We now live in a singles world, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the recent Nielsen Music Half-Year Report. Album consumption has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, as even superstar artists aren’t seeing anything near the numbers of the past. For instance, here’s the top 10 (for the U.S.):
1 Ed Sheeran (÷ Divide) 743,000
2 Kendrick Lamar (DAMN ) 678,000
3 Bruno Mars (24k Magic) 494,000
4 Various Artists (Moana OST) 494,000
5 Drake (More Life) 343,000
6 The Chainsmokers (Memories) 255,000
7 The Weeknd (Starboy) 213,000
8 Future (Future) 119,000
9 Migos (Culture) 106,000
10 Post Malone (Stoney) 58,000
Take notice that there’s not a million seller in the bunch!
Also keep in mind that these are figures for 6 months of sales. As a comparison, the 750,000 or so that Ed Sheeran sold during this period used be be a good 2 week figure back in the album’s heyday. Migo’s Culture 106k used to be what you’d expect to sell the week after an appearance on Saturday Night Live.
The above numbers don’t lie. The album certainly shouldn’t be abandoned, especially when the works tie together to tell a story, but it also shouldn’t be something that’s the main product of today’s artist, especially one just starting out.
People now consume their music by the single song (which is what they actually did in the past, except they had to buy the album to do so, or listen on the radio), especially via streaming. That does give the modern artist the ability to roll with the tastes and feelings of his audience though. If you constantly release new music on a regular basis, you can see what’s working and what’s not, and feel the pulse of your fans.
Waiting a year or more between album releases just leads to attrition of your fan base. Most people online today have short attention spans and as a result require a constant stream of content to maintain their engagement. Plus, that’s a major way to grow your fan base as well.
Rest assured, the album is never going to go away, but it shouldn’t be the center of your musical universe either.