Music industry continues to surprise with physical albums

By Kieu Anh   December 17, 2020 | 11:00 pm PT
While many singers now prefer to go on digital streaming sites, the number of studio albums released in 2020 is a positive sign for the Vietnamese music industry.

In June Amee, a 20-year-old singer, debuted with a studio album, "Dreamee." Despite the CD costing a steep VND300,000 ($13), within 12 hours, 1,000 were sold.

The fact that a new artist gained such success with a physical album, especially amid a pandemic, surprised many.

Songwriter Nguyen Hai Phong was full of admiration, saying: "I and other experienced songwriters used to not think highly of our next generation, but Amee’s album has proven otherwise. I was wrong. I was in shock. Her album is such an inspiration for young artists and all of us."

Veteran singer Tung Duong released "Human," his original fifth album, in November with 12 progressive rock songs narrating the story of humans since birth.

He revealed it cost a lot to make since it features international professionals such as Belgian jazz drummer Stephen Galland and Abbey Road’s Christian Wright.

Tung Duong in a studio. Screenshot taken from Tung Duongs Em oi Ha Noi pho music video

Tung Duong in a studio. Screenshot taken from his music video.

Others to release CDs this year have been rock band Buc Tuong (The Wall) with "Con Duong Khong Ten" (The Street with No Name), Khanh Linh with "Khanh Linh’s journey," Ha Anh Tuan with his acoustic album "Cuoi Ngay Nguoi Dan Ong Mot Minh" (The Man Is Alone at the End of the Day), Nguyen Hong Nhung with "Ngo Dong" (Cornfield) and Vu Cat Tuong with "Mot Trieu Nam Anh Sang" (One Million Light Years), a mini studio album that topped the pre-order sales list on iTunes Vietnam.

The albums encompass a range of genres including pop, acoustic, experimental and modern rock, and revolutionary music.

Duong said: "Physical CDs play an important role in music, this traditional rollout method is not something that can be abandoned completely... What the music industry needs now is not fast music such as MVs and singles but albums to convey ideas, messages to listeners."

"I am always moved when I have those well-crafted CDs in my hands, imagining how hard they have worked in the studio to give birth to this product." Besides, albums define singers’ styles, he pointed out.

Musician Huy Tuan said making singles instead of albums is a superficial approach and the latter is the way to go if a serious artist wants to define their music.

Musician Anh Quan said releasing an album is imperative for an artist because it involves the gamut of music creation from harmonization, recording and printing to CD jacket designing and marketing.


Making an album is no easy task.

Duong said making albums is never a profitable business though he has spent thousands of dollars on them.

The fact that pop superstar My Tam was recently able to sell 10,000 CDs, earning VND2.5 billion ($108,000) in the process, is considered a phenomenon.

Yet she said the return on it was marginal since it had cost a lot to make.

The album was merely for her fans to experience the nostalgic feeling of going back to the golden era of CDs and cassettes, she said.

However, based on the number of releases on digital streaming platforms, it is not hard to see that artists are being practical.

By uploading singles and MVs, they enable fans to have quick and free access to them, get real time feedback and quickly garner fame.

In fact, many singers who attract large numbers of views on the Internet, including Son Tung-MTP, Erik, Hoa Minzy, and Duc Phuc, have never created a single studio album.

Across the world, with almost every field of business shifting from ownership to access like Spotify, Uber, Grab, Airbnb, Netflix, and the like people’s habits have changed.

Except for artists with a strong fan base like Taylor Swift, Drake and Ed Sheeran, most have turned to do other models.

In 2017 Calvin Harris decided to stop album making completely and only release singles and EPs.

In a press release in September, singer Hoang Dung, 25, said he would release his first album titled ‘25’ with all nine songs both sung and written by him. It took him five years of work in the music industry to eventually achieve this.For most artists, the journey is similarly long and hard.

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