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This article is about albums of recorded music. For other uses, see Album (disambiguation).
Early record albums were packages of 78 rpm records in book form.

Albums of recorded music were developed in the early 20th century, first as books of individual 78rpm records, then from 1948 as vinyl LP records played at 33 13 rpm. Vinyl LPs are still issued, though in the 21st century album sales have mostly focused on compact disc (CD) and MP3 formats. The audio cassette was a format used from the late 1970s through to the 1990s alongside vinyl.

An album may be recorded in a recording studio (fixed or mobile), in a concert venue, at home, in the field, or a mix of places. Recording may take a few hours to several years to complete, usually in several takes with different parts recorded separately, and then brought or "mixed" together. Recordings that are done in one take without overdubbing are termed "live", even when done in a studio. Studios are built to absorb sound, eliminating reverberation, so as to assist in mixing different takes; other locations, such as concert venues and some "live rooms", allow for reverberation, which creates a "live" sound.<ref name="Philip Newell 169–170">Philip Newell (18 Jul 2013). Recording Studio Design. Taylor & Francis. pp. 169–170. </ref> The majority of studio recordings contain an abundance of editing, sound effects, voice adjustments, etc. With modern recording technology, musicians can be recorded in separate rooms or at separate times while listening to the other parts using headphones; with each part recorded as a separate track.

Album covers and liner notes are used, and sometimes additional information is provided, such as analysis of the recording, and lyrics or librettos.<ref name="Album Cover Art Series">"Album Cover Art Series". Rock Art Picture Show. Retrieved 30 May 2012. </ref><ref name="The history of the CD - The 'Jewel Case'">"The history of the CD – The 'Jewel Case'". Philips Research. Retrieved 30 May 2012. </ref> Historically, the term "album" was applied to a collection of various items housed in a book format. In musical usage the word was used for collections of short pieces of printed music from the early nineteenth century.<ref name="Mendelssohn And Schumann">"Mendelssohn And Schumann". Old and Sold. Retrieved 29 May 2012. </ref> Later, collections of related 78rpm records were bundled in book-like albums<ref name="">Cross, Alan (15 July 2012) Life After the Album Is Going to Get Weird.</ref> (one side of a 78 rpm record could hold only about 3.5 minutes of sound). When long-playing records were introduced, a collection of pieces on a single record was called an album; the word was extended to other recording media such as compact disc, MiniDisc, Compact audio cassette, and digital albums as they were introduced.<ref name="About Vinyl Records" />


The LP record (long play), or 33 13 rpm microgroove vinyl record, is a gramophone record format introduced by Columbia Records in 1948.<ref>"First LP released". </ref> It was adopted by the record industry as a standard format for the "album". Apart from relatively minor refinements and the important later addition of stereophonic sound capability, it has remained the standard format for vinyl albums. The term "album" had been carried forward from the early nineteenth century when it had been used for collections of short pieces of music.<ref name="Mendelssohn And Schumann"/> Later, collections of related 78rpm records were bundled in book-like albums.<ref name=""/> When long-playing records were introduced, a collection of pieces on a single record was called an album; the word was extended to other recording media such as compact disc, MiniDisc, Compact audio cassette, and digital albums, as they were introduced.<ref name="About Vinyl Records" /> As part of a trend of shifting sales in the music industry, some commenters have declared that the early 21st century experienced the death of the album.


While an album may contain as many or as few tracks as required, the criteria for the UK Albums Chart is that a recording counts as an "album" if it either has more than four tracks or lasts more than 25 minutes.<ref>"Rules For Chart Eligibility – Albums" (PDF). The Official UK Charts Company. January 2007. Archived from the original (pdf) on 27 June 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2007. </ref> Sometimes shorter albums are referred to as "mini-albums" or EPs.<ref name="As albums fade away, music industry looks to shorter records">"As albums fade away, music industry looks to shorter records". Associated Press. Retrieved 1 June 2012. </ref> Albums such as Tubular Bells, Amarok, Hergest Ridge by Mike Oldfield, and Yes's Close to the Edge, include fewer than four tracks. There are no formal rules against artists such as Pinhead Gunpowder referring to their own releases under thirty minutes as "albums".

