While users aren’t listening to the same song more times, they do, for the first time, have a much larger library of potential things to listen to — all six million songs on iTunes, etc. In that context all but the best songs by each artist are filler; the standard is simply higher. “music, previously heard or not, to be automatically played to them according to what they’d most enjoy at any moment,” as Crosbie describes it, is pretty much the order of the day, whether it be via the iTunes “genius” suggestions, blogs and blog aggregators, listening services such as Pandora, Amazon’s recommendation engine, etc. Even if these suggestion algorithms are less than perfect, with six million plus songs to choose from they’re going to do better than pretty much any individual album.
The only argument remaining in favor of albums is on the production side rather than the consumption side. Once you’re setup to write and record some songs — once you’ve gotten a band together, figured out a style written some songs, and put together the situation to record them — you might as well do more than just your one or two best. Until the marginal cost of recording and collaborating falls so low as to change this logic, you’ll still see albums no matter listeners desire to consume artists’ less-than-best work.