Sorta-Famous Band Scopes Out The Singles Scene

Jun 13th, 2007 // 6 Comments

ash.jpgFor the past few years, artists such as Radiohead have toyed with the idea of doing away with the album format and replacing it instead with a stream of intermittent EPs or singles; the idea is that singles can be churned out and distributed quicker than albums, and besides, no one’s buying albums anyway. And now it looks as though the upcoming release from Ash–the Irish power-pop band that has done its damndest to break into the U.S. market–will be the band’s last proper album:

“The way people listen to music has changed,” says frontman Tim Wheeler in a statement. “With the advent of the download, the emphasis has reverted to single tracks. When you’re tied to the album format, you find yourself waiting six months between finishing a record and releasing it. By leaving this behind we can enter a new phase of spontaneity and creativity. We have our own studio in New York, we can record a track and release it the next day if we feel like it, give it to people while it’s fresh. We’re the first band to do this, but I very much doubt we’ll be the last.”

For Ash, the singles-only approach makes sense: The group released a whopping nine tracks from its past two studio albums, and its Intergalactic Sonic 7″‘s collection gets the most amount of play in the Idolator flophouse. Of course, the downside is that many consumers now download a single or two for free before deciding whether or not to buy the whole album, meaning that Wheeler and co. could wind up giving away much of their material for free, which is sure to put a dent in their hooded-sweatshirt budget.

Ash Abandons Album Format [Billboard]

  1. Dan Gibson

    This idea is perfect for the internet age: great in concept, but with no discernible manner in which to make money.

  2. Mick Kraut

    Not sure if the immediacy is a good thing…record today, release tomorrow…There is value in having some time pass for reflection and editing etc…

    Essentially every artist becomes Ryan Adams releasing a wide variety of substandard music that would have been alot better given more time to gel…

  3. Chris Molanphy

    Ben Folds kinda-sorta explored this idea back in ’03 by releasing a steady stream of (generally) four-song EPs through iTunes (Speed Graphic, In-Between Days, etc.). He was the first major artist to embrace this idea, and just a few months after the iTunes Store went live.

    At the time, Folds was saying almost exactly what Ash is saying here – not having to wait, a chance to be creative and get stuff out faster, etc. A couple of years later, though, he rounded up the EPs and released them on a physical CD. I don’t think that means Folds’s experiment was a failure, necessarily; but it might mean that Ash will have to continue to put out some sort of album-length product eventually, if only for rabid fans and their own balance sheet.

  4. Thierry

    I like the idea of spontaneity, but until the day when I get a decent stereo that plays mp3s, I also want some physical product too…Ash would be the perfect band to release only 7-inches, wouldn’t they?

  5. KurticusMaximus

    It would be silly to do away with albums entirely- eventually, artists will want to go back to cohesive units of songs instead of isolated singles.

    I think, as time passes, more artists will rely on a balance between the two approaches. They’ll have periods (theoretically while touring) when they’ll just release a bunch of singles and EPs, but then they’ll decide to go and really work on a legitimate album.

    The problem isn’t with albums themselves. The problem is with the release album-release nothing for two years-release album-repeat process.

  6. StopKillingMe

    I was expecting a lot of Ash-bashing comments, just because they seem to have been relegated to “guilty pleasure” status (at best) among hipsters old enough to remember “Burn Baby Burn” and such. I’m glad to see that they still have some fans. Sure, “Meltdown” was pretty…awful…but their cycle of releasing a rock record, then a pop record, then a rock record, etc. means that the next album will hopefully be a return to form, i.e. bright, anthemic power-pop, the kind they perfected so well on “Free All Angels.”

    The fact that Ash have relegated themselves to such a silly stylistic-recycling act with each LP just goes to show that they could really benefit from churning out more singles and EPs than full-lengths. I think as long as there’s enough substance to their releases – more than 2 songs, let’s say – then they could be potentially profitable at iTunes. The only problem is that I highly doubt places like Best Buy or Wal-Mart are going to want to carry these smaller releases, which would put a dent in Ash’s sales.

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