If an album becomes too long to fit onto a single vinyl record or CD, it may be released as a double album where two vinyl LPs or compact discs are packaged together in a single case, or a triple album containing three LPs or compact discs. Recording artists who have an extensive back catalogue may re-release several CDs in one single box with a unified design, often containing one or more albums (in this scenario, these releases can sometimes be referred to as a "two (or three)-fer"), or a compilation of previously unreleased recordings. These are known as box sets. Some musical artists have also released more than three compact discs or LP records of new recordings at once, in the form of boxed sets, although in that case the work is still usually considered to be an album.


Material (music or sounds) is stored on an album in sections termed tracks, normally 11 or 12 tracks. A music track (often simply referred to as a track) is an individual song or instrumental recording. The term is particularly associated with popular music where separate tracks are known as album tracks; the term is also used for other formats such as EPs and singles. When vinyl records were the primary medium for audio recordings a track could be identified visually from the grooves and many album covers or sleeves included numbers for the tracks on each side. On a compact disc the track number is indexed so that a player can jump straight to the start of any track. On digital music stores such as iTunes the term song is often used interchangeably with track regardless of whether there is any vocal content.

Bonus tracks

A bonus track (also known as a bonus cut or bonus) is a piece of music which has been included as an extra. This may be done as a marketing promotion, or for other reasons. It is not uncommon to include singles as bonus tracks on re-issues of old albums, where those tracks weren't originally included. Online music stores allow buyers to create their own albums by selecting songs themselves; bonus tracks may be included if a customer buys a whole album rather than just one or two songs from the artist. The song is not necessarily free nor is it available as a stand-alone download, adding also to the incentive to buy the complete album. In contrast to hidden tracks, bonus tracks are included on track listings and usually do not have a gap of silence between other album tracks.


The contents of the album are usually recorded in a studio or live in concert, though may be recorded in other locations, such as at home (as with JJ Cale's Okie,<ref>"JJ-Cale-Okie". </ref><ref>"JJ Cale Obituary". 28 July 2013. </ref> Beck's Odelay,<ref>"100 Greatest Albums: 16 Beck Odelay". Spin: 75. July 2008. </ref> David Gray's White Ladder,<ref>"UK Fave Tom McRae Bows In States Via Arista". Billboard: 11. 18 Aug 2001. </ref> and others),<ref>Matt Fowler (14 January 2014). "15 Legendary Albums That Were Recorded in Bedrooms, Kitchens, and Garages". </ref><ref>Michael Duncan (12 February 2015). "10 Classic Albums Made Outside the Recording Studio". </ref><ref>Tyler Kane (17 January 2012). "10 Great Albums Recorded at Home". </ref> in the field - as with early Blues recordings,<ref>Bruce Bastin (1 Jan 1995). Red River Blues: The Blues Tradition in the Southeast. University of Illinois Press. p. 64. </ref> in prison,<ref>"Rare 1979 soul album recorded in a prison gets reissue". </ref> or with a mobile recording unit such as the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio.<ref>Bob Buontempo (16 May 2013). "Can Award-Winning Recordings Be Made In A Home Studio?". </ref><ref>Frank Mastropolo (23 October 2014). "A Look Back at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio: ‘A Watershed Moment in Recording Technology’". </ref>

Although recording in a studio can be done using large multi-track systems with many overdubs and different takes of the same instrument, some recordings may be done "live" in order to reproduce the feel and energy of a live performance.[citation needed] Basic parts such as drums and rhythm guitar may be recorded live, with overdubs such as solos and vocals recorded later.[citation needed] Studio recordings may be mixed and mastered at different facilities.[citation needed]

Audio formats

Vinyl records

Two vinyl records with inner and outer album sleeves
Main article: LP record

Vinyl LP records have two sides, each comprising one half of the album. If a pop or rock album contained tracks released separately as commercial singles, they were conventionally placed in particular positions on the album.<ref name="About Vinyl Records">"About Vinyl Records". Record Collector's Guild. Retrieved 29 May 2012. </ref> A common configuration was to have the album led off by the second and third singles, followed by a ballad. The first single would lead off side 2.[citation needed] In the past many singles (such as the Beatles' "Hey Jude" and Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street") did not appear on albums, but others (such as the Beatles' "Come Together" and Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone") formed part of an album released concurrently. Today, many commercial albums of music tracks feature one or more singles, which are released separately to radio, TV or the Internet as a way of promoting the album.<ref name="Chronology: Technology and the Music Industry">"Chronology: Technology and the Music Industry". Callie Tainter. Retrieved 30 May 2012. </ref> Albums have also been issued that are compilations of older tracks not originally released together, such as singles not originally found on albums, b-sides of singles, or unfinished "demo" recordings.<ref name="About Vinyl Records" />

