In a moment of clarity, Billboard admits that album sales don’t tell the whole story of record label revenues. According to Billboard, “there’s more to the story. Recorded music looks better when streaming gains are taken into account.” As I’ve been arguing for a while, record labels earn revenue from a number of sources well beyond album sales. So the recent decline of albums and tracks is rather irrelevant when considering industry profits.
Album sales are down. But that really isn’t the point. Albums were the logical result of the available recording technology. At first, recorded music was limited by the “brevity dictated by the size of the shellac plate.” In other words, the length of a song was limited to the length of a side of a 78-rpm record, which for a while was about 3 minutes. The album only developed as a concept with the 33 1/3-rpm LP record, which could initially hold 22 minutes of music per side. Rather than lengthening a song, record companies began bundling 3 minute songs together in the form of an album. With digital music, it does not necessarily make sense for record labels to produce albums if they can release digital tracks. Continue reading