From the earliest days of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s up through the early 1960s, kids bought "45s."
The albums of the period typically had just a few good tunes, and the rest was crap. Then The Beatles changed the rules. Their albums were so chock-full of great stuff, you wanted to hear every tune. Sure, singles were still important, but most of the bands that mattered didn't rely on singles, and even The Beatles stopped putting out singles tied to a specific album (there were no singles released from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).
I agree with one thing in Mark Cuban's "The Album is Dead" post--that the major labels and music business have a lot to answer for--but rushing to embrace the commoditization of music won't create an environment for artists to thrive.
Cuban's musings--"Consumers are buying music one track at a time. I think people will pay 99 cents to get a single rather than steal it. I think people would rather steal a full album rather than pay 10 dollars or more for it."-- may turn out to be true, but ultimately, we'll all be the poorer for it.
You oldsters may remember that in the '60s, albums sold for $3 to $5, which is a lot more than $20 in 2008 dollars. No one was whining that music was too expensive 40 years ago, and movie ticket prices in the '60s were $1 to $2.
If you applied the same pricing ratio to movie ticket/albums prices, CDs would be closer to $30 today. The ever-escalating price inflation of baseball, football, basketball, and Broadway show tickets are now many multiples of CD prices.
For some reason, people no longer want to pay for recorded music, but millions of Led Zeppelin fans would have happily paid big bucks for tickets for their recent London show.
"The Album is Dead" mantra surely isn't true yet. Witness Radiohead's In Rainbows and the Magnetic Fields' Distortion: these albums aren't merely slapped-together assortments of songs; no, they're cohesive works.
Mark Cuban is a businessman. He clearly knows how to make a buck, but if he was a big shot in the music business in 1966, The Beach Boys would have stuck with singles and never made Pet Sounds.
The "album," a collection of songs, goes back decades before the LP, to when multidisc sets of 78rpm records were popular. The discs were inserted in "pages" of the album, hence the name.
Sure, the LP vinyl record and CD are still referred to as albums, but according to Wikipedia, the album is almost 100 years old. For something to last that long, you'd have to hope it must have some intrinsic value.