I came across this year old article in The Times (of London), discussing the Mercury shortlist, and asks the question: "in the iPod age, is a best-album award obsolete?"
Perhaps the better question is, is the Album dead?
"The Mercury was conceived to counter a growing perception that a lot of modern CDs were no more than a couple of singles wrapped in filler, remixes and self-indulgent waffle. Despite a few serious omissions and a couple of prize turkeys, the Mercury has done a pretty good job of bolstering the notion that an album can be more than the sum of its parts. Yet that job has got exponentially harder recently. In short: what price the album of the year in the year of the iPod?"
"Before albums took off in the late 1960s, when singles were all the rage and often all there was, the record business was con-sidered so unimportant in the larger corporate scheme that conglomerates such as EMI did not bother to keep detailed figures of sales. Today, all major recording contracts are still expressed in terms of the number of albums an artist must deliver. This is why Napster and the other illegal file-sharing networks so exercised music-biz moguls at the turn of the millennium.
Never mind the fact that they were nicking copyrighted material, the pirates were also threatening to turn back the clock to the days before fans acquired the album-buying habit.
Unsurprisingly, thinking beyond the album has so far been confined to artists, via their personal websites, rather than their record labels. Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno have launched MUDDA (Magnificent Union of Digital Downloading Artists), an online service that allows musicians to issue music at whatever length they choose.
However, like many of Gabriel’s ideas, this one remains at the planning stage. In the meantime, the Mercury Prize is still here, holding the line.
Interesting question . . .
Here’s this year’s nominees:
The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers
M.I.A. – Arular
Polar Bear – Held On The Tips Of Fingers
Kaiser Chiefs – Employment
Maximo Park – A Certain Trigger
Hard-Fi – Stars Of CCTV
KT Tunstall – Eye To The Telescope
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
Seth Lakeman – Kitty Jay
Coldplay – X&Y
Antony And The Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now
The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike
The winner will be announced at the prize ceremony on September 6.
Death of a sales format?
Times Online, July 25, 2004