With advances in technology across most areas of music in the past 25 years, it has allowed a lot more people the opportunity to create and circulate their material easily and independently. This has resulted in listeners, chiefly through the implementation of music streaming services, having access to a vast amount of artists and songs that they feel compelled to consume in order to try and keep up with the ceaseless pace of the modern music industry.
There can be no doubt that this has affected our attitude toward the way we listen to music, with a constant spree of new releases conveniently packaged by streaming platforms into weekly playlists not only dictating mainstream taste but forcing people to consume music quicker. People have claimed that the internet has caused the short attention span of certain generations, which may well be true, but it could also be a case of people attempting to adapt to the changing world by intentionally training themselves to digest large amounts of content as quickly as possible.
If we assume that people have taught themselves to consume content and, more specifically, music at a faster rate, surely this must bring into question one’s capacity to fully appreciate the many nuances of full-length projects. Couple this with our addiction to constant viral content and there becomes an issue when attempting to hold a person’s attention for longer than 20 minutes.
Perhaps this is why there seems to be a greater emphasis on singles at present, shown through the number of musicians – and even non-musicians, most notably comedian Michael Dapaah – being rewarded with record deals from major labels following their unforeseen success. Additionally, this could be the reason why it is more common for albums to be structured in a way that they consist of a batch of singles as opposed to a cohesive theme, aiding to the triumph of many artists that thrive in a singles-centric setting.
A further detriment to the value of full-length projects can potentially be credited to social media’s influence on our eagerness to be first to pass judgment on new music – something that can be true of both listeners and media publications. Often this desire can overrule the necessity of immersing ourselves within an album, opting for the relatively quick sensation of letting it shower over us in order to be able to critique it immediately, rather than leisurely bathing in its waters.
Supplementing this notion is the hollow support gained through online “Likes” and opinions limited to the length of a tweet that allows people who may not have fully formed their own assessment of an album to effortlessly jump on a passing bandwagon. Music industry etiquette can affect and sway the public opinions offered by people in influential positions, calling into question their reliability, but this can be due to the difficulty of the fast moving environment they exist in.
Although it is obvious that many people still treasure the complexity of a good album, there is evidence to suggest that casual music consumers – who make up the majority of listeners – are more receptive to singles and the endless stream of new music accessible. And even if you do prefer bodies of work to singles, the quickness of the Internet age makes it difficult to take your time with many projects before you’re swept into the furore of the latest release. This may be why hit singles seem to be held in a higher regard than strong albums at the moment as they’re easier to absorb.
Whether this is due to people’s adaptation to a world that revolves around the internet, the here today, gone tomorrow attitude of social media trends or the bandwagon mentality that is perpetuated by tastemakers within the music industry, there can be little doubt that people in this day and age find it harder to appreciate a full-length project.