Oct 12, 2006

The future of : the music album

WIRED 14.09 carries a feature and an interview with Jeff Beck about where the music album is headed.

It is clear that the future of the music album is not as a standard 13-track collection of songs. In WIRED's words, the album will become "a long shelf of songs and products, each carrying its own release date, distribution path, and price tag."

But the album exists as an entity because it was the only feasible (and profitable) way for record companies to distribute songs. Now that there are other ways and means for songs to reach their listeners, the album as we know is headed for premature retirement.

However, the term 'album' will be more die-hard. While music companies - and Jeff Beck - are re-imagining and experimenting with the various forms it can take, one should note that in the new paradigm it is the listeners who will decide what an album will be - where it begins, where it ends and what it contains.

In my view, the album will become a specialised music term for 'tags.'  Each album name will become a tag word that a listener will choose for a playlist - in most cases it will not even be the name given by the artist/music publisher. In almost all cases, the playlist will span various artists and at least a few genres. Needless to say, albums will range from a handful of songs to the hundreds or even thousands.

Music lovers will be able to share their 'albums' with others via the equivalent of online sites like del.icio.us or flickr - and make new connections or discover new music under their favourite album names.

A lot of this is already happening - I am merely suggesting it is tied to the fate of the term 'album'.
About the author:
Iqbal Mohammed is Head of Innovation & Strategy at a digital innovation agency serving the DACH and wider European markets. He is the winner of the WPP Atticus Award for Best Original Published Writing in Marketing & Communication.
You can reach him via email or Twitter.


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