Is the physical album a dying artefact?

Annabel Hogg discusses whether the physical album is going to die out...

Annabel Hogg
21st March 2022
Credit: Kacper Brach
Since its launch in 2008, Spotify has done notorious damage to the music industry. From artist compensation to Joe Rogan’s podcast controversy, the streaming service has gained widespread criticism in the last few years. Topping Spotify’s list of victims is none other than the artist’s craft: the physical album.

It is a well-known fact that albums are created to tell a story, to show a journey. They are made with the intention to be listened to in the order that they appear on the track list. Thanks to streaming services and the popularised shuffle button, the album died a sad death during much of the 2010s. It was rare to see people listening to an album from start to finish, let alone owning a physical copy of it.

However, like most things in life, the physical album appears to be making a resurgence. This seems to be particularly in the form of the vinyl, which you cannot walk into a single Urban Outfitters without seeing. In fact, it’s reported that vinyl sales were up by 8% in 2021, the 14th consecutive year in which sales have increased. True, it seems as though the rebirth of the vinyl is led entirely by aesthetic culture, but it’s still comforting to know that music is being appreciated in the way in which it's intended to be.

Sadly, I don’t think the same can be said for the CD. True, my best friend owns the entire collection of Taylor Swift CDs, but I think she’s the odd one out. I have a lot of friends who’s lives genuinely revolve around music, yet they don’t own a single CD. So, it seems we do have record players to thank for the reawakening of the physical album.

This come-back, however, comes with a downside. Like everything, the more something is popularised, the more the price increases. So much so that whenever I go record shopping with my parents, they actually wince at the price of albums that they ‘could have once given [me] for free!’. So, though the physical album has been making a comeback over recent years, it’s so inaccessible that it’s understandable why many of us still turn to streaming services. The vinyl makes a comeback, but (quite literally) at what cost?

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AUTHOR: Annabel Hogg
she/her| second year english literature student| relationships sub-editor 21/22

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