Well, there’s been much debate in recent years about the future of the album, and we’ve commented before about how often it’s artists more than labels who don’t like the dominance of the single track in the digital age.
That single track dominance was in part caused by the way Apple set up the iTunes Music Store back in 2003, though has been aided by the fact many consumers find the pick and mix approach adopted by most a la carte digital stores liberating, having spent years resenting being forced to often buy to six fillers to get their hands on the five killers whenever an artist emerged from the studio.
In the latest turn of events, the album debate has gone legal, as the High Court is asked to decide whether Pink Floyd’s long players should be sold as single tracks or not. It’s actually a contractual dispute between the Floyd and their label EMI, and focuses on a line in the band’s 1967 record contract which says EMI has “no rights to sell any or all of the records as single records other than with [Pink Floyd's] permission”. The legal debate centres on whether the word ‘record’ there is used as an abbreviation for “recording” or for “funny plastic disc”.
If you take the latter interpretation, as EMI have done, then the clause doesn’t stop the label selling individual Pink Floyd tracks digitally. If you prefer the former, as the Floyd do, then it does. The always album-centric band are accusing the major of selling their music as stand-alone tracks without their permission and, therefore, in breach of the sixties-penned recording contract.
Given the specific nature of the Floyd’s contract, and the fact they are very much an ‘albums band’, the wider implications of this case are probably limited. Still, it’s an interesting new angle on an ongoing story.
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