History of Music Albums

The history of music albums is one that dates back to the early 20th century. Albums are generally regarded as a collection of audio recordings noted as a collection and placed onto a compact disk, vinyl, audiotape, website, or other mediums. In this article, we’ll be looking at the evolution of albums.

The word album, like a lot of words, has its roots in Latin. It is derived from the word “album,” which means white. This is because decrees and edicts were written in black on a board painted white. This is the origin of the word we now know to be ” album.” From this point on, medievals referred to albums as a book of blank pages where verses, sketches, and other similar writings were collected, hence why we regard an album as a collection.


In the early 1900s, the 78rpm became more popular. It is a phonograph record variant first sold by Emile Berliner in his Gramophone company. This 10-inch disk was only able to hold three minutes of songs per side, so this would be 6 minutes in total. Because of this design, artists began to limit their popular recordings to fit the 10-inch disk. This change has greatly influenced the world of music, with many songs to date falling somewhere around the three-minute mark. There was also the 12-inch disc which was mostly hard by classical music artists. This disc would play around 4 or 5 minutes for each. 

The issuing of music then began to happen in Europe in the 1910s. By the 1920s, American record companies had caught on. The record companies would bind collections filled with empty sleeves with either a leather or a paperboard cover. They would then have artwork on the front of the cover and the list of songs at the back of the cover. This album would hold three or four of the 10 or 12-inch discs. These are the first instances of the album as we have come to know it.


In 1948, Columbia Records introduced the 10-inch and the 12-inch long play record. This was a 33 and a half microgroove vinyl record. It is a format of the gramophone record. The Gramophone record is a flat disc that comes with an inscribed and modulated spiral groove. This is an analog sound storage medium because the spiral groove is how the song is played. Before the 1940s, most “vinyl” was made from shellac; however, when polyvinyl chloride became more mainstream, the material changed. We then adopted the name “vinyl” to describe discs made from the material. Unlike many of the tapes on this list, vinyl records are alive and well. You can have them delivered to your home with a vinyl club subscription from Magnolia Record Club. Shameless plug here! I’m a customer and it’s a great way to discover new music on a classic medium.


The 8-track tape was created by Bill Lear in 1964. It was popular from the time of its creation till the advent of the Compact Cassette tape in the early 1980s. The 8-track tape was great because of its cartridge, which did not need flipping over (like vinyl discs) to play the other set of tracks.


The Compact Cassette tape was introduced in 1963 after being developed by Royal Philips, a Dutch company. They were great because they could come in blank, which means you could record anything you wanted or come in with pre-recorded content. The cassette tape has two sides, and both were reversible. The cassette could hold around 30 to 45 minutes of sound per side. It was extremely popular till the mid-2000s.


The compact disc is a flat, small, and often reflective disc. It can hold up to 700 megabytes of data or 74 minutes of digital audio. The compact disc was released in 1982 and offered users more personalization and storage. It was also popularized alongside the computer.


Over the last decade, we’ve seen many streaming platforms come into the business, with iTunes (Apple Music) being one of the first. The Album has gone from having to be in restricted 3-minute audios to an unlimited amount of space. This is the evolution of music albums.

As you can see, music availability and mediums have come a long way. Who knows what’s next!