Album sets of the past were sequenced for record changers. In the case of a two-record set, for example, sides 1 and 4 would be stamped on one record, and sides 2 and 3 on the other. The user would stack the two records onto the spindle of an automatic record changer, with side 1 on the bottom and side 2 (on the other record) on top. Side 1 would automatically drop onto the turntable and be played. When finished, the tone arm's position would trigger a mechanism which moved the arm out of the way, dropped the record with side 2, and played it. When both records had been played, the user would pick up the stack, turn it over, and put them back on the spindle—sides 3 and 4 would then play in sequence.<ref name="About Vinyl Records" /> Record changers were used for many years of the LP era, but eventually fell out of use.

8-track tape

A typical 8-track tape player
Main article: 8-track tape

8-track tape (formally Stereo 8: commonly known as the eight-track cartridge, eight-track tape, or simply eight-track) is a magnetic tape sound recording technology popular in the United States<ref>"What Are 8-Track Tapes?". Retrieved 14 February 2015. </ref> from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s when the Compact Cassette format took over.<ref>Moore, Dan. "Collector’s Corner: The History Of The Eight-Track Tape". Goldmine magazine. Retrieved 23 September 2016. </ref><ref>"What Are 8-Track Tapes?". Retrieved 2014-01-22. </ref> The format is regarded as an obsolete technology, and was relatively unknown outside the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.<ref>Moore, Dan. "Collector’s Corner: The History Of The Eight-Track Tape". Goldmine magazine. Retrieved 14 February 2015. </ref><ref>"What Are 8-Track Tapes?". Retrieved 23 September 2016. </ref>

Stereo 8 was created in 1964 by a consortium led by Bill Lear of Lear Jet Corporation, along with Ampex, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Motorola, and RCA Victor Records (RCA). It was a further development of the similar Stereo-Pak four-track cartridge created by Earl "Madman" Muntz. A later quadraphonic version of the format was announced by RCA in April 1970 and first known as Quad-8, then later changed to just Q8.

Compact cassette

A blank compact cassette tape and case
Main article: Compact Cassette

The Compact Cassette was a popular medium for distributing pre-recorded music in the late 1970s through to the 1990s. The very first "Compact Cassette" was introduced by Philips in August 1963 in the form of a prototype.<ref name="History of Compact Cassette" /> Compact Cassettes became especially popular during the 1980s after the advent of the Sony Walkman, which allowed the person to control what they listened to.<ref name="History of Compact Cassette" /><ref>Haire, Meaghan (1 July 2009). "A Brief History of The Walkman". Time. Retrieved 31 May 2012. </ref> The Walkman was convenient because of its size, the device could fit in most pockets and often came equipped with a clip for belts or pants.<ref name="History of Compact Cassette" /> Compact cassettes also saw the creation of mixtapes, which are tapes containing a compilation of songs created by any average listener of music.<ref name="Mixtape History">"Mixtape History". MTV. Retrieved 5 July 2012. </ref> The songs on a mixtape generally relate to one another in some way, whether it be a conceptual theme or an overall sound.<ref name="Mixtape History" /> The compact cassette used double-sided magnetic tape to distribute music for commercial sale.<ref name="History of Compact Cassette">"History of Compact Cassette". Vintage Cassettes. Retrieved 30 May 2012. </ref><ref name="The History of Recorded Music">"The History of Recorded Music". Music Cd Industry. Retrieved 30 May 2012. </ref> The music is recorded on both the "A" and "B" side of the tape, with cassette being "turned" to play the other side of the album.<ref name="History of Compact Cassette" /> Compact Cassettes were also a popular way for musicians to record "Demos" or "Demo Tapes" of their music to distribute to various record labels, in the hopes of acquiring a recording contract.<ref name="The Death of the Demo Tape (At Last)">"Demo Tapes". Dave Mandl. Retrieved 5 July 2012. </ref> The sales of Compact Cassettes eventually began to decline in the 1990s, after the release and distribution Compact Discs. After the introduction of Compact discs, the term "Mixtape" began to apply to any personal compilation of songs on any given format.<ref name="Mixtape History" /> Recently there has been a revival of Compact Cassettes by independent record labels and DIY musicians who prefer the format because of its difficulty to share over the internet.<ref name="Cassette Revival">"Cassette Revival". Mediageek. Retrieved 5 July 2012. </ref>

