Salon has an article about the new era of music brought on by single song sales:
How many times have you bought a band’s album for an overplayed song, only to discover that the more gratifying tunes are the ones you’ve never heard before? But now that iTunes and other online music vendors have finally arrived, don’t expect to experience that same epiphany in the future. iTunes is helping to usher in an era where songs are sold individually, thus putting an end to what I call “bundled innovations.”
I think it’s too early to predict exactly how the music industry will be shaped by online sales. It’s true that you’re no longer forced to buy an entire album to get the song you know you enjoy. However, part of what goes along with the online services is the ability to sample a great variety of music. Maybe an artist has had 4 albums with 10 songs each when you first encounter them. You can listen through all 40 of their songs. Some of those songs will hit you, some won’t. Maybe you’ll buy 10 of those songs in total.
In the scenario that Sahar Akhtar paints at the beginning of the Salon article, he bought that one Tool album and discovered some gems outside of what is played on the radio. In the scenario I describe above, you can buy 10 songs spread out over an artist’s catalog. Maybe one Tool album was all Sahar would buy, thus missing out on all of the other songs Tool has made.
The new music business is just starting to form, and there are still a huge number of possibilities in front of us.
Mea culpa: Sahar Akhtar added a comment to this entry and politely pointed out that she is, in fact, not a “he”. Sorry about that!