Albummed out: Why the biz still needs albums, even in the streaming age

National Album Day

Covering one music business can be pretty full-on, but increasingly these days it feels like there are two parallel industries operating under Music Week’s watchful eye.

On the one hand, we have the tracks business, dominated by hot new artists and the streaming services. On the other, the albums sector, where older acts and vinyl hold sway. 

But, while that’s been the case before – in the early ‘70s for example, when the singles chart was full of pop fluff and glam rock bangers and the albums listing was entirely populated by hairy old blokes making concept records about King Arthur that went on for 17 days – it’s now increasingly hard to draw any dots between the two.

As Music Week’s research into breaking artists in this week's print edition shows, it’s getting harder and harder to break debut albums. There are only four 2018 UK debut albums in the year-to-date Top 200, yet there’s a whole host of newcomers all over the singles chart equivalent. Some of those acts may go on to become albums artists while others, you suspect, may never release an album, at least not in the traditional ‘body of work’ sense.

Does that matter? Well, the new National Album Day, as exclusively revealed by Music Week on July 22, sounds like a great initiative, but if it’s to engage young artists and young audiences and not just preach to the converted, it’s important it doesn’t place too much emphasis just on the classics.

The likes of Spotify are supporting National Album Day, but many might ask whether streaming services do enough to support artists’ creative album vision on the other 364 days of the year?

And, given that the good times are back again, surely labels could be bold enough to let fresh talents have a go at expressing themselves over the longer format? They might just surprise us. As it is, we seem to be waiting longer and longer for some debut albums to arrive, potentially depriving us of the chance to capture new acts over longform at the most exciting point of their career. Would, for example, The Clash's debut album have been quite so thrillingly raw if someone had made them wait another year to record it while they got their monthly listener total up to scratch? 

Hopefully, National Album Day will widen the appreciation for the format to include both new acts and new fans. After all, there’s no point having two charts if only one of them has the freshest, most exciting artists on it.

* To read Music Week's full research into breaking artists, see this week's print edition of Music Week or click here. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here

 

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