I studied maths. This almost certainly means that I am weird. Or, at least, that I tend to have weird thoughts. One of them was about the length of music albums nowadays. I loved these 1980’s / 1990’s times, where a one hour album rather felt to be average (yes, I know… In fact, that has always been a long one).
In June 2021, I have been reviewing Brett Young’s Weekends Look A Little Different These Days. The album is eight tracks and just lasts 26 minutes. In digital times, this might not matter, you can scale the price depending on the contents. But the price for the physical album at Amazon Germany at that day has been 17.99 EUR, a (slightly high) standard price for an album in Germany. Does Brett Young cheat his own fans here? Does the length matter? I always downgraded albums if they are too short. Am I right? I felt to have a deeper look with that posting.
Is This a Fair Comparison? Shall We Measure Music Like Groceries by Minute?
Definitely not! Music is neither worth more because it is cheaper or has a higher pricing. I would definitely not say that you should not buy an album just because it is exceeding a certain price per minute or track. You cannot measure music like getting five or ten eggs for the same amount of money.
Nonetheless, it is an indicator. And when I started to work on this posting, it made me think about this topic. If I pay double the price per minute or per track, does the album / EP need to be double as good? Just in my personal perception? I will definitely not go that far, but I feel that making you aware of this one is an interesting topic, I feel. Finally, you need to take your own consequences after reading this posting – which may also simply be that you don’t care.
If We Stream Music – Why Does This Topic Care?
It is a good point. Apart from the music I receive for free from promotion agencies anyway for Flyctory.com reviews, I am running the media reviews on Flyctory.com on two music flat-rates, Amazon Music and Spotify. I pay a fixed amount per month. Finally, you could say that you don’t care. They will share your money between the company’s profits and the artists… Somehow.
I feel it is a bit of an hen and egg discussion. The music industry is complaining that we don’t buy music anymore. This is somehow right. On the other hand, especially rather unknown artists, who do good music or niche artists have a much better way to promote their songs in the new world. I still do buy physical CDs or pay for downloads, but I have to admit, it is rare. Why should I pay for a download if my monthly subscription is about the price of a single album. Surely, I can listen to it anywhere. At least, this has been an advantage a couple of years ago. Nowadays, I can download an album at Spotify and listen to it in the plane or on a place without internet connection.
Would I buy more music if the price would be lower? Likely. If that leads to an offsetting effects on the income of the artist – no idea. Especially, as, according to this source, just receiving 10 per cent of what I paid for the download anyway… But: downloading and purchasing music became extremely unattractive. On top of that, many genres aim to produce music, which you likely just listen to for some weeks, but then you don’t miss it any more and need new stuff. Mainstream. Why should you buy that? You won’t like it in two months anyway. That’s the responsibility of the music industry (who, by the way, receive much more than the 10 per cent I stated above…). That’s also part of the story.
Some Analysis on Recently Published Albums
Thus, I feel, thinking about the value of purchasing and downloading music is absolutely valid – if you don’t take it too seriously.
For this posting, I checked all albums I reviewed on 4th and 11th June 2021. It is quite a nice mixture of genres and also geographic origin. On the release day (i.e. on each of the Fridays), I checked the physical and the digital purchase price at Amazon Germany. Based on that, I calculated the price per track and the price per minute for each album. Some of them are not available physically.
The albums released on 4th June I took into account are as follows:
- Anchors & Hearts – Guns Against Liberty, 11 tracks 35:36 min, 18,99 EUR (physical) / 9,99 EUR (mp3)
- Andrew Jannakos – Gone Too Soon (EP): 6 tracks, 18:28 min, 4,99 EUR (mp3 only)
- Black River Delta – Shakin‘: 11 tracks, 43:35 min, 19,99 EUR (vinyl) / 8,99 EUR
- Brett Young – Weekends Look A Little Different These Days: 8 tracks, 25:36 min, 17,99 EUR / 9,29 EUR
- Cleopatrick – Bummer: 10 tracks, 28:37 min, 14.99 EUR / 7.99 EUR (album in pre-order)
- Gary Louris – Jump For Joy: 10 tracks, 39:51 min, 8,93 EUR / 7,99 EUR
- No Angels – 20: 20 tracks, 70:50 min, 17,99 EUR / 11,99 EUR
- Walker Hayes – Country Stuff (EP): 6 tracks, 18:26 min, 6.99 EUR (mp3 only)
The albums released on 11th June 2021 are listed in here:
- Allessa – Sommerregen: 13 tracks, 44:46 min, 16,99 / 10,99 EUR
- Fancy – MASQUERADE (Les Marionettes): 15 tracks, 61:59 min, 14,59 / 11,99 EUR
- Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real – A Few Stars Apart: 11 tracks, 37:12 min, 17,99 / 10,99 EUR
- Joe Bonamassa – Now Serving: Royal Tea Live From The Ryman: 12 tracks, 79:12 min, 16,99 / 9,99 EUR
- Karlie Apriori – Seelenpassagier (EP): 6 tracks, 16:57 min, 5,99 EUR (mp3 only)
- Kylie Morgan – Love, Kylie (EP): 6 tracks, 17:57 min, 6,99 EUR (mp3 only)
- Maroon 5 – Jordi (Standard vers.): 11 tracks, 34:36 min, 17,99 / 10,99 EUR
- Richie Necker – New Songs and Untold Stories: 11 tracks, 48:09 min, 15,99 / 9,99 EUR
Let’s get into the figures. I decided to start with the download of music and then continue with the physical purchase. Prices are in Euro, I took the average per minute as well as per track. I marked the three highest and lowest entries per column in red/green, the average is given below (I just checked the rounded values you also see in the table below).
