Originally Posted by zoetmb
While I agree that most music today (especially from the major labels) is crap, the fact is that the industry (and this includes small independent labels as well) cannot exist solely on single-track sales. Singles worked well in the pre-Beatles 60s when artists went into the studio and recorded two songs in a few hours and released the single in the next week or two. Today, artists fool around for a year, recording and mixing in six different studios with different producers, etc. It's simply not economically feasible and the industry will not survive. Furthermore, music genres have fragmented to such an extent that even popular artists don't sell that many units anymore. That's why labels want to manage and share the artist's concert and merchandising revenue --because there's still money there.
You can talk all you want about how you hate the big labels and how they rip off artists or that CD prices are too high (they're actually less expensive, including inflation, than albums were in the 1960s), but the recording industry really won't survive at all. Between 2007 and 2008, the U.S. industry dropped from $10.37 billion in sales to $8.48 billion (at list prices). In 1999, it was $14.585 billion. At the rate of current decline, there would essentially be no industry left by 2013 (although I suppose if the big labels disappeared, it would provide opportunities for others to take its place). Sales of online tracks are simply not making up for the loss of album sales.
In the late 60s and 70s, when free-form and progressive rock radio came of age, singles were considered the province of 12-year-old girls and albums were considered to be for people who considered the music seriously, much as it had always been for classical, show music and jazz. (Soul labels like Stax and Motown were exceptions - singles were still the main artistic expression until Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson started releasing concept albums.)
Also, for a culture that is obsessed with trivia and the lives of artists, it has always surprised me that album notes have become considered unimportant. I used to obsess over those notes to identify the studio musicians and writers. I think it's only a positive thing that there's more of a step in this direction. Maybe music will get better when we care less about who artists are dating and their behavior in public and more about who they're recording with.
Musician Al Kooper (early electric Dylan sessions, Blues Project; Blood, Sweat & Tears, Lyrnd Skynrd producer, Rekooperators, etc.) recently put up 50 tracks of his old solo material on iTunes and wanted to include an extensive booklet. He claims Apple wouldn't let him, although I see a booklet is available, so maybe Apple wouldn't let him do the extensive booklet that he originally wanted or perhaps they finally relented. However - you only get the booklet if you buy the "album". I think that's a marketing mistake - it seems to me that if you buy a single and get the booklet, it might generate tremendous interest in buying a lot more tracks.
Of course, reading liner notes won't work on small iPod screens or if you're "doing something else" while listening - I mainly listen while bike riding. But if one can read eBooks on an iPhone or iPod Touch (as many are proposing), they can read liner notes as well.
As for my own buying habits, I still tend to buy CDs. If the artist can't put out an album with a lot of good tracks, I'm generally not interested in that artist anyway. The CD gives me a physical backup, high quality uncompressed audio and the booklet, although I will admit to not being thrilled with all the physical space it takes up). And I've always been a sucker for well-produced boxed sets, especially when Rhino was in its heyday (now it's just a house label), although it's been a long time since I've found anything worth buying.
But I guess I'm a bit old fashioned: I still have 700 vinyl LPs sitting in my living room.
As for the tablet, there's a publishing industry report that Apple has had discussions with publishers about it. My guess is a 10" screen. Movies should certainly look great compared to an iPhone, but why should it be any better than watching on a Mac?