The state of music purchasing disturbs me a little today. No, not the fact that record company profits are plunging.* After the recording industry suing fans and trying to make it illegal for you to use your music how you would like for personal use, I have little love for the them. I'm not talking about the sad condition of MTV, or even the "influx of piracy" (which I am not sure is nearly as evil as the recording industry thinks - each download does not equal a lost sale).
My worry is that a lot of people are now buying single tracks only...and I believe this trend is increasing. They only buy the one song that they heard on the radio and liked. This isn't always bad, I have a few CDs that have exactly one good song on them that in hindsight I wish I could have only purchased the one track. However, I have way more CDs that the one song that I had previously heard ended up not being my favorite. In fact, of all my favorite songs on all the albums that I have ever purchased, I would say about 90% of those songs were never released as singles. Had I just bought the single track, I would not know all this great music. Just a few examples of great songs (from my current work play list) that I would never have heard if I only bought the singles:
Metallica - Blackened
Janes Addiction - Three Days
Guns N Roses - Rocket Queen
Alice in Chains - Dam that River
Megadeth - Tornado of Souls
Danzig - Twist of Cain
As you can probably tell, I am listening to a early 90's metal play list at the moment...but the same goes for every genre, every artist. The singles are good, but if that is all you buy you are missing out on so much great music. This is not even taking into account the entire feel of an album that can be used to create a mood or even tell a story.
You might say that singles have been around for decades and you would be right...and I still don't approve of them. There is a large difference however between single digital tracks now and singles in the past. In the past you would at the very least get a b-side track (if not more of a EP CD), this gave you more of a chance to try out the artist and see if you like them...now you get nothing, you get your one track and you are done. You will not discover the complete joy of the new artist and in ten years you will consider them a one hit wonder.
*Personally, I think it is very iffy at how much the record company profits are actually down once you figure in that the 1990's probably represented higher than average profits as consumers upgraded their music collections from cassettes and vinyl.