The death of the album?

Posted April 30, 2012
by Paul McGowan

Dave Paananen, our director of engineering, asked “Isn’t it obvious the need for an album or CD is rapidly becoming unnecessary?”

At first I dismissed the thought, so ingrained is the notion of an artist creating a package around a body of work, but then I realized he is right.  The medium itself has always dictated the package musicians use to wrap around their work.

There’s the famous story of Sony founder Akio Morita’s dictate to set the length of the CD to 74 minutes in order to play the entire Beethoven 9th, which probably isn’t true but a great story anyway, to 45 rpm 2-sided discs for hit releases, the LP or Long Playing record, the 78 rpm, etc.  All content packaged as an album, or set of tracks, has been dictated by the capabilities of the medium.

The concept of the album came about because of the restrictions of the physical medium it was stored on.

Another good example is multi-disc sets of CD’s or vinyl.  From the perspective of a connected library, it makes little sense to separately display all 14 discs with identical cover art of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, instead I simply compile them all together in one “album” with many tracks.

Now that we’re entering the age of the physical medium having essentially no limits, why should an artist feel restricted to produce a musical package of a specific number of tracks and time?

I think Dave’s correct in his observation: we are witnessing the death of the album/CD as a package.

More freedom for musicians, more music freedom for us.