Sony’s Stringer: The Vanishing Album Is an Issue

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Consumers prefer singles, mostly from illegal channels.

But even on paid platforms like the iTunes Store, a-la-carte downloads trump album purchases.  The shift is old news, though labels remain unable to replace the once-powerful album bundle.  “The problem with the iPod model is it is a singles model, and the album stands for a body of work,” commented Sony chief executive Howard Stringer at D6, a tech-focused conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal.  “The vanishing album is an issue I worry about, but maybe I am old,” Stringer continued, according to notes shared by paidContent.

The comments represent more than just nostalgia for an ebbing format.  Despite ramping digital revenues, the one-off music fan is a difficult animal to tame – and monetize.  Instead of a $16.98, one-shot purchase, labels are now forced to cobble together revenues from a variety of a-la-carte formats, including paid downloads, ringtones, and ringback tones.  “The next big thing is not one thing, the next big thing is a dozen different things,” said Thomas Hesse, president of Global Digital Entertainment at Sony BMG during a recent discussion at NARM.

But all of these emerging big things have failed to compensate for lost album revenues, though executives remain interested in replacing the lost bundle.   During the NARM discussion, top label executives pointed Digital Music News to future bundling concepts, particularly within the mobile realm.