Music in the Year Ahead ; from Coldplay to Outkast, the Music Industry Is Anticipating a Year of Major Releases

By Stephen Humphries writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 14, 2005 | Go to article overview

Music in the Year Ahead ; from Coldplay to Outkast, the Music Industry Is Anticipating a Year of Major Releases


Stephen Humphries writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Single-song downloads and three-minute singles may be gaining ascendancy over full-length albums in the iPod era, but that news has yet to reach the ears of some of today's most popular recording artists.

Tori Amos's next record, "The Beekeeper," brims with no fewer than 20 songs. The Mars Volta, meanwhile, is releasing "Frances the Mute," a 70-minute album with just five tracks. (One song clocks in at over 32 minutes - that's about the length of an entire Strokes album).

And, following a trend begun recently by the likes of Nelly, R. Kelly, Nas, and even Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, many musicians are releasing double albums at a rate not seen since the heyday of blockbuster records by Yes, Led Zeppelin, and Peter Frampton. In 2005, several double albums will squeeze their way into record racks including new releases by the Foo Fighters and Bright Eyes. Sheryl Crow and System of a Down are each releasing, in effect, double albums but their strategy is to divide the albums into two and release each disc separately a few months apart. Crow would like to release a less-commercial CD in the first part of the year followed by a set of pop songs later in the year.

"It just takes so long for a promotion cycle behind a single disc that I think a lot of people feel like they have these 25 songs ready - why should they wait three years to release 13 of them if they're ready to go now," says Jonathan Cohen, the news and reviews editor at Billboard.com.

But there is a downside. For every double album that justifies its length - think Outkast's "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" - there are two-disc albums padded with filler, like Jay-Z's "The Blueprint 2: The Gift and Curse."

"I think a very small percentage of people can legitimately say they have enough good material," says Mr. Cohen.

Artists who fail to produce consistently good albums may find that more consumers prefer to pick and mix their own buffet selection of tracks by purchasing individual songs online.

A clear trend for 2005 is the momentous shift toward digital music. This week's Billboard magazine states that between 8 to 13.5 million Americans will purchase a portable MP3 player in 2005. The music-trade publication also reports that there were a record 5 million transactions of digital tracks for the week of Christmas last year.

Still, it would be premature to write off the compact disc format just yet. Brick-and-mortar music stores experienced strong Christmas sales. So, for the foreseeable future at least, the album format will continue to matter.

In the rock world, one of the most anticipated albums in the first part of the year is a still untitled third album by Coldplay. …

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