Compact disc

A compact disc within an open jewel case
Main article: Compact disc

The compact disc format replaced both the vinyl record and the cassette as the standard for the commercial mass-market distribution of physical music albums.<ref name="The history of the CD - The beginning">"The history of the CD – The beginning". Philips Research. Retrieved 30 May 2012. </ref> After the introduction of music downloading and MP3 players such as the iPod, US album sales dropped 54.6% from 2001 to 2009.<ref name="Us Album Sales">"Scary Stat: Album Sales Down 54.6 Percent Since 2000...". Digital Music Newss. Retrieved 5 June 2012. </ref> The CD is a digital data storage device which permits digital recording technology to be used to record and play-back the recorded music.<ref name="The History of Recorded Music" /><ref name="The history of the CD - The beginning" />

MP3 albums, and similar

Main article: Music download

The MP3 audio format has come along, revolutionizing the concept of digital storage. Early MP3 albums were basically CD-rips created by early CD-ripping software, and sometimes real-time rips from cassettes and vinyl.

The so-called "MP3 album" isn't necessarily just in MP3 file format, in which higher quality formats such as FLAC and WAV can be used on storage mediums that MP3 albums reside on, such as CD-R-ROMs, hard drives, flash memory (e.g. thumbdrives, MP3 players, SD cards), etc.[citation needed]

Types of album


"Live album" redirects here. For other uses, see Live album (disambiguation).

An album may be recorded in a recording studio (fixed or mobile), in a concert venue, at home, in the field, or a mix of places. Recording may take a few hours to several years to complete, usually in several takes with different parts recorded separately, and then brought or "mixed" together. Recordings that are done in one take without overdubbing are termed "live", even when done in a studio. Studios are built to absorb sound, eliminating reverberation, so as to assist in mixing different takes; other locations, such as concert venues and some "live rooms", allow for reverberation, which creates a "live" sound.<ref name="Philip Newell 169–170"/>

Concert or stage performances are recorded using remote recording techniques. Live albums may be recorded at a single concert, or combine recordings made at multiple concerts. They may include applause and other noise from the audience, comments by the performers between pieces, improvisation, and so on. They may use multitrack recording direct from the stage sound system (rather than microphones placed among the audience), and can employ additional manipulation and effects during post-production to enhance the quality of the recording.

The best-selling live album worldwide is Garth Brooks' Double Live, having sold in excess of 21 million copies as of November 2006.<ref>RIAA - Gold & Platinum - May 30, 2008 Archived 2 September 2008 at WebCite</ref> In Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 18 albums were live albums.[citation needed]


For albums titled "Solo", see Solo (disambiguation).

A solo album, in popular music, is an album recorded by a current or former member of a rock group which is released under that artist's name only, even though some or all other band members may be involved. The solo album appeared as early as the late 1940s. A 1947 Billboard magazine article heralded "Margaret Whiting huddling with Capitol execs over her first solo album on which she will be backed by Frank De Vol".<ref>Billboard Magazine (April 5, 1947), p. 21.</ref> There is no formal definition setting forth the amount of participation a band member can solicit from other members of his band, and still have the album referred to as a solo album. One reviewer wrote that Ringo Starr's third venture, Ringo, "[t]echnically... wasn't a solo album because all four Beatles appeared on it".<ref>Jay Warner, On this day in music history (2004), p. 323.</ref> Three of the four members of the Beatles released solo albums while the group was officially still together.

A performer may record a solo album for a number of reasons. A solo performer working with other members will typically have full creative control of the band, be able to hire and fire accompanists, and get the majority of the proceeds. The performer may be able to produce songs that differ widely from the sound of the band with which the performer has been associated, or that the group as a whole chose not to include in its own albums. Graham Nash, of The Hollies described his experience in developing a solo album as follows: "The thing that I go through that results in a solo album is an interesting process of collecting songs that can't be done, for whatever reason, by a lot of people".<ref>Dave Zimmer, 4 way street: the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reader (2004), p. 218.</ref> A solo album may also represent the departure of the performer from the group.

Tribute or cover

Further information: List of tribute albums

A tribute or cover album is a collection of cover versions of songs or instrumental compositions. Its concept may involve various artists covering the songs of a single artist, genre or period, a single artist covering the songs of various artists or a single artist, genre or period, or any variation of an album of cover songs which is marketed as a "tribute".

See also

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