|Album||EUR / min||EUR / track|
|Anchors & Hearts – Guns Against Liberty||0.28 €||0.91 €|
|Andrew Jannakos – Gone Too Soon (EP)||0.27 €||0.83 €|
|Black River Delta – Shakin’||0.21 €||0.82 €|
|Brett Young – Weekends Are A Little Different These Days||0.36 €||1.16 €|
|Cleopatrick – Bummer||0.28 €||0.80 €|
|Gary Louris – Jump For Joy||0.20 €||0.80 €|
|No Angels – 20||0.17 €||0.60 €|
|Walker Hayes – Country Stuff (EP)||0.38 €||1.17 €|
|Allessa – Sommerregen||0.25 €||0.85 €|
|Fancy – MASQUERADE (Les Marionettes)||0.19 €||0.80 €|
|Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real – A Few Stars Apart||0.30 €||1.00 €|
|Joe Bonamassa – Now Serving: Royal Tea Live …||0.13 €||0.83 €|
|Karlie Apriori – Seelenpassagier (EP)||0.35 €||1.00 €|
|Kylie Morgan – Love, Kylie (EP)||0.39 €||1.17 €|
|Maroon 5 – Jordi (Standard vers.)||0.32 €||1.00 €|
|Richie Necker – New Songs and Untold Stories||0.21 €||0.91 €|
|Average||0.24 €||0.88 €|
You see: Brett Young is really expansive, regarding both metrics. But EPs feel to be really bad in value in general. Is that one of the reasons why they are pushed so much. I feel that a price per track of 1.17 EUR is absolutely ridiculous. Typically, you pay 1.29 EUR per track if you buy them individually. 1.17 EUR means (even at an album) that if you don’t like a single track, it is cheaper to purchase the other ones individually. You could also say: I hardly get back any additional value if I buy a whole package of songs of the same artist.
I did this check with Amazon Germany – but that’s the way you definitely drive people towards buying singles instead of albums. Who is the hunter, who is the fox in this game? After I completed this first part, I honestly haven’t been too sure about it any more.
Physical Album Purchase
Would the message be different when you look at the physical purchases? Hard to imagine. Four releases are out of this analysis – none of the EPs are avilable on CD or vinyl in Germany.
|Album||EUR / min||EUR / track|
|Anchors & Hearts – Guns Against Liberty||0.53 €||1.73 €|
|Andrew Jannakos – Gone Too Soon (EP)|
|Black River Delta – Shakin’||0.46 €||1.73 €|
|Brett Young – Weekends Are A Little Different These Days||0.70 €||2.25 €|
|Cleopatrick – Bummer||0.52 €||1.50 €|
|Gary Louris – Jump For Joy||0.22 €||0.89 €|
|No Angels – 20||0.25 €||0.90 €|
|Walker Hayes – Country Stuff (EP)|
|Allessa – Sommerregen||0.38 €||1.31 €|
|Fancy – MASQUERADE (Les Marionettes)||0.24 €||0.97 €|
|Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real – A Few Stars Apart||0.48 €||1.64 €|
|Joe Bonamassa – Now Serving: Royal Tea Live …||0.21 €||1.42 €|
|Karlie Apriori – Seelenpassagier (EP)|
|Kylie Morgan – Love, Kylie (EP)|
|Maroon 5 – Jordi (Standard vers.)||0.52 €||1.64 €|
|Richie Necker – New Songs and Untold Stories||0.33 €||1.45 €|
|Average||0.33 €||1.27 €|
Okay, no suprise – Brett Young is the “winner” in this competition. Especially the price per track shows how ridiculous it is to buy that album compared to others – if you are not really, really loving his recordings. You just have to make yourself clear that per track, you pay about 30 per cent more than the second highest price in that list. Compared to the cheapest one, you pay about two and a half times the price per minute. If you go by minute, the comparison by minute even leads to a factor of 3.3. Yes, the cheapest one here is a Joe Bonamassa live version of an album with songs already released as studio version, but even if you compare to Fancy’s release or to Gary Louris, you simply get the same message.
Roughly, in both cases, the price for a physical release is – in average – about 40 per cent higher than for the digital one (per track and per minute). Before writing that posting, I would have expected more. It is material indeed – but I would say your might get a certain additional value – especially if the booklet is well done.
Does The (Album) Length Matter? Some Final Words
I did not want to call these final words “My View”, because I want you to think about this topic. This posting definitely encouraged me to criticize when releases are extremely short. I was even thinking about adding the price per minute and per track to future reviews – but the pricing is so volatile and it significantly depends on the market (CDs are significantly cheaper in the United Kingdom, for example…). Maybe you do the same analysis the next time(s) you purchase music. To me, it was really a remarkable one.
All “classic” blog posts
Media Reviews – The Lousy Ones
Here are all my media reviews leading to a rating lower than 2.5: