Let’s face it; music just isn’t the same as it was 20, 30, even just 10 years ago. Thanks to the digital age (err… mp3s and such, not the band), not only can we carry our music collection around in our pockets (which previously would have not only looked ridiculous — be it CDs, vinyl, tapes, 8-tracks, etc — but it’s actually physically impossible), but we can easily go to any digital retailer (like iTunes or AmazonMP3) and literally shop for songs like you would hunt-and-peck for eats at a buffet.
“I’ll take a song or two from Skillet, maybe a single from RED, how about most of the songs off this Lecrae record, and this new Switchfoot single.”
To do that before, you… would have had to buy each album entirely.
I remember buying a CD–which shall remain anonymous–years ago because of a music video I saw for a song off that album. It was a weird video but the song was quite catchy. The rest of the album though? Nothing like that single! The rest of the album was quite bizarre and eccentric (kind of like the music video itself was, but not the song in the video). In today’s music world, I could have just purchased that song alone and thus saved myself money to buy other songs or a full album from another artist.
But let me ask you this — How many times have you purchased a full album — be it a CD, vinyl or mp3s — because of one song and you discover “Oh my goodness! I love the whole album!!” IMAGINE if you had only bought that one song by itself and never heard those other songs?
So with people buying songs a la carte a lot these days, the music industry has had to rethink the album model. Labels want artists who can fill an album full of singles. This alone raises another question though – how many times have one of your favorite songs been one of those kinds of songs that would NEVER be played on radio as a single? Kind of scary, huh? That’d be like Jars of Clay’s self-titled debut album not having a song like “Worlds Apart” on it. You can assume that pretty much your favorite ballad (or really hard song…or lyrically deep song) on any given album from a band who otherwise gets airplay would not exist.
And so, many bands and labels are looking at releasing more singles and EPs. EPs are those little 4-song (or sometimes a few songs more) samplers that, at one time, would usually accompany a full-length album. However, they’ve kind of just become appetizers and cheap ways to release less music it seems. [Some argue that it’s less music but released more often, but it seems most artists don’t adhere to that idea. I once heard, many years ago now, a record company employee say that EPs were the future; that labels would release an EP from an artist and then fans would get EPs every 6 months from that artist… Thankfully, that hasn’t exactly become the norm.]
Gone seem to be the days when a band crafts an honest-to-goodness ALBUM. An album where every song works together in a seemingly common goal or theme. Instead, we have more EPs that just feel like short little bursts of new goodness that kind of tease you and leave you hanging and seldom feel complete.
So what are YOUR thoughts? Are you an “album” buyer? Do you like and prefer EP’s? Or do you like your songs more a la carte? (i.e. You just pick and choose your favorite songs from album to album) Me? I do prefer a good, solid album… But what about you?
— John DiBiase