more than collections of singles with a few added extras to convince people to buy them, despite already owning 90% of the content on 7".
As rock grew and developed, the album became something else. Artists used it as a coherent, flowing canvas with which to tell a story, or a collection of stories based on a theme. Singles would be released separately from the album, largely as a promotional tool for the LP. The methods by which we buy the albums may have changed, but for most of is, the fact that it's albums we *do* buy, has not.
Album sales are down, there’s no denying that. People aren’t buying them the way they used to, but that doesn’t mean they’re not consuming them in the same way. Spotify isn’t just for kids, looking to get their hit of One Direction, mature listeners are latching on to the ease of streaming. As we all start to get unlimited data on our mobiles, so signing up to Spotify’s unlimited service becomes a great idea. Suddenly, we have thousands of albums in our pockets. Whatever the merits of Spotify, whether you think they’re exploiting the very artists that bring them users, you can’t say that people aren’t using it to consume music. They’re just renting the album instead.
This week marked the first time that streams were counted towards the UK Top 40. Ed Sheeran found every track from his new album in the top 100, thanks to the users of Spotify and their easy access to his entirely inoffensive melodies. To these users, an album is just a way to hear more from their favourite artists. They don't care what order the songs are in, only that the songs are there for them.
To them, the album is dead. The playlist reigns.
One of my favourite albums of last year was 65daysofstatic's Wild Light. Even now, a year after its release, I listen to it from start to finish, soaking up every note, anticipating the start of every track as the previous draws to a close. To hear Wild Light out of sequence would be sacrilege, like watching the season finale of the Sopranos before going back to the beginning. The album is in the order that the artist intended, it isn't my job to alter that.
To me, and as you're reading this, you, the album isn't dead, and won’t be for some time.