Written by Kevin Paul, Contributor
As time progresses and new musicians emerge within the hip-hop industry, albums slowly become distant and obstructed. From artists such as Kanye West announcing the death of albums with “Yeezus,” to streaming services such as Spotify, Apple and Tidal using subscription paywalls to lock certain albums away for a limited time, the physicality of albums has become a dying breed.
The significance of physical copies for albums begins with the content inside. Imagine only being able to view a favorite movie online or being able to read a book only through digital means; this importance of tangibility also carries into albums. When one first buys an album, the purchaser immediately enters the artist’s world through artwork and packaging.
Records such as “Wolf” by Tyler the Creator included a poster, look-book, stickers and an embroidered patch in the deluxe edition. Kanye West and Jay-Z also included extra bonuses within their “Watch The Throne” album, starting with a golden mylar cover that includes a secondary cover and a poster.
If the physicality of albums begins to fade and digital purchases become relevant, an era of a generation begins to fade.
Although digital albums include benefits such as unlimited copies, playback on multiple devices and preordering albums before release, most of these benefits can be accomplished through the physical product. As of Feb. 1, RIAA accepted streams as a form of sale for artists to obtain Gold and Platinum certifications, issuing a paradigm in the way that we listen to music.
As a result, stream services such as Tidal, Spotify and Apple Music have taken advantage of the change within the industry, ultimately leading to specific records only being available behind a paywall for a limited time, splitting fans between those who purchase a subscription company to those who choose to delay and wait for a physical copy.
As these streaming services start to advance, the connection between the album, artists, and admirers has begun to strain as we accelerate into a new age for music.