The Art of Making Albums: Exploring the Purpose and Coherence of Music Releases

What does it mean to make an album in 2023? Join music critic Michael Edwards as he explores the purpose and coherence of music releases in the digital age. Delve into the evolution of albums and discover why they are still relevant today.

The Evolution of Albums: From Vinyl to Digital

Explore the history of albums and their transformation from physical vinyl collections to digital releases.

The concept of albums dates back to the record album, which was originally a collection of 78 rpm discs. These albums were simply a means of physically holding music together. However, with the introduction of the long playing record (LP) in the late 1940s, albums took on a new form. They became coherent and self-contained packages of music, with artists integrating the music and the format to create a unique listening experience.

Artists like Frank Sinatra, Max Roach, and Charles Mingus embraced the album format, using it to tell stories and create concept albums. Even revolutionary musicians like Ornette Coleman crafted their music with the LP in mind, ensuring that the duration and sequencing made sense as an A and B side of a disc.

However, with the rise of streaming services and digital downloads, the purpose of putting music together as an album has become less clear. While vinyl has made a comeback, many jazz albums today seem to lack the coherence and thoughtfulness that defined the LP era. It's important to remember that an album is a limited set of music, and its success lies in its ability to maintain coherence throughout its duration.

The Importance of Coherence in Albums

Discover why coherence is crucial in creating a meaningful and engaging album.

An album is not just a random collection of songs. It is a carefully curated selection of music that should flow seamlessly from one track to another. Coherence in albums ensures that the listener is taken on a journey, experiencing a cohesive and immersive musical experience.

Think about albums you've heard that have a few standout tracks but are filled with filler or disjointed songs. These albums fail to maintain coherence and can leave the listener feeling unsatisfied. On the other hand, albums like Mingus Ah Um and In A Silent Way are considered masterpieces because every moment contributes to the overall artistic vision.

Coherence in albums requires thoughtful sequencing, editing, and attention to detail. It means eliminating superfluous music that detracts from the overall impact of the album. A successful album is one that remains engaging and captivating from start to finish.

The Challenge of Making Albums in the Digital Age

Explore the unique challenges faced by artists and producers in creating albums in the era of streaming and digital media.

The advent of streaming services and digital downloads has changed the way music is consumed. With the ability to skip songs and create custom playlists, the traditional album format has become less relevant to some listeners. This poses a challenge for artists and producers who still believe in the power of the album as a cohesive artistic statement.

Furthermore, the longer duration of CDs and digital media has led to albums with more music, but not necessarily better music. Many jazz albums, for example, suffer from a lack of editing and end up including bland or repetitive tracks. It's important for artists and producers to remember that more music doesn't always equate to better quality.

Despite these challenges, there are still artists who strive to create albums that are meaningful and coherent. They understand the value of crafting a complete musical experience, even in a digital age where individual songs often take precedence over full albums.


Albums have evolved from physical collections of music to digital releases, but their purpose and importance remain. Coherence is crucial in creating a meaningful and engaging album, ensuring that every track contributes to the overall artistic vision. While the digital age presents challenges, there are still artists who strive to create albums that provide a complete and immersive musical experience.


Why are albums still relevant in the digital age?

Albums are still relevant because they offer a curated and cohesive listening experience. They allow artists to tell stories, create concept albums, and take listeners on a journey. Despite the rise of streaming and individual song consumption, there is still value in crafting a complete musical statement.

What makes a successful album?

A successful album is one that maintains coherence throughout its duration. It eliminates superfluous music and ensures that every moment contributes to the overall artistic vision. It engages and captivates the listener from start to finish.

How do artists and producers face the challenge of making albums in the digital age?

Artists and producers in the digital age face the challenge of creating albums that stand out in a landscape of individual song consumption. They must strive to craft albums that are meaningful and coherent, despite the temptation to include more music. Thoughtful sequencing, editing, and attention to detail are essential in creating albums that resonate with listeners.

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