Doing so, I reckoned, would enhance my enjoyment of the music and honor the artists' visions. Records weren't just a random collection of tunes, after all. The good ones hung together as a coherent whole. Every song enhanced every other song.
I pondered that long-ago decision while reading an article on listening trends by Andrew Dansby.
[Eric] Garland's research suggests that people who like five or six songs from an album will ultimately acquire the whole thing, even with legal -- and illegal -- options for digital music. Short of that, they're inclined to make a $1 purchase instead of a $10 purchase.
Weak albums are pecked apart, with the carcasses of unwanted music left behind, an option that was largely unavailable on 45 rpm vinyl.
This isn't a new idea, of course. A subsequent search for "death of the album" brought me to this Christian Science Monitor article, written in 2003, the year iTunes launched. Here's the paragraph that landed the piece in my search results:
Some bands - such as Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers - have said they won't participate in the online services because they don't want their albums sold as individual songs. It takes away creative control and could bring the death of the album format, they argue.
I can sympathize. When we put out Highways and Hiking Shoes, Ron the Drummer and I (and our producer) took the album concept very seriously. We spent a great deal of time thinking about which of our songs played well together, and where each one should go. We endeavored to create the best possible listening experience—to control it.
Does it annoy me that some listeners will download our songs as singles, bypassing our carefully planned collection? A little.
Are we opposed to letting them do it? No way.
After declaring my commitment to real albums back in high school, I discovered what everybody learns eventually: most albums suck. When I bought a record (or, later, a CD) because I liked a song, I'd be lucky if even one of the other tracks was any good.
I'd like to think our own album is better than that. We worked hard to make it better than that. But the fact is, some people are only going to want one or two tracks anyway. Now that the technology is available for them to buy only what they like, who are we to tell them they shouldn't?