Can serialization save the album format?
The Wall Street Journal is worried about the death of the album format, and has proposed releasing songs serially as a possible solution. The idea of serialization, first proposed in a blog post by Internet millionaire Mark Cuban, was picked up by Jason Frye of The Wall Street Journal, who sees releasing songs over a period of time as extending the life of the album format a little bit longer:
“Dispensing with the album as a consumer item doesn’t necessarily mean tossing it aside as an art form. Do today’s readers think less of Charles Dickens’ novels because they first appeared as serials? Radiohead is an album-oriented band, but wouldn’t its recent experiment with In Rainbows have generated as much or even more buzz if the songs had appeared over time? Would fans of Sgt. Pepper’s, The Wall or American Idiot think less of those albums if the first journey through their component songs had taken weeks or months?”
Serialization is an interesting idea, but worries about the demise of the album may be slightly premature. There are of course fewer people buying an entire album by artists such Rihanna or Soulja Boy, but even if there wasn’t an option to buy a single track from these recordings listeners would be constantly hitting the rewind button. The added sales of individual songs might actually even out, as many more listeners are willing to plunk down a dollar for the new ear worm instead of the ten dollars required to purchase the whole album. Even though this is happening in one aspect of the recording industry, there are still plenty of artists making whole albums worthy of purchase. Despite the iTunes popularity index, it’s hard to believe that fans of bands like Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and the Drive By Truckers are happy buying only the singles from the albums.