Using R&B; trio Candy Hill as an example, today's New York Times cites the rise of digital song downloads over CD sales as the reason that labels are looking to sign artists to record only singles—or, perhaps more alarming, just ringtones. Candy Hill currently has an unusual two-song deal with Universal/Republic, the success of which will determine whether the group will be given a proper album. The article likens it to the 1950s-'60s days of bubblegum 45s, when "it took greatly influential works like The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, to turn the album into pop music's medium of choice," but to some perennial Chicken Littles, it once again means the end of an era:

"For some genres and some artists, having an album-centric plan will be a thing of the past," said Jeff Kempler, chief operating officer of EMI's Capitol Music Group. While the traditional album provides value to fans, he said, "perpetuating a business model that fixates on a particular packaged product configuration is inimical to what the Internet enables, and it's inimical to what many consumers have clearly voted for."

The National Association of Recording Merchandisers is expected to respond with a list of "The Definitive 200 Packaged Product Configurations" later this year.

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