In a move that might strike some people as bizarre, Pink Floyd got the courts involved because it did not want its record label, EMI, to sell individual Floyd tracks on iTunes. Amazingly enough, the band won. I say 'amazing' because it always seems like when individuals are pitted against business concerns, the individuals come out on the short end of the deal. Oh wait, this is England we're talking about. Never mind. After seeing the details of the contract, it does appear that EMI stepped outside legal bounds.
Now back to the 'bizarre' thing — I can't find fault with the artists. They conceived of (most of) their recordings as suites of tunes, spent a lot of time on the execution and recording of the music, and labored over the sequencing before releasing the final collection. If they want to keep the albums in tact, ensuring a complete listening experience, that's well within' their rights. I have to credit them for sticking to their principles. It's hard for me to believe that they would have pulled in a ton of cash from digital singles sales. I dunno, maybe they were throwing away a bunch of money. Can there really be that much pent-up demand for copies of "Money" and "Another Brick In The Wall, Pt II"?
EMI was of course trying to protect their own business interests, though their ham-handed approach was surprising. Their contention that the contract referred to vinyl albums only was just plain silly if you ask me. Apparently, the judge thought so too. On the other hand, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, given the insanity on display during the recent OK Go fiasco. Who exactly is sitting behind the desk at these companies anyway? Have they been sharing the lead paint chip jar with Glenn Beck?
Don't take any of this as a screed against sales of singles. Though I'm not a big fan, I can see why people like them. They're just not for me. As much as a great song is a great song all by itself, my tendency is to want to hear what else the artist can do, putting the song into its original context. I've also heard the argument that it's better to pay 99 cents for one good track, while avoiding the 14 other tracks of filler. I've never fallen prey to the RestOfTheCdSucks phenomenon, but I do appreciate the listener's point.
A recent article on Blogcritics heaped praises on the importance of the album. I do have to agree. The album was in its heyday while my inner music freak was forming, so it will always be with me. Still, there's no reason that these two worlds (singles vs. albums) can't easily co-exist. As long as the band has a say in the matter, I'm perfectly fine with it.