Some of the recent reading assignments (Keightley and and I think Grossman too) follow the decline of single sales and the rise of LP sales in the 1960s, suggesting the trend represents the growing “seriousness” of rock fans. When I read that, I started thinking about my favorite albums, like Wyclef Jean’s “The Carnival,” Prince’s “Purple Rain,” and of course Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I was thinking about recent albums though, and aside from soundtracks, I don’t think I’ve bought an album for several months at least. I mainly get my music now as single tracks, downloaded from iTunes and Rhapsody.
I wonder what effect digital distribution is having on singles sales and the concept of the album. This past August, Billboard revamped its Hot 100 so that it includes singles purchased/downloaded from the internet and they’ve gotten some amazing statistics on single track purchases. In Billboard.com’s magazine, Geoff Mayfield writes: “SoundScan placed the number of digital tracks sold in 2005 at 352.6 million, almost triple the prior year’s volume. Track sales grew by 65%, to 582 million, in 2006. Year to date in 2007, digital song downloads stand at 462.1 million through the year’s first 29 weeks, up 48% over the same period last year” (Billboard magazine, 2007-08-04). I realize that some of these tracks were probably purchased as an album, but in my experience I usually just buy one or two tracks that I like from a certain album – which is why I love getting songs online! I don’t know what all of this means, except that marketing of and notions of albums and singles have probably changed quite a bit in the past few years.