“Pick-n-mix vs. Buying It All”

Will the rise of iTunes and portable MP3 players doom the CD? Or, more specifically, the album tracklist? Some people seem to think it will. As you’ll note, you can’t purchase Radiohead’s music on iTunes- the band has made it clear that their albums are meant to be taken as a whole. There’s a rather intelligent article in the Scotsman about this. Here’s an excerpt-
As you may have heard, the pop single is doomed. Today?s teenagers would rather buy ringtones or download songs from the internet, if they?re not buying computer games, DVDs and drugs. The grown-ups, meanwhile, have given up on singles as a rip-off and buy Norah Jones albums instead.
I won?t shed a tear. Singles are a rip-off, and I?m not sure anyone over 12 cares who is at No1 any more apart from the horrible record company people who spend fortunes putting them there. I?d feel sad if albums died too, though, as a few people now seem to think they might.
This is not a new prediction. Wise old Brian Eno once mused that in the future the idea of listening to the same prerecorded sequence of music again and again would seem medieval. The future of recording, Brian thought, would be self-generating sound – music that is different every time you play it. Recent predictions about the death of the album are more prosaic, and partly the fault of the iPod. If you can download music and store hundreds of songs on one of these fancy portable MP3 players, why buy albums? Buy individual pieces of music instead and compile your own sonic landscapes.
This bothers me. Certain sets of songs work together, and lose impact if split from each other, or even from the artwork they?re packaged in. The modern nightmare that is Radiohead?s OK Computer, the greatest pop album of the late 90s, was great partly because of the tracklisting, the way songs shared themes which resonated more as you went on (it starts with a car crash, ends with a man saying “idiot, slow down”). Then there was the haunting intermission of Fitter, Happier, perfect in the middle of the album, far less powerful elsewhere, and the paranoid artwork that made you never want to get on a plane again.
Read the entire article here.