The Album Is Dead. Long Live The Album!

Sheryl Crowe announced that she will no longer release albums. It's singles only from here on out.

It's the logical conclusion for her to reach and the culmination of a decade long disruption of the album format.

iTunes made it common to buy singles and drove all the record stores out of business. For a while artists resisted, refusing to sell their songs digitally unless you bought the whole album. That lasted five minutes.
vinyl records
The shift from albums to singles was a tremendous blow to songwriters too, who receive the same mechanical royalty on the 'hidden gems' and deep cuts on album B-sides that they get from the one or two hits per album sold.

With few exceptions, like Ryan Adams remaking of Taylor Swift's entire 1989 album, the format has not offered compelling gravitas like it did in the days of concept albums such as Dark Side of the Moon or Tommy.
The album is dead. Long live the album.

If 2008 is rembered as the point when digital music crushed physical, 2018 is becoming known as the year vinyl records proved they are back and here to stay.

Vinyl record sales have grown steadily in the last decade against all odds. Now that the CD is on it's way out and streaming has become the go-to for routine listening, vinyl has become the logical choice for people who want more.

The tangible aspect of popular music is roaring back. People of a certain age remember the delight of mulling through the racks in record stores, being enchanted by the album art, and carrying your music home. We would display the newest finds in clear view of our friends so they knew where we stood. One of my friends walked around school with The Ramones album protruding from his bookbag, not a turntable in sight.
Nuevo vinyl offers enhanced visuals: colors, embedded patterns, strobe effects, limited editions… something for every collector.

More importantly, if you're an audiophile there are no other choices that offer so much satisfaction. The overly-crisp compressed sound of CDs delivered impressive numbers on the VU meter, but always lacked the nuance of analog audio. The burn-in of a sweet spot, the dancing head of the cartridge and the sheer magic of lines and grooves claiming heritage to Thomas Edison's spinning cylinders is all new to this generation.
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Even the vulnerability of records is a kind of charm; don't scratch it, don't leave it in the sun or anywhere that your cat can reach, because you'll lose something of value. Don't take your music for granted.

Getting the best sound takes some expertise too. Make sure you have a decent turntable, that it's level, and set it on a good table. Clean the records. Learn about the stylus and counterweighting. You probably need a pre-amp and a decent set of open-back headphones. Speakers man! If you're serious about listening as a hobby you might need a second job.

I sold all my albums in 1979 for .50¢ each. Leonard Skynard, Alice Cooper, The Who, Donovan, Leonard Cohen, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac… and in recent years I've bought them all back on CD. Now my CDs sit unused in a drawer and I listen to Pandora or Amazon Music on my Sonos speakers.

The money I made from selling my youth was gone by lunchtime, and for decades I've had a hunger for the emotional connection to the music my albums used to provide. I thought it was gone forever.

As frequently happens, I was blissfully wrong.
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