This has been an interesting week if you are a music consumer.  Why?  Well, consider this. Arguably, artists are not selling albums the way they used to due to changes in our consumption patterns. We are now able (and have been for a while) to purchase our music by the piece (i.e., iTunes) and in fact, we don’t even have to actually acquire a physical recording anymore (i.e., CD) but rather, we can “rent” our music as in streaming. Ipod

So, perhaps in reaction to consumer habits some major artists have just released new singles ahead of the release dates of their next albums. The point is has the release of the single (and sometimes singles) become the norm instead of releasing an entire album’s worth of material?   Here are some thoughts on recent releases.

1) One Direction

On October 16 1D released Perfect and the track just placed No. 1 on the Billboard charts as well as the Twitter Top Tracks chart. However, Perfect is the fourth single released from the upcoming album along with Drag Me Down, Infinity, and, Home. In fact, the band went further and also released an EP which features alternative versions of Perfect and a remix of Drag Me Down and all this is just ahead of the group’s 5th album (Made in the A.M.) which is being released on November 13. Here’ the video for Perfect:

2) Justin Bieber

This pop star has just released his second single, entitled Sorry, ahead of his upcoming album which is also due out on November 13. Check out a dance video of Sorry here:

3) Adele

This pop crooner has just released Hello which is the lead single from her upcoming album 25 which is due out on November 20. Perhaps Adele deserves some slack because unlike 1D for example, this release might be a way to ease fans back into her music as this artist has not released a single in three years. (In fact, Hello marks Adele’s first new release since 2012’s Skyfall, from the James Bond film of the same name, which earned her the Academy Award for Best Original Song). Check out the video to outstanding song by Adele:

Here’s the point and my observation. The “singles release model” employed by 1D, Justin Bieber, and Adele appear to have three different designs in mind.

1D simply appears to be pursuing saturation marketing; basically, get as much material out as you can and get as much face time in front of your fans as you can before you repeat everything with the eventual release of the album. That’s not to put the group down mind you but arguably a number of fans of the band would have bought nearly one-half of the album via singles by the time the album is released and considering that these same consumers may also buy the album itself as well (in addition to the singles), this makes the idea behind the use of this model apparent; it’s a sales booster of epic proportion.

Bieber doesn’t appear to go as far as 1D in using the model and he appears to only be using it for maintenance; you know, staying relevant as we say. After all, if his competition is doing it then he has to participate too. The release of a third single before the album might change this conclusion.

Finally, Adele’s use of the model appears to be a different one. It appears designed to re-introduce an artist who has not released material in quite a while to her fans to soften hitting them with too much new material following the artist’s prolonged absence.

This idea of releasing material in this fashion is not a new one and and studies have shown that as early as 2011 only one out of every 14 times a consumer went to buy music it involved buying an album. Indeed, just last year, in 2014, Rolling Stone reported on some rather gloomy statistics and in fact concluded the following:

“Digital and CD sales experienced staggering drops as nearly a fifth of music buyers stopped shopping for albums at major retailers.”
“Only 257 million albums – be it CD, vinyl or digital – were sold in 2014, an 11 percent drop from 2013’s 289 million “Total Albums Sold” tally.”

Editor’s Note: The 2011 study that we are referencing above was performed by Glacial Concepts.

In light of these trends artists have to do something to sell their music. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see where we go from here in terms of consumer consumption patterns and how artists react, and release material, to them.

Ken “K Bo” Biedzynski, Editor

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