What is an album? It is a multi-media work of art comprised of graphics, text, and sound. It is tangible, whereas live performance is fleeting. Before recordings came along, people bought sheet music; people who couldn’t read music bought broadsides - sheets with just the song’s lyrics. People needed something physical, something real.
The age of the IPod has changed this. Album art, already diminished by the switch to CDs, is rapidly disappearing. The shuffle functions on media players have made programming an album, whether a concept album or compilation, almost pointless. The record industry itself is diminishing. Recorded music in now primarily distributed digitally.
Because of this, the live concert is now, ironically, becoming the more tangible musical object. Despite the poor economy, live music is growing in popularity. Whereas digital music is everywhere and nowhere at once, live music represents a discrete moment in time, an experience, something real.
While John Philip Sousa predicted that recording would put an end to live music, both forms of music continue in various manifestations. We will always try to find a site of tangible reality in music, what will change is our perception of where that site is.