Does downloading a few tracks by an artist make you a fan?

My brother came to visit this weekend and he shares a love of music. However, he only selects a few tracks by most artists he claims to like to add to his Ipod, usually untypical in style (eg; the heavy ones). I ask “is the rest of the album like this?” and he replies “oh no, I don’t like the rest of the album”. He will even chop whole sections out of longer tracks if he does not like them too! So it got me thinking that if you only select a few tracks by an artist, on what level do you actually like them? For myself, I will always listen to a whole album, warts and all, just as the artist intended.

I think what you are finding is pretty typical behaviour and sadly the reason why album craft is nearly dead.

These days most people want instant gratification. That means hooky tracks they can enjoy on the commute. The idea of a crafted album with all tracks together greater than the sum of their parts and meant to be played in order is largely a thing of the past. As a result, artists are increasingly not releasing albums so much as “a batch of 10 unrelated songs”. It’s a really sorry state of affairs but mobile listening doesn’t really lend itself to some tracks.

As for fandom. who cares. If someone wants to buy 4 tracks and call themselves a fan who are we to judge? I might buy 6 albums of some artist and never even once think in those terms. Something about describing one’s self as a fan seems a bit adolescent to me. You know, the ol’ days when it meant going to a concert and chucking your knickers on the stage or getting the band’s logo tattooed on your bum.


The phrase “instant gratification” sums it up nicely; my brother only selects tracks that fit the type of music he likes with little interest in the artist and no desire to dig deeper into their catalogue.

Years ago one could only buy albums or singles - other than tracks released as singles it was not possible to buy individual tracks. That meant that it was normal to buy albums, and largely play them as they came (it was possible to lift the stylus to jump a track, but the awkwardness tended to make it by far the exception). It also meant artists had to make the album work in its entirety, because if there were too many poor tracks or tracks that jarred against others the album would be likely to be unpopular.

Things started to change, I think, with the advent of downloadable music sold as individual songs, coupled with portable digital players like the iPod, when people started buying individual tracks. In some ways that was akin to buying singles, except that availability extended to any tracks on an album. The popular masses’ buying habits changed, and it seems that led to it being less important for artists to make albums ‘work’ - over time the general loss of ‘album craft’, as @feeling_zen succinctly puts it.

As for being a fan, that to my mind is nothing to do with buying all output (though often leads to it), rather having connotations akin to idolisation - something that I also think generally sits with adolescence. I don’t see a problem if someone wants to say they like an artist on the strength of only some of the artist’s output, though personally I’d just say it how it is, that I think some of their work is good.

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I’m not sure what a ‘fan’ is any more. In my youth a fan would worship everything an artist came out with. Nowadays it seems most fans like a type of music rather than everything a particular artist produces, hence the selection of only certain tracks. Are most new album releases even crafted as a whole anymore?

I suspect the nature of listening has a lot to do with it, particular around mobile listening. I.e. if you are creating a playlist for daily train commuting, then I’d imagine you wouldn’t want to include many tracks from Queen, as the likely result would be you bouncing in your seat to the beat of the music, and then getting your air guitar out. So perhaps people are more Style fans than artist fans

Albums however are designed in my view for home listening when you have a chunk of time to spare to immerse yourself into the music.

I recall many of the younger technicians at my work place would sit with headphones. I tried it but could never concentrate on my work. Again perhaps I am too conditioned to Album listening.

I think you’re just listening. Wearing headphones all day, at work and on commutes, while waiting or walking, isn’t… it’s just aural wallpaper. The need to not think, if I was being cruel.


There is no rule about how one should listen to an artists work. You listen to what makes you feel good and you don’t listen to the tracks that don’t, however that may materialise. Having weak singles on an album has existed since the dawn of albums, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

‘Albums’ and ‘fandom’ could easily be argued as marketing speak anyway and are irrelevant to the pleasures of listening to music.

I don’t consider myself to be a ‘fan’ of anybody really. I like certain albums in their entirety (rare) yet on other albums I ony like one track. There are plenty of albums I don’t play at all (Coldplay - I’m looking at you!). I’ll maybe go back to replay them every few years (and hi fi upgrades) to see if I’ve changed my mind about them.
I will generally listen to an album completely, warts and all, but on other occasions jump from track to track, artist to artist, in playlist mode.
All down to the mood I’m in. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to listen to music.

That is my default setting :slightly_smiling_face:

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There are many types of listening, and they all fit different needs. It’s ok.
Born in the early 70 I discovered many songs and albums (opening my mind) just because it was easier to listen then flip the vinyl or tape. And I’m so thankful for it.

Today I’m trying to teach my 15yo daughter who like almost all music types, not to only jump songs after songs (sometimes not even finishing it…). So far I’m not reaching any goals in that area.

I’m just afraid many people will miss a lot of opportunities to develop audiophile interests. (Could be wrong)

How are we going to rule the world and share love if we don’t recruit!!! (Fans or not) :wink:

I think track hopping started with CD to be honest. And if I am any indication, cherry picking tracks or using the godawful “shuffle” feature, is something most people used to grow out of before they were old enough to order a pint. Sadly, the cherry picking permitted on purchase now doesn’t give the listener a chance to grow.

I wonder if it would be so bad if artists and labels started mandating that even for downloads, you can only buy an album or officially released singles?

It is hard to really judge the impact of the download model. While I feel it is bad for the artform, I don’t really know for sure. After all, it is a matter of degrees. Go back 50 years and there were always people inclined to do the same thing. Bought only singles and listened to pop radio. And they were always the vast majority. Ultimately, while everyone says the like music, most people just flat aren’t that into it and never were. So while album craft has definitely suffered, I am not sure people in general have gotten more low brow in their listening habits. Aural junk food has always been preferred over a sit down musical meal.

About 80% of tracks on a big streaming service had zero plays (or below the limit for payout). And 80% of plays came from 3% of inventory.

This has so far resulted in a few smaller distributors cutting costs by removing tracks that had zero plays.

This from a report by economists working in the streaming industry but which services the figures are based on was not named.

I find these kind of stats very interesting. If by any chance you have a link handy, feel free to share!

Gosh that’s depressing.

I think the internet are making music tastes more conformist (hope that is the correct word in english).

In fact this means a big transfer of resources to a few top artists from all other artists. Before the internet sales of 4000 albums could cover the cost of a self-release a relatively small group of fans could more or less finance releases.

If tracks are removed in practice means the music disappears from history as it only exists on a few central servers.

I have more recent numbers from Spotify, But cant find the link right now.

The numbers I used above came from Owsinskis blog.

If it is not o.k. with the link just google: music long tail rebuffed

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The 80-20 rule seems to apply to everything!

Musicians will hopefully find other ways to release. Local music from smaller/mid-sized countries could have a financed central distribution and so on.

The world doesnt end with Spotify, Tidal or Qobuz. And you can change how streaming royalties are distributed. What if your streaming fees are distributed just between the tracks you streamed?

That’s why I don’t go to concerts anymore … I kept running out of knickers …