"A great song is a house party; a great album is a dinner party."
So says Shannon Logan, a judge of the Australian Music Prize — awarded yesterday to Sampa The Great for her record Birds And The BEE9 — and the owner of Brisbane record store Jet Black Cat Music.
Debates about the imminent death of the album — to be replaced by fans consuming single songs, here and there — have been going on since piracy platform Naptser, at the turn of century, made it possible for fans to cherry-pick tracks they liked and discard the rest.
"I think the album is going to die, "Aram Sinnreich, from media consulting firm Radar Research, told The New York Times back in 2007. "Consumers are listening to playlists."
Of course, 11 years is a long time in an industry upended by the internet. And Napster is long gone, with music piracy less of a problem these days.
But the album's not out of the woods yet.
With sales of CDs declining rapidly, and the streaming of playlists on Spotify or Apple Music becoming increasingly popular, the question of whether that artist-curated collection of songs still has value endures.
The album as a marketing tool
Australian band The Cat Empire are still recording batches of thematically-similar songs in one go, something musicians have been doing since the album format was invented in the mid-20th Century.
"They would honestly love if everybody listened to every single album from beginning to end," Correne Wilkie, the band's manager, told a panel event in Melbourne this week.
"But they have adapted."
For their next record, they will release one song a month, starting later this year, until there's a full album's worth early in 2019.
It's an approach they tried recently with a collection of live recordings, and fans liked the regular, smaller injection of new music, Ms Wilkie said.
And it fits with the wider economics of music these days: playing live, not releasing albums, is the main game.
"The tour used to be the tool to promote the album," Ms Wilkie said.
"Now we make albums to promote a tour."
Albums still 'crucial' to sales
Some who feel reports of the album's imminent death are exaggerated point to the resurgence of vinyl in recent years.
Ms Logan is one of them, suggesting there is something "magical" about that full-length work of artistic expression that will see it survive.
Gab Ryan, co-director of the Inertia Label Group, which releases and promotes records from around the world, said album sales — particularly on vinyl — were still hugely important to their business model.
"But emotionally as well — we are all really passionate music fans at the company, so for us, working on an album that we connect with is really exciting," Ms Ryan said.
Bands are beginning to frontload albums with songs they think will catch the itinerant streamer, as opposed to thinking deeply about where those songs fit in a journey of 10 or 12 tracks.
But that remains uncommon, Ms Ryan said.
"I think a lot of artists still take that very puritan approach to creating an album, and having that cohesive body of work, and thinking about how the songs fit within the album as a sonic piece," she said.
As a genre, electronic music tends to be singles-driven, she said, but even acts who work with Inertia such as Odesza, the Grammy-nominated electronic duo, still find that their fans want to engage with full albums.
The physical is important
There remains a sense in the music industry that while songs are taste-testers, good for bringing people in, albums solidify a fan base and allow for a deeper connection.
That's been the case for The Smith Street Band, said Little Giant Agency's Danae Effern, who works with the band. They sell a lot of physical albums at shows, where fans sing along to every word.
Indeed, said Ms Ryan, the durability of the album may depend on whether there is a physical product for fans to engage with.
"If we lose that physical connection," she said, "it won